Daily Egyptian

Pride Prom provides a first for some SIU students

Jae+Schmidt%2C+a+junior+from+Saint+Joseph+studying+clinical+psychology%2C+dances+with+prom+date+Justin+Gunzel%2C+a+junior+from+Highland+Park+studying+computer+engineering%2C+on+Saturday%2C+April+22%2C+2017%2C+during+the+SIU+LGBTQ+Resource+Center%27s+third+annual+Pride+Prom+at+Grinnell+Hall+in+Carbondale.+%22It+was+beautiful%2C%22+Schmidt+said+of+the+prom.+%22It%27s+so+important+we+have+a+formal+event+like+a+prom+or+homecoming+like+this+where+we+can+go+and+not+feel+judged.%22+%28Morgan+Timms+%7C+%40Morgan_Timms%29
Jae Schmidt, a junior from Saint Joseph studying clinical psychology, dances with prom date Justin Gunzel, a junior from Highland Park studying computer engineering, on Saturday, April 22, 2017, during the SIU LGBTQ Resource Center's third annual Pride Prom at Grinnell Hall in Carbondale.

Jae Schmidt, a junior from Saint Joseph studying clinical psychology, dances with prom date Justin Gunzel, a junior from Highland Park studying computer engineering, on Saturday, April 22, 2017, during the SIU LGBTQ Resource Center's third annual Pride Prom at Grinnell Hall in Carbondale. "It was beautiful," Schmidt said of the prom. "It's so important we have a formal event like a prom or homecoming like this where we can go and not feel judged." (Morgan Timms | @Morgan_Timms)

Morgan Timms

Morgan Timms

Jae Schmidt, a junior from Saint Joseph studying clinical psychology, dances with prom date Justin Gunzel, a junior from Highland Park studying computer engineering, on Saturday, April 22, 2017, during the SIU LGBTQ Resource Center's third annual Pride Prom at Grinnell Hall in Carbondale. "It was beautiful," Schmidt said of the prom. "It's so important we have a formal event like a prom or homecoming like this where we can go and not feel judged." (Morgan Timms | @Morgan_Timms)

By Abbey La Tour

Cecilia Miranda slipped into her all-black suit and tightened her bright red tie as she got ready for her first prom with a female date.

At her high school, students were required to have a date of the opposite gender in order to attend, so instead Miranda and her best friend boycotted the rules of her Catholic all-girls high school.

“We ended up not going because we figured if they don’t want us there, we don’t want to be there,” said Miranda, a freshman from Chicago studying paralegal studies.

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The third annual “Pride Prom” took place at 7 p.m. Saturday in Grinnell Hall and was sponsored by Saluki Rainbow Network and the LGBTQ Resource Center.  

“I think this event is super important,” Miranda said. “I think a lot of people have had similar experiences that I have also had, and I think it’s important to build on those.”

Travis Tucker, LGBTQ resource center coordinator, said the event started as a way to recognize that prom season can be difficult for LGBTQ community members, as some high school regulations prohibit openly gay students from wearing the clothes they feel comfortable in or taking the date they want.

Morgan Timms
Yahaira Heller, a graduate student in public administration from Adjuntas, Puerto Rico, dances with her fiancée Victoria Hammond, a senior from Columbus, Ohio, studying geology, on Saturday, April 22, 2017, during SIU LGBTQ Resource Center's third annual Pride Prom at Grinnell Hall in Carbondale. In 2015, Heller, a McNair Scholar and former president of the Latino Cultural Association, suggested the idea of a pride prom to the then-director of SIU's LGBTQ Resource Center in celebration of LGBTQ awareness week. "It's been really sad hearing stories from students who didn't get the opportunity to bring their preferred partner to prom," said Heller, who at the time worked at the LGBTQ Resource Center. "So when we started knocking around ideas [for awareness week events], I remembered those stories and was like, 'what about if we do a prom?' ... Even with all these budget cuts, I hope to God that LGBTQ Resource Center can continue to do this. If you showcase that this university is LGBTQ friendly, then by doing things like this you’re going to want to come here after you leave high school." In the fall, Heller will be the graduate coordinator of the Saluki Rainbow Network after serving as the liaison and senator in previous years. (Morgan Timms | @Morgan_Timms)

“It is important for the resource center to put programs on like this, so we make sure that we let LGBTQ students and their allies know that we hear you,” Tucker said.

Victoria Hammond, a senior from Columbus, Ohio studying geology, said she believes the campus climate isn’t always welcoming to LGBTQ students.

“We just try and band together and support each other,” she said.

High schoolers are welcome to attend the prom as well, and in the past the event has served as a way for students to see how being openly gay can be different in college, said Hammond, one of the founders of the Pride Prom.

“You got these little one-on-one advice sessions inside this prom event,” Hammond said. “It was really interesting, and it was a really nice thing to see.”

The high school students would ask the college attendees questions like how to purchase the right clothing for the gender they identified with and how to politely correct individuals on preferred pronoun use.

“It’s been really sad hearing stories from students who didn’t get the opportunity to bring their preferred partner to prom,” said Yahaira Heller, a graduate student in public administration from Adjuntas, Puerto Rico, who previously worked at the LGBTQ Resource Center. “So when we started knocking around ideas [for awareness week events], I remembered those stories and was like, ‘what about if we do a prom?’ … Diversity cannot just be spoken, diversity is an action. Without action, diversity is nothing. And that’s for everyone. We need to act on our university’s mission statement and stuff like [the pride prom] — this is how you do it.”

Morgan Timms contributed to this report.

Staff writer Abbey La Tour can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @LaTourAbbey

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