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For a lot of queer people, the prom was a theatrical performance more than a quaint high school memory. Even though gay marriage is now legal in our increasingly progressive Pennsylvania, queer people still have to suffer plenty of fools gladly.

Even before gay marriage, though, there was the Philadelphia Alternative Prom: an event sponsored by GALAEI, Philly’s self-described “queer Latin@ social justice organization.” This prom gives young LGBT folks an opportunity to be themselves and to enjoy prom night like their straight peers.

Interestingly enough, this Friday, the glitter-strewn shindig is 19 years old, meaning that plenty of the expected participants weren’t even born when the fete first started.

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“Historically,” says organizer and GALAEI staff member Nikki Lopez to Philly Now, the Alternative Prom “came about because a lot of schools would not allow same sex couples to go to prom, or there were folks who didn’t feel comfortable going to their own prom.” Lopez adds that some folks weren’t even allowed to go to their proms dressed comfortably because of dated school regulations surrounding dress code. That is, not everyone born male wants to wear a tuxedo or even identifies as male.

The event, though, has changed with the times.

Now, the Alternative Prom has “morphed into a celebration” adds Lopez, and it serves “folks under 21 as a space that’s sober and safe.” After all, the nightlife in Philadelphia isn’t accessible, or rather it shouldn’t be accessible, to those under 21.

“There are no spaces, particularly at night, that are celebratory for LGBT youth,” Lopez explains. And just like high school, the Alternative Prom will have over a dozen chaperones on hand to ensure, as Lopez says, “nothing pervy is going on!”

Tickets for the party are $10, and DJ Loso is spinning so the kids get demonstrate how much better at dancing they are than the event’s chaperones.  The PG-rated jawn takes place at Fire and Ice Lounge at 312 Market Street in Old City from 8:00 PM to Midnight, too, making sure that the participants get to have a fun, healthy night out and can still make it home at a reasonable hour.

Above all else, the 19th Annual Philadelphia Alternative Prom serves as a safe space for queer youth and their friends ages 14-21 to have a fun Friday night and to participate in a rite-of-passage all American teenagers should experience: the prom.

About The Author

Contributing columnist

Josh Kruger is an award-winning writer and commentator in Philadelphia. His @PhillyWeekly column, “The Uncomfortable Whole,” took the 2014 First Place Spotlight Award for weekly newspaper commentary from the Society of Professional Journalists and the 2014 Second Place Award for weekly newspaper commentary in the United States and Canada from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia. He also blogs daily for PW on various topics including queer culture and news, mass transit, politics, crime, drugs, HIV/AIDS, civil liberties, activism, media and everything else Philly.

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