As schools across the country are coming to a close, communities are celebrating milestones that come with the high school experience: graduations, promotions, and prom. For many youth these milestone celebrations become a time when gender expectations become reinforced: from boys being expected to be the ones asking girls to prom or paying for prom expenses, to the traditional white virginal dresses girls are expected to wear to many graduations.
In celebration of Pride month we are excited to share the story of a school and a family that are grounded in values of inclusion and belonging for all our kids. If you have more stories, we hope you’ll drop them in the comments.
We spoke with Mary Lim-Lampe, whose child is at Latitude High School, our partner school in Oakland, California. She shared her observations of her child’s prom, which embraced joy, community, and diversity in every way.
From Mary, on what made this prom powerful:
I was reflecting, as a parent, on the decolonized prom at Latitude High School:
1. Love of our teachers and the youth. There was so much hype and energy and care that went into making all the youth feel welcome for their very first (for many of them) dance ever.
2. The heteronormativity that plagued (and in many, continues to plague) my own high school in the Midwest, and my own prom experience was nonexistent. Nearly every friend of my high school junior is queer or gender fluid. There were very few “couples” in the traditional sense and there was an extreme emphasis on the nonbinary: joy over romance. . . community love over patriarchy. . . inclusiveness over homophobia.
3. So many of our young leaders (mostly Black and Brown youth) showed up with their own styles — with a spectrum of body types. The outfits and the attitudes showed how courageous (and powerful) these youth felt in their own bodies.
4. My own kid had this idea of what she wanted to wear, was unapologetic about how she wanted to BE, and KILLED IT. I know that I’m in my feelings but it is awesome to me that here is this young Chinese woman walking around being bold in a way that my 16-year-old self did not dare. All of our kids should have spaces where they can walk around being brave/badass in a way that many of us did not.
To learn more about supporting the wellness and leadership of LGBTQ+ youth, here are three ways. For professionals working with youth, we hope you’ll join us on August 10 to learn how to create Brave Spaces That Center Racial and Gender Equity.
If you serve youth in grades 5—12, sign up for our professional development workshops or training, which includes 90+ lessons you can use right away. Also, check out our full collection of 26 Free Social-Emotional Check-ins.