Pride Prom provides all-inclusive environment

LGBTQIA+ and allied people gather in the South Ballroom of the Memorial Union on March 26 for the first annual Equality Prom.

Ellen Bombela

For many people, prom is a big deal in high school. However, prom has many expectations and creates an environment that might make some students uncomfortable, and in some cases, cause them to skip out on the event.

That is one of the reasons why the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Ally Alliance and Gamma Rho Lambda Omicron teamed up to host Pride Prom on Saturday night in the South Ballroom of the Memorial Union for students in the LGBTQA+ community.

“Having a space, even if it is in college, where we put on a dance like this for the LGBT community where we don’t have to worry about the gender of our date, whether the clothing we want to wear is gender appropriate and things like that is very important,” said Ben Spick, who is the education and outreach chair for the LGBTA Alliance. “It gives us a space to be freer about who we are, and I think that’s important for our community.”

Spick grew up being home-schooled and became dual-enrolled at a small school district in 11th and 12th grade. Spick, who was not out at the time, simply went to prom with one of his good female friends.

“Asking a guy or going with a guy wasn’t even a consideration or a possibility for me,” Spick said. “Judging from the community at the time, I feel like there would have been a lot of smack talk if a couple of guys went together, even if it was just as friends.”

Spick anticipated enjoying Pride Prom a lot more than his high school prom.

“For me personally, the fact that I’m out now and the fact that this is a space where I can be out, and further, that this is a space where I’m not limited by what clothing I can wear based on gender expectations and gender norms is different for me,” Spick said. “I appreciate the openness of possibilities and the openness of expressing myself.”

Other students, such as Sebastian, went to Pride Prom for the company.

“I came for the people,” Sebastian said. “I saw it as a good opportunity to meet new people and to hang out with my friends.”

Sebastian went to his prom in high school but said he wasn’t personally a fan of it because there wasn’t a good environment available for him, especially since he wasn’t out to very many people at the time.

Jack, whose name was changed to protect his identity, is a member of the Queer* Graduate Student Association, and said his story is a bit different from other people’s, but he still has similar attitudes toward the idea of a high school prom.

“Where I grew up, we didn’t have a prom,” said Jack, who grew up in India and came to Iowa State for graduate school. “I feel like if we did have a prom, I wouldn’t have gone because of the way that I was.”

In high school, Jack was in the closet, with only one or two of his closest friends knowing about how he truly identified.

“I was too afraid to be open to people,” Jack said. “I need to be in a place like this where I am comfortable being open with people.”

Jack studies civil engineering and is on track to graduate sometime in the spring or summer. He plans on staying in the United States and finding a job for the time being.

Jack also said he is very happy with the way he is able to express himself in the United States. 

“I could not possibly live this life in India,” Jack said. “There are just some people that I can’t be open with there.”

In the United States, Jack has come out to many of his friends and has no trouble slipping how he identifies into a conversation. However, in India, Jack still has yet to come out to his parents, friends and the rest of his family.

“It’s something that I plan on telling them sometime in the future, but not right now,” Jack said.