Berkeley High School’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance club, or GSA, is organizing its fourth annual East Bay Queer Prom and has raised $3,355, surpassing its original goal of $3,000 through a GoFundMe campaign started in January.
Since 2016, the event has been held for high school students that identify with the LGBTQ+ community in the San Francisco Bay Area. According to GSA, Queer Prom is meant for students to celebrate their diverse identities, which may not be represented in a traditional prom.
“We need these spaces to celebrate and where we can feel proud and happy and as a community,” said GSA co-President and GoFundMe creator Maxime Hendrikse Liu. “Queer prom is about reclaiming the traditional ‘boy invites girl’ prom to show more diverse ways of expressing love in LGBT culture — something that is very powerful.”
According to Hendrikse Liu, who expressed her gratitude to those that have donated through the page, the current GoFundMe has been the most successful to date. The money raised through the campaign will be used to pay for rental fees, food, decorations and to help students who otherwise could not afford tickets.
ASUC Senator Teddy Lake commented on the importance of the event for LGBTQ+ youth in the Bay Area. Lake added that Queer Prom being intentionally about the LGBTQ+ community is impactful because often times, these traditional events are not open to same-sex partners, and that the event as a whole “warmed her heart.”
“The fact that this is available to students and championed by students is incredible,” Lake said. “As students and young people, we know what’s best for our communities because they see themselves represented.”
While the district has not expressed an official opinion about the prom, Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, board and staff support the rights of all students, according to an email from BUSD spokesperson Charles Burress. Burress added that as part of the board’s official policy, all students are free of discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender and gender expression.
BUSD Vice President Beatriz Leyva-Cutler said in an email that acceptance and diversity start at a young age. Leyva-Cutler added, however, that while it is important for students to have a space without judgment, she hopes that spaces like these do not have to be created separately.
“Acceptance, love and safety are important for ALL students and having events like the queer prom is certainly an ongoing statement from our Berkeley Community,” Leyva-Cutler said in an email. “Students and their gender, lifestyles and choices should be celebrated and embraced — as educators and a community we should be focused and worried how we can support their learning and developing as positive life long learners.”