Do you have your costume ready?
Queer Prom is set for April 26 and this year the theme is cosplay. All attendees are encouraged to come as a favorite character.
“We just want them to dance and have fun,” said Vanessa Vrtiak, program coordinator of Raven Project, which is organizing the event. “It’s cool for all the different schools to come together and celebrate who they are.”
Festivities include music from DJ Anya, who organizes regular Club Triangle dances at The Jam in Arcata, as well as a photo booth, costume contests, and some artistic activities such as corsage-making, Vrtiak said Wednesday.
Members of the local chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence will chaperone the event.
“We were asked to chaperone years ago and have done it for multiple years,” said Michael Weiss, who is also known as Sister Faun D’Amen. “We’re doing a lot of complementary work and collaboration. … We provide a presence and a safe space.”
Another traditional feature of the event is performances. This year that includes Bare Elegance Burlesque, billed as “body-positive burlesque,” which Vrtiak stresses is “PG” and appropriate for all ages.
Vrtiak said the Raven Project has received a number of phone calls voicing concerns about the low end of the age range.
“We have so many 10-year-olds who come to Queer Coffeehouse,” she said. “They are mature and sweet and they want to be involved in this.”
She said that the younger attendees might find someone who can help them navigate various issues they will encounter later.
“A lot of kids know by the time they’re 10 who they are,” she said. “… We know there are a lot of concerns. We are trying to make sure everyone feels safe and supported.”
Samala Ray, who is one of the newer members of the Sisters and is also known as Mama Wolf It Down, said she was part of the chaperone unit at last year’s event.
“It was very nice,” Ray said. “It was at Outer Space. It was cool. They had performances — some drag, some burlesque.”
She said there were 150 to 200 people who attended last year’s Queer Prom.
Weiss recalled a meaningful moment at a past Queer Prom.
“A few years ago, when it was at the Eureka Women’s Club, I was so touched,” he recalled. “This SUV pulls up and these two young women get out. They’re about 13 — both dressed in these prom gowns. The mom gets out and hugs the girls and then she turns about and said ‘Take care of my girls.’ “
Both Weiss and Ray said they are approached to talk about what it’s like being a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence.
“Some kids ask us questions about HIV prevention and sexual health,” said Weiss. “We’ve given out condoms, affirmations of people where they are at.”
He said the Sisters were invited to a recent Queer Coffeehouse event at the Raven Project. The youth who attended the meeting asked questions of the sisters. Weiss called it “intense.”
“The first question was ‘I am constantly bullied in school. How do I deal with that?’ ” Weiss said. “Some of the youth that go there deal with a lot of stuff.”
Vrtiak said the goal of Queer Prom is to create a safe atmosphere where there is little pressure and a lot of fun. She said prom is a key event in many youth’s lives.
“We want kids to walk away feeling that they are safe, supported, accepted no matter what,” she said. “We don’t care how you present yourself. Just feel comfortable in their own skin.”
She added that there are still a few donations that would be helpful. She is looking for raffle prize donations from community businesses as well as soda and appetizers. Those interested in donating can call 707-443-7099.
If you go
What: Queer Prom
Where: Eureka Women’s Club, 1531 J St., Eureka
When: April 26 from 6 to 9 p.m.
More information: https://www.facebook.com/events/2031398380308784/
OUTspoken publishes (almost) weekly in the Times-Standard. Ruth Schneider can be reached at 707-441-0520.