Each year, hundreds of youths from all over the Pikes Peak region and beyond anticipate Inside Out Youth Services’ Queer Prom. The event’s inclusive environment and incredibly fun atmosphere create a safe, welcoming experience where LGBTQ youth can feel free to be their authentic selves while enjoying a milestone moment. This year, however, COVID-19 has pushed Inside Out to re-imagine prom in order to keep its attendees safe, so they’re taking the party to the internet.
“We really saw the virtual prom as the best option because [due to social and economic factors] LGBTQ people are at a higher risk of catching COVID-19 and we did not want to put any youth, volunteers or staff at risk of catching the virus in order to attend a dance,” says Joseph Shelton, a program assistant at Inside Out. “Therefore, we decided the best option would be to have a virtual queer prom and people can enjoy the prom from the safety of home.”
Shelton says that the organization will be streaming via Crowdcast as a trial run, noting that the platform has helpful features such as a virtual green room and the ability to stream simultaneously via social media and on the organization’s website. The trial run of the platform will help Inside Out find out what works best for virtual events — Shelton predicts many other Inside Out events could be hosted online throughout the remainder of the year.
Attendees can expect a lot of entertainment throughout the two-hour event. There will be a live DJ and drag performances from the United Court of the Pikes Peak Empire. Unlike the annual in-person prom, which has a necessary age restriction, the virtual event will be open to all ages. Inside Out will also open their online services for youths ages 13 to 22 so they can chat during the event.
Shelton says the decision to take the prom online this year has been met with positivity and sadness. While many people are happy that the prom has not been canceled altogether, there will be those who struggle with the change, he says. “We do know that for some youth this is hard as they may not be out to their families so they are unable to join us.”
Queer Prom is open to all who wish to attend with kind hearts and inclusive intentions. It’s also free, although Inside Out welcomes donations. Virtual attendees can dress in their finest formal wear or lounge in their comfiest pajamas. Participants won’t be visible on-screen, so they can dance their heart out in their living rooms, kitchens, backyards or bedrooms.
Asked if he has any words for young people who are struggling with the missed milestones and isolation caused by the pandemic, Shelton had this to offer: “We know so many are missing out on so many [important activities]. We want you to know that as staff of Inside Out, we see you, we hear you and we are with you. We know that this is a time of sadness and loss for many and it is OK to feel that way, but please know that you don’t have to go about this alone. We are here for you.”
Sat., May 16, 7-9 p.m., free, donations accepted, find streaming information on insideoutys.org