I stare at the delicate cluster of baby’s breath nestling a single white rosebud, entombed in a plastic box. Beside it, the florist presents a matching corsage in the same immaculate ivory my prom date will wear that evening. She asks who the lucky lady is, because this is Texas and that’s the clever thing to say to hopelessly awkward, pubescent boys.
Suddenly, a wave of terror. For me, being young and sexually uncertain feels less like being trapped in a closet and more like being forced onto a stage. And on this day, perhaps more than others, I am performing in a seemingly endless production written by outdated tradition and directed by crippling fear. In this creeping moment of panic, I default to the approved, rehearsed lines.
“Oh, you know, she’s just a friend,” I suggest impishly in the deepest voice I can muster, and my dread is assuaged by the florist’s knowing smile. She knows that the boutonnière I ordered weeks before will be faithfully pinned to the lapel of my shitty rental tux. She knows that my date’s gaudy regulation corsage will complement an even gaudier silk dress that will be worn only once. She knows that, one day, I’ll revisit this dog and pony show when I get married to a woman in a much nicer gown that will also be worn only once. So says the script I, and so many others, have been given.
What she and the other countless strangers I came across in my adolescence didn’t know was that behind the proper facade I presented to the world was a questioning, frightened teen who dreamed of a different kind of fairy tale. Prom, even when boiled down to its most perfunctory floral accessories, is the character-defining moment at the end of life’s first act when we’re expected to formally present ourselves for the first time, not only in dress, but also in romantic preference.
The catch is that we’re typically presented with a severely limited number of options: We boutonnière our boys, corsage our girls, and follow the script. For queer-identifying high school seniors, prom can present an incredibly repressive hurdle in someone’s coming-out journey — less “rite of passage” and more just another “night of normativity.” What’s supposed to be a milestone is instead a stumbling block that further delays our self-actualization.
It became abundantly clear when I first proposed that BuzzFeed host an inclusive, queer prom that this was not an opportunity to throw a great party, but a cultural imperative that the entirety of our personnel, from our CEO to our interns, strongly believe in. BuzzFeed’s Queer Prom is a combination of our extensive reach, a unique opportunity to impact millions worldwide, and the proud diversity of both my colleagues and our audience. It is a chance for us to shine a light on how these types of events can and should be.
In preparing and researching for this project, I heard my colleagues cite "scared for my safety" and "lack of queer visibility at my school" as reasons why they didn't attend or feel comfortable at their own proms. BuzzFeed's mission with this video series, call to action, and event itself is to fill that void. We will provide a safe, celebratory space for students to be themselves — however wonderful and queer they may be.
We will tap into the vast BuzzFeed network to collect, share, and reveal important, unheard stories. For us, it’s a way to show young people all over the world that “normal” is relative and produce a point of reference they may not believe exists. Today, more than ever, it’s imperative that we rewrite our fear and carve out a new narrative in the form of a fantastic party where LGBT+ youth can have the power to perform as their true selves to the roar of an accepting audience.
Hopefully sooner than we might have imagined, a hesitant, queer high school senior will look at that white rosebud and its matching corsage and freely decide who they want to offer it to, which they’d like to wear, or if they even care at all to fuck with decorative flowers that are worn only once. So says the script we hope to write together.
To learn more about BuzzFeed’s Queer Prom event, call to action, and video series, and to apply for your chance to attend, please visit: