This Fundraising Event Recreates Prom For Queer Adults, Filled With Healing, Nostalgia & Joy!

NiK Kacy, founder of Queer Prom

For many teens and young adults, prom is a rite of passage, a cultural staple of American life that can create lasting memories for many. But there are also others for whom prom invokes anxiety, fear, and even negative memories. There are numerous queer folks across the country today who can attest to feeling less-than-enthusiastic about what is considered a very hetero-normative experience.

For queer activist, designer, entrepreneur, and event producer NiK Kacy, prom was not necessarily a memorable event, but they are helping other adults in the LGBTQ+ community have a “do-over”, at an event designed to reclaim the space and be more inclusive.

Queer Prom is an annual fundraising event for Equality Fashion Week (EFW) during Pride Month that creates a nostalgic themed, inclusive adult prom experience infusing love and healing into the LGBTQIA+ community. Seeking to recreate the experience of prom for queer folks to re-envision growing up more authentically, NiK hopes the event will be a joyful reclaiming of what may have been painful memories for many queer youths.

Set to take place on June 1st, the 2023 edition of Queer Prom will be transporting guests back to the days of Studio54 via Sunset, the underground club at The West Hollywood EDITION created by the co-founder of the original Studio54! The event is for individuals 21 and over.

Coming out as a trans masculine, gender non-binary queer human in their adult life, NiK dreamt of finally attending prom as their authentic self and wanted others to be able to do the same. Prom is a signature high school experience. Yet NiK, like many other queer youth, never felt safe to attend prom as a student. 

To date, as part of the 2023 Legislative session, some 500+ anti-trans bills have been introduced restricting fundamentals such as health care, housing, education, and the freedom of expression for transgender and nonbinary individuals. These bills also include bans on transgender athletes, restrictions on gender-affirming medical care for minors, and laws that target drag performers and LGBTQ+ youth. A disheartening and alarming situation considering that per The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) there are more than 2 million transgender people across the US.

Transgender and gender non-conforming individuals continue to face stigma, bias, and systemic discrimination from an early age, heightening their vulnerability to violence.

The highly anticipated soirée will be hosted by LGBTQ+ influencer Amber’s Closet, Trans model and musician, Laith Ashley and Trans model, comedian and actress, Arisce Wanzer. Speakers include Brian Michael Smith and Mayor Sepi Shyne, among others. Additionally, the evening will feature special performances by Dragula and RuPaul’s Drag Race star, Drag King Landon Cider, LGBTQ+ activist and singer from Istanbul, Iliana Georgi, DJs Daisy O’ Dell, Mike Taylor and more. 

Seeking to recreate the experience of prom for queer folks to re-envision growing up more authentically, NiK hopes the event will be a joyful reclaiming of what may have been painful memories for many queer youths.

We spoke with NiK ahead of Queer Prom to talk about the significance of this event in the lives of queer adults, why it matters right now in America, and the impact of creating a joyful, healing space for those who were not able to experience it growing up.

As the founder and producer of Queer Prom, how did this idea first come about?

First thanks so much for inviting me to share! Queer Prom was created as an idea last year, post pandemic, to help raise funds for Equality Fashion Week, which I created in 2018 after years of attending fashion shows designed for LGBTQ+ communities and realizing the inequity in experiences between mainstream hetero designers and queer designers, especially Trans, Nonbinary and People of Color.

In order to produce an elevated, high production fashion week for our community AND compensate everyone fairly, I needed to raise a lot of money so I thought why not produce a secondary event to help fund the main event of the year? My life mission is to uplift those under-represented and create a safe and inclusive space for everyone to be united.

Prom is such a major rite of passage for teens and youth. Can you tell us what it means for queer adults today, and what your own experience was like?

This Queer Prom event is designed for adults who either never went to prom or didn’t get to go as their authentic selves. I never went to my prom because I was worried and uncomfortable about having to fulfill the heteronormative expectations that came with prom at a catholic high school back in the early 90s. It was such an uncomfortable feeling knowing I would be expected to wear the dress, heels and makeup. 

I attended a dance formal once after a boy classmate asked me to go. It was flattering to be asked and I did enjoy dancing but when I look back at those pictures with my hair, makeup and dress, my gender dysphoria hits all sorts of levels that are hard to bear and makes me cringe. 

Creating my version of Prom means that all of us adults can finally create our own rite of passage as our authentic selves. My hope is that one day we won’t need a Queer Prom because everyone will get to go in whatever they want to wear and with whomever they love.

Can you tell us about the fundraiser and partnership with Equality Fashion Week? What does the organization do? 

As I mentioned, Equality Fashion Week (EFW) is the first LGBTQ-focused fashion week in LA and I hope to take that nationwide and even globally one day. Creating a platform where we can highlight queer expression, identity and talent is paramount as it helps so many people feel belonging and that they are not alone. In addition, queer fashion is vital in culture to help us express who we are and solve the many problems that mainstream society doesn’t bother to address (i.e. gender nonbinary humans, Trans and differently-able bodies and what they wear). 

