Earlier this year on a quiet Saturday before New York City Pride, Voices4 hosted their inaugural Queer Prom on a rooftop in Brooklyn.
As well as giving queer people the opportunity to go to a prom that caters to all sexual and gender identities, the event – flowing with Williamsburg Pizza and Kim Petras anthems – doubled up as a fundraiser.
Photographer Marisa Chafetz managed to capture some of the attendees in their queer prom eleganza.
“At my high school prom I went with my best friend,” Marc Sebastian said. “She got to chose her dress first and then I had to find a suit that matched. I loved her and was happy we were going together so I obliged.
“At queer prom, I got to dress for myself, no date requirements. I chose two separate Palomo Spain looks with an 8 inch platform and had an outfit change halfway through the night. Now that’s how you do prom!”
Jeremy McClain said: “I actually didn’t attend my senior prom so this was my prom in a sense and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.”
As for Ross Days, queer prom was an opportunity to do exactly what they wanted. “Point blank I got to wear a fucking dress. So it was infinitely better than my first prom,” Ross said.
“I actually never went to any major dances in high school, thankfully,” said Blythe Marks. “This year’s Queer Prom felt so intentional, which is a marked difference from the ritualistic (and overwhelmingly heteronormative) nature of most high school events.
“To carve out a space—or simply an evening—for queer youth to associate freely as themselves is really special. Us adults getting to reach back and embrace our teenage selves was just as cathartic, too!
She added: “Hopefully any attendees still in high school will take up the spirit of this year’s prom and push the boundaries of their local communities. There’s a lot for administrators, parents, and teachers to learn from centering unbridled joy in the company of chosen family.”
David Sabshon served lewks in his prom dress, and explained why the LGBTQ community is so important to him.
“As a very closeted teen, I spent a lot of time feeling stuck on outside of my life looking in,” David explained. “It seemed impossible to be present when I was withholding so much of myself. Terrified to even explore my interests that seemed too ‘gay’, it felt like I would never find my place. But that changed when I found my chosen family.
“These aren’t just a bunch of homos I party with or get brunch with or share a house with in Fire Island. With the support of these relationships I have experienced immense joy, vulnerability, and a comfort and ease that was, for a time, unimaginable. Of course we sometimes fight and hold resentments–but the love is unconditional.
“Existing in friendships that are deep and meaningful and safe, I have been granted the opportunity to be of service to others and the space to just be myself. Its such a simple notion, ‘be yourself.’ But it’s such a hard thing to actually live in, and for me, utterly impossible if not for the endless love and support from a group of beautiful weirdos I call my family.”
Matthew Albaria added: “To me, queer community means courage. I draw strength and inspiration from my queer siblings who live their truth in a world built against us.
“This pushes me to be myself and know that there is more to being queer than living in fear.”
Voices4 held their first ever Queer Prom to raise money to help Ali Feruz, a queer Uzbek activist and Novaya Gazeta journalist who was until recently, imprisoned by the Russian government.
The writer and gay rights activist has since safely emigrated to Germany, but now faces serious health problems from his time in prison.
Voices4’s Adam Eli said: “Being queer means that we are part of something greater than ourselves. To spend an evening celebrating queer beauty and love with my chosen family is a privilege and a joy.
“To use the money we raised and community we strengthened to continue fighting for queer people everywhere is a necessity. The freedom to love and celebrate openly is inextricably bound with social responsibility.
“The best way to celebrate queer love is by fighting for those who do not currently have that privilege.”
Photography Marisa Chafetz