WACO, TX — June is Pride Month and high schoolers in Waco are in the works to put together a pride prom, so some of the younger members of the LGBTQ+ community can have a safe space to celebrate their pride.
The Waco Youth Pride Alliance says their version of prom is helping high students feel a greater sense of acceptance.
Traditional prom settings aren't always the most hospitable environments for LGBTQ+ high school students. So members are organizing their own version. They're calling it a summer pride dance.
"I'm very excited, it's very stressful setting everything up but the fact that it's happening and it's being run by the youth is doing a lot for visibility," says the architect behind the prom, who chose to remain anonymous because they are not out to their entire family.
The Waco Youth Pride Alliance, or WYPA, was originally created from the lack of resources for teens who identify as LGBTQ+ And they have full support from the Waco Pride Network.
"There is a large LGBT community in Waco. What there isn't are enough spaces for them to gather and feel comfortable and safe being themselves," says Lucas Land, board member of the Waco Pride Network.
Land also has a child who plans to attend the event.
"I'm the parent of a thirteen year old trans kid, and so y kid is super excited to have a place to go with their friends to just have fun and be with other people, and feel like, you know, really feel like they are part of a community in Waco," said Land.
WYPA is planning the summer dance in collaboration with Waco Pride Network. They say the goal is for it to be a safe space for LGBTQ+ youth to celebrate their pride, while providing LGBTQ+ teens a chance to network with various area high schools.
"Because it shows people in this town they're not alone and that there are other people like them, because I remember when I was first figuring out my gender identity when I was 10 to 12, there wasn't anyone I knew online or even in person at that point who had gone through the same thing, and having that resource and having that connection would've been very helpful," says the organizer.
According to the Trevor Project, 71% of LGBTQ+ youth reported discrimination due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
That's why organizers of this prom hope to make it a safe space for members and allies alike.
"Part of making them visible and doing this dance and doing the work that the pride network is doing, is really saving lives. It is," says Land.
The prom is set to take place on June 26, but the location is confidential. If you would like to attend, there will be a small screening process involved to keep everyone involved safe.
"There is just so much support in Waco for the LGBT community and I just want all of those people out there who feel like Waco is not super welcoming and accepting to know, it actually is, and we are working to make it even more welcoming and accepting for everyone," says Land.
Anyone looking to attend the prom can get in contact with the WYPA through their social media pages or by visiting wacopride.org. The prom will be open to both LGBTQ+ individuals and their allies. The summer dance will be for anyone ages 13-20 that live in McLennan County.
Back in April Gamma Alpha Upsillon, the unofficial LGBTQ+ group at Baylor held their own prom.
The event was held at Cameron Park Zoo, where members and allies got to celebrate together.
Their prom was also a way to bid farewell to graduating members and welcome in the new board to lead gamma’s efforts in a fun unique way.
"You can dance, you can sit and talk with friends and other members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies I think that's a great way to really build community and foster community and really empower others and show that there are others who are in the community with you as well," says Zach Tufenkjian a LGBTQ+ ally who attended Gamma's prom.
Meanwhile members of Gamma say they're waiting to see what Baylor has in store, after the university's board of regents announced its entertaining the possibility of creating a new LGBTQ+ student group, that falls more in line with Baylor guidelines.