The cultural climate becomes more welcoming for queer people with each passing year, but there's a difference between feeling at home and feeling like a welcomed guest in the home of another.
That's why hundreds of young people from all over Massachusetts plan to hit up Boston City Hall on Saturday night to celebrate the nation's oldest and largest LGBTQ youth prom.
Organizers at the Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth (still colloquially referred to by the older acronym BAGLY) expect a turnout of about 500 to 750 attendees under the age of 22 at the 35th annual BAGLY Prom. Tickets are $10 pre-sale and $15 at the door. Admission is free for anyone who popped by BAGLY's on-site clinic during the month of May.
An additional 2,500 young people are estimated to take part in the 21st annual Massachusetts Youth Pride Festival on Saturday afternoon, which BAGLY is also organizing this year.
"We're able to create a unique environment where identities aren't tolerated—they're accepted, they're celebrated," BAGLY Director of Development and Marketing Kurtlan Massarsky told Fusion.
The first BAGLY Prom was held in 1981, a year after the self-described "youth-led, adult-supported" organization formed. The event began as more of a low-key dinner, according to Massarsky, but as the years rolled by it transformed into the performance-filled dance party it is today.
"This might be their first time in drag, the first time they get to go out with their boyfriend or girlfriend," Massarsky told me. "There are any number of ways these young people might not have felt encouraged to be themselves [in the outside world], but they find that at the BAGLY Prom or through the services in the AGLY Network [the statewide GLBT Youth Group Network of Massachusetts formed in 1993 with which BAGLY is affiliated]."
You might be forgiven for wondering why an LGBTQ safe space like the BAGLY Prom is still needed in 2015; after all, trans media visibility is greater than ever, 36 states (and D.C.) have legalized same-sex marriage, and even wizards are super gay these days.
But those legal and cultural victories didn't stop Claudetteia Love's high school administration from hassling the Louisiana honor student over her decision to wear a tuxedo to prom last month. And Massarsky says that those gains don't always translate to the approximately 3,000 Boston-area youths he works with through BAGLY.
"When we look at who marriage equality benefits most, we're traditionally looking at white, cisgender gay men—certainly not exclusively, but that's the money behind [the movement] and the political power behind it," he said of this top-down approach to civil rights—or as he called it, "trickle-down social justice."
"There are still chronic issues and systemic issues that are impacting queer youth today," he continued, citing BAGLY's engagement with the Black Lives Matter and Trans Lives Matter movements. "More and more queer youth are recognizing the intersections of being queer, and being a person of color, and growing up under the poverty line. Our identities are just a complex coming together of perspectives, and we're seeing more and more focus on that among the young people today."
No matter how many strides the nation takes towards full LGBTQ equality, Massarsky doesn't see the BAGLY Prom disappearing any time soon.
"People's identities form their sense of self. Creating a special space dedicated to celebrating these identities will never go out of style… There's always going to be a need for community."
Bad at filling out bios seeks same.