In the men’s section of the Vancouver Mall H&M, four queer students shopped for Clark College’s Queer Prom that was held June 6.
“Why’d you put the hanger backwards, Iris?” Michelle Soto asked with a smile. “I work in retail!” Iris Louie laughed in response and placed another button up shirt on its hanger backwards.
Soto already her dress for the Queer Prom, which she purchased from Ross where she works. “I can’t tell you what it looks like yet, it’s kind of a surprise,” she said. “I’m just looking for accessories here.”
Bec Skinner pulled Louie aside to show her the pride section of the store. “There’s four pairs of gay socks,” Skinner said excitedly.
For Skinner, his clothing is mostly influenced by his gender identity. He picked out a white button up shirt, a suit jacket and black slacks. “I wear what I can to pass [as cisgender],” he said. “I’m not completely out. I carry different sets of clothes in my backpack.” Editor’s note: Because he is out both at school and church he gave the Indy permission to include him in this article.
For queer people, it’s important to have a safe place to be themselves, Louie, the president of Clark College’s queer student alliance, said.
“Some people aren’t able to go as their true selves at their high school prom,” Louie said. “Or they don’t go at all. We host Queer Prom and let people go as who they are.”
Louie picked out a long, dark blue, sequined gown for the Queer Prom. She also said her clothing is influenced by her gender identity. “I identify as a girl and I wanted to present as such so I got a dress,” she said. “I went to prom in high school but I wore a tux. It was uncomfortable for me.”
Skinner said he looked forward to the safe place Queer Prom provides. “I get the chance to be fabulous just the way I am,” he said. “I don’t have to stress about ‘passing’ or having awkward ‘are they a boy or a girl?’ moments. Queer people get me.”
Riah Thomson looked through a rack of rainbow T-shirts as they said that clothing shouldn’t be assigned to a gender. “If you assign a gender to fabric, that’s your problem,” they said.
“I don’t use my clothing choices to express gender identity,” Thomson said. “I use it to express my attitude towards gender norms.
And that’s ‘screw gender norms’! I wear what I feel flatters certain features.” Queer Prom is an important event for Thomson. “It means a lot to me since I’ll have a space for me and my girlfriend to be safe and have fun being us,” they said. “No hiding.”
Their partner, Soto, was just as excited. “I was homeschooled and never got to go to a prom,” she said. “I’m excited that it’ll be an
event I won’t feel singled out at.”
Clark College hosted the Queer Prom on June 6 in the Gaiser Hall Student Center at Clark. The event was open to the community.
Editor’s note: All story sources granted permission to include them in the story.