EFW employs and compensates so many queer humans, provides a platform to shine and be visible. The entire event is about representation and celebrating our community in all its diversity. The goal is not only to show we exist but also that we deserve equity… and that we are pretty freaking amazing. 😉

This is the second year Queer Prom is being held. What were some of the reactions from last year’s event, and what kind of feedback motivated you in preparation for this year’s event? 

Truth be told, I hadn’t originally thought I would do this annually but because immediately after Queer Prom was over and for months after, so many people told me how impactful and healing their experience was and that they hope to attend again that I felt the need to bring it back each year until it’s no longer needed. 

My favorite moment during last year’s event was when I was on stage speaking at the Globe Theatre and looking down at all the faces, for the first time in my life I actually felt like I SAW healing. I don’t think you can explain it until you see it for yourself. It was a room filled with humans who were all healing in unity and community and it was beautiful. 

I’ve been lucky that the City of West Hollywood has continued to support as a partner in bringing this event to fruition as part of WeHo Pride programming. Plus, this year, we are lucky enough to gain the support of The West Hollywood EDITION who has donated their venue Sunset at EDITION to help me create the Studio54-themed Queer Prom that I envision.

What is the theme of this year’s Queer Prom?

I decided to make this year’s theme Studio54 because last year my vision was all about bringing back the nostalgia of high school so last year’s theme was Breakfast Club. We had our hosts as Principal and Vice Principal and had an entire Prom committee with friends posing as “students” and running for Student Body positions, and various folks playing different characters of a high school. 

This year I wanted to go the opposite direction and make it very adult themed but fun and focused on dancing so Studio54 felt perfect. It was a time that was filled with struggle, war, AIDS epidemic, drugs and sexual freedom. Studio54 was where everyone and anyone regardless of fame, class, color or identity could just be fabulous and share a night of dancing and fun. I wanted to bring that feeling and camaraderie back because this last few years have been really tough. 

With the unfathomable increase in anti-Trans and LGBTQ+ legislation, racial injustice, general hate spewing from so many groups of people, a neverending pandemic, impending economic crisis and war, it felt we needed a celebration that we are still here thriving as best we can and uniting together as a community.

Although it is 2023 and we have seen some major political and cultural gains for the queer community, there are some scary anti-LGBTQ+ bills being introduced and passed. What role do you see Queer Prom playing in the midst of this regression? 

Honestly, sometimes it just feels too much to handle because it is really hard to understand why so many people hate us and don’t even know us. These right wing groups want to take our rights away, erase us and control our bodies and expression all in the name of fear that we are “grooming” their children but the reality is that cis hetero people are the only ones who have been doing the grooming. They have tried lobotomizing us, imprisoning us and forcing us to be heteronormative and listen, it would be so much easier to exist as a straight person.

I don’t think any of us wished we were Trans or queer at birth. We were just born that way and no amount of “grooming” from anyone is going to change that. Just as if you’re straight, no amount of grooming will turn you gay. I honestly don’t understand why there is so much fear and so many right wing extremist politicians turn out to be secretly gay… why hate yourself so much that you need to hurt other people and prevent them from living their truth? Sorry, I get worked up when I start thinking about this! 

Queer Prom is about celebration, love, inclusion and healing. No matter how much hate we face as a community, we stay resilient and strong because we believe in community. At least I do and I make it a part of everything I do in hopes it inspires others to do the same.

What do you hope attendees will leave feeling, after being in this year’s Queer Prom? 

Filled with joy, love, repair, gratitude, PRIDE! and maybe sweaty, too! 😉

Can you talk to us about the importance of authenticity and giving queer youth permission to live this way?

Living an authentic life should be an easily achievable goal for all humans, adults and children alike and regardless of race, color, creed, orientation, etc.

However, we as LGBTQ+ communities and communities of color continue to struggle to just safely exist and have the same rights, access and resources as our straight, white neighbors. It doesn’t cost anything to be kind to others. We all know what being able to be our true selves mean so why is it so hard to give others the same privileges and rights to live their authentic lives? 

As a child, I spent many years being depressed and suicidal because I felt neglected and unwanted by the world. Finding my truth and living my truth saved my life, as did finding my community. I truly hope that one day, all humans can be able to thrive and live their truth without persecution or fear. It seems like such a basic thing and yet so difficult to achieve for some reason because we live in a white patriarchal society limited by religious and colonial rhetoric.

We love that this event is about joy. What does joy mean to you personally?

I think it is important to provide these safe spaces for queer adults and allies because the more unity we help inspire, the stronger we become and can help create a better world for the youth. We need to be changing perspectives and affecting positive change in society so that we can protect our children from the hate and discrimination that exists. 

It can be exhausting to constantly be living in fear just for loving who we love… just for existing as our authentic selves. Joy for me means to be able to live each day to the fullest, surrounded by love and community, and to be able to exist in the body I feel most genuine in, while loving the human I feel most myself with.

Thank you so much for sharing my story!

You can get tickets to Queer Prom by clicking HERE, and get familiar with the work of Equality Fashion Week.

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