Someone approaching the Almetris Duren Residence Hall entrance on Saturday night would be surprised by the contrast between those entering Duren and those leaving. Those that left were attired in neon dress and sports jerseys; those that entered were garbed in prom suits and dresses.
The Residence Hall Programming Team and the Gender and Sexuality Center coordinated to organize Queer Prom, a dance event that sought to bring queer individuals, people of color and women together in an inclusive environment while also promoting on-campus queer and feminist student organizations.
Saarem Azmat, an English literature and mathematics freshman, a member of the GSC’s Student Leadership Committee and an event planner with the RHPT, said this event gave some students a second chance at prom who may not have felt comfortable coming out in high school.
“A lot of students during high school couldn’t go to prom with the person of their choice, either because of cultural norms or internalized anxiety,” Azmat said. “This event provides students the opportunity to have the prom they never really got.”
Zachary Markizer, a public health freshman and a member of the GSC’s committee, said hosting events such as Queer Prom is important because of their ability to encourage members of the LGBT community to accept themselves and provide them with an environment in which they can interact with like-minded individuals.
“Coming from a small Texas town, I felt uncomfortable expressing myself and attending school dances,” Markizer said. “The event aims to encourage people across the spectrum to celebrate what makes them unique in a judgment-free setting. People from all walks of life got to come together to feel accepted, feel loved and have a great time.”
Katerina Zukis, a marketing sophomore and an event planner with the RHPT, said the event provided a welcome alternative for members of LGBT communities during RoundUp.
“It’s important to acknowledge that people may not want to participate in RoundUp festivities, because they don’t feel comfortable in the Greek community or don’t want to participate in drinking,” Zukis said. “The event serves as a safe space, where people can feel comfortable, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation or race. To create a place of not just acceptance but awareness.”
Jace Klein, a biology freshman and a member of the GSC’s committee, encouraged students to utilize the GSC and advocacy groups such as Texas Rising to remain active in advancing individual rights.
“The purpose of the SLC is to organize events like this and conduct outreach that promotes the GSC,” Klein said. “We thought a fun and engaging dance event would heighten the GSC’s visibility and emphasize its availability as a resource to empower both queer individuals and women. RHPT-run events are open to anyone from the residence halls, so those who pass through can learn about services and resources that the University offers for these groups.”
Azmat emphasized employing an event such as this to acknowledge LGBT individuals and foster dialogue between queer individuals and other groups.
“We’ve seen people looking from their windows in Duren with confused or annoyed looks on their faces,” Azmat said. “But an event like this humanizes us, by showing that queer people have the same events straight individuals do. It evinces that we are here, we are queer, and no one can take away our rights.”