Photo: Kathi Mitchell
Last night, Peoples Church of East Lansing hosted an LGBTQ prom which attracted around 50 high school students from several schools, including Okemos, East Lansing, Haslett, Mason, and Perry. The prom was planned in just five days.
The idea for the event began with OHS student Jessie Mitchell, who approached her mother Kathi Mitchell and said “I want to do an LGBTQ prom.” Kathi and Jessie wanted to organize a prom where students felt comfortable wearing whatever they wanted, and bringing whoever they wanted with them.
Kathi Mitchell posted a request for help on the Facebook page “Not Your Mother’s Networking Group,” and despite the short notice, many people were willing to help out. PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) donated $100 to buy masks for the prom. Neighbors donated decorations, snacks and drinks and when Kathi reached out to Peoples Church’s Senior Pastor Andrew Pomerville, Youth Director Jacob Gates, and Facility Director Andy Mayville, they all signed off on the church staying open late and let them use the building free of charge.
Anita Calcagno, the President of Greater Lansing PFLAG chapter, said she got involved in PFLAG because her daughter was a social activist. She said she helped to re-establish the Lansing PFLAG, because parents tend to drop out as their children get older. Calcagno indicated that activism is still needed as children get older, and, PFLAG talked to the Michigan State Board of Education about transgender individuals, as schools are uncertain about how to deal with bathroom and locker room situations.
Kathi Mitchell said that one of the best things about organizing the event was that it gave her and Jessie hope. She said that when she saw how willing people were to pitch in, even though it was so last minute, it gave her hope for humanity. Recently, she added, she and Jessie have felt very discouraged, especially about the transgender bathroom law in North Carolina and by statements made by Republican Presidential front-runner Donald Trump.
When asked why it’s important to have an LGBT prom, Maija, who is a junior at Haslett High School replied that it is important for LGBT youth to have a safe space, free from judgment. Maija said that she felt her school was accepting overall, but there were some individuals who weren’t so accepting. Maija said that her friend had experienced bullying, and at times people made rude comments.
Kei, a sophomore from Mason High School says that Mason is accepting, but there is room for improvement. When asked why it’s important to have an LGBTQ prom, Kei said that it’s important for transgendered and non-binary individuals to feel comfortable wearing what they want. It shouldn’t matter whether students want to wear a tux, a dress, or a different kind of outfit. Kei hopes that there will be more events directed towards LGBT youth in the future.