SF State Pride Prom provides LGBTQ community with party on campus

Chris Lopez and Shashana Markus dance together at SF State's Pride Prom in the Cesar Chavez building on Friday, March 1, 2013. Photo by Erica Marquez / Xpress

At 36, Vincent Mares was finally given the opportunity to participate in a tradition most experience in their high school years.

“I never went to my high school prom, but I feel like I’m making up for it now,” the communications major said.

In its third year, SF State Pride Prom continues to be a highlight for the LGBTQ community at school. Many like Mares were given the chance to go to a school dance and dance with whom they wanted. For Mares, that person was his partner Jaime Galaviz.

“I think Pride Prom is a great idea, I feel like it makes everyone feel comfortable,” Mares said. “It’s nice to be adults and hang out in a safe and fun environment.”

This semester’s SF State’s Pride Prom Masquerade, with beautiful crafted masks, vogue dance battles and a long conga line filled with smiling laughing students was successful just as in previous years.

Pride Prom was a concept originated by a former student Bita Shooshani from SF State’s CEASE program, or Creating Empowerment through Alcohol and Substance Abuse Education, and a group of students who wanted a dance geared toward the LGBTQ community.

“Bita (and) several other committee members and I worked hard towards a dance where there was no judgment or harassment. A dance where you can be who you are, dress as you want and bring who you want,” Pablo Ramirez, 21, biology major with an emphasis in botany said.

Ramirez, who is also this year’s Pride Prom coordinator, has endured his fair share of bullying and wants Pride Prom to be used as a fun and safe environment for the LGBTQ community.

“I did not go to prom in high school, but for different reasons than being gay. I personally didn’t care for prom,” Ramirez said. “As a gay individual, I have been subjected to a plethora of harassment and oppression that I wish no one else to go through, especially not while they’re having fun. Pride Prom is the safe place where anyone can have a good time and not be harassed.”

Joey Greenwell, dean of students, was approached three years ago by staff and students who felt a need to do something for the LGBTQ community on campus and has been helping with the prom ever since.

“With Pride Prom, it’s a particular aspect of our campus community, that often times maybe feel like they may not be as comfortable at a Noise Complaint dance,” Greenwell said. “But it’s great. It’s open to everyone, it doesn’t matter if you’re straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer or questioning; everyone’s welcome to have a good time and celebrate.”

Pride Prom is more than just an event to the LGBTQ community; it’s also a time for second chances.

“Not a lot of students here had the opportunity to have their type of ‘perfect prom’ in high school because maybe it wasn’t accepting there,” Jex Nguyen, an 18-year-old art major, said. “But tonight they do and I love that.”

Robert Gilbert, Cesar R. Lopez and Cody Moore, all 18, attended their high school proms less than a year ago. But at Pride Prom they were given another opportunity to celebrate prom their way.

The trio engaged in a vogue dance battle during the prom that had them all laughing and hugging by the end.

“It was the same theme for my high school prom but I’m having a lot more fun here,” Gilbert, a biology major said. “I can actually dance with who I want to.”

Lopez enjoyed Pride Prom more for the freedom to wear whatever he pleased.

“This dance is better for me because I can be out of dress code and my shorts get to be a little higher than my fingertip length,” Lopez, a music major said.

Moore, a hospitality major, caught pride goer’s attention when he did a split on the dance floor, but to him and the LGBTQ community, getting to be together in unity is what matters the most to their Pride Prom experience.

“The best part of Pride Prom? The people.” Moore said. “We’re fun, we all love to dance and we all just love life.”

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