2014-04-17 / Around Town

'Born This Way Prom' Welcomes All Teens

By Meg O'Neil

Local students celebrate diversity and acceptance at the Born This Way Prom. Local students celebrate diversity and acceptance at the Born This Way Prom. Long considered to be a teenage rite of passage, prom season is just around the corner, and one group on Aquidneck Island is making sure that all teens have a place to celebrate.

Now in its fifth year, the Born This Way Prom, coordinated by Interweave at Channing Memorial Church, will take place at the Easton's Beach Rotunda on Friday, April 25 from 6:30-11:30 p.m.

While a high school prom should be a positive experience for all in attendance, many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) youth see it as a stressful night filled with stereotypes that focus on gender, sexual orientation, and identity.

That's where Interweave at Channing Church steps in. Interweave is a nationally-recognized organization affiliated with Unitarian Universalist churches for the LGBTQ community and their supportive allies.

Five years ago, Channing’s Interweave group decided to throw a spring dance for its members, and over the last few years the event has evolved into a full-blown prom for teens from across New England. The fete also raises funds to benefit Youth Pride, Inc. – a Rhode Islandbased organization that provides support, advocacy and education for the state's LGBTQ youth and allies.

In its first four years, the prom was held at Middletown's FOP Lodge, but this season, thanks to new sponsors NewportOUT and Options Magazine, the venue has changed to the Rotunda at Easton's Beach.

The merry-go-round at the Rotunda will operate from 6:30-8:30 p.m. that evening as guests "Art- Pop" the carousel - a reference to Lady Gaga's newest album - complete with a videographer to capture magic moments on film.

The night’s festivities, which will run until 11:30 p.m., will feature dancing and music by DJ Butch, as well as drag performances.

The evening will, as prom tradition goes, crown a Prom Queen and King who will take to the dance floor as they share the spotlight.

One might ask, in this day and age with marriage equality and gay rights progressing more rapidly than ever, whether a prom geared towards LGBTQ teens is really necessary. The answer from those at Interweave is a resounding “yes.”

"I wish I could say 'no,'" says Pam Goff, co-chair of Channing’s Interweave. She adds, "A lot of these kids are rejected - and that's what Interweave is about - we believe in the dignity of every human being. Period. There are still young people living in fear in their own homes. This night is all about them having the absolute best time in the world - it's celebrating who they are, wherever they are on the spectrum."

Interweave member Rex LeBeau agrees. "Kids are still committing suicide because they're being bullied for being gay. If they're not safe at their own schools, this prom gives them a place to be themselves."

To help make the prom even more welcoming, students from Salve Regina University's Alliance group have been on hand the last three years, raising funds and serving as allies and role models for their younger peers.

"There are so many people who can't go to prom because they can't bring who they want," explains SRU senior Allison Langlois. "Prom is an important milestone in people's lives and they want that perfect prom moment. It's something that everyone should get to experience. This is a night with a great atmosphere for people of all ages and everybody is so welcoming. We send a message: we are fighting for you and we accept you."

Whether it's finding the perfect dress or suit, correctly pinning a corsage with shaky hands, or dancing the night away with friends, prom is meant to be a memorable night for high-schoolers, and that's why, regardless of gender or orientation, the Born This Way Prom strives to be the most welcoming dance on the island year after year.

"It's very heartwarming," says Goff. "The day after prom, my husband and I will sit and read the things the young people talk about on Facebook, saying the prom was the best night of their lives. We end up in tears every time.”

Donations to support the Born This Way Prom may be made through the event webpage at Art- PopProm.eventbrite.com.

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