Surfacing: ‘It Felt Like I Was Wrapped in One Big Hug’: Inside the Chicago Gay and Straight Alliance Prom


This year’s GSA prom was Nina’s first, and she welcomed the chance to attend as an opportunity to celebrate herself, since not everyone in her life knows she is pansexual. “Everyone’s like, ‘Oh, Nina. Boys this. Boys that.’ I’m like, no, I love everyone,” she said.

Across the dance floor were Leo, 16, and Riley, 16. They had arrived together and were rocking matching rainbow-colored floral crowns. “We like to go to all the gay events,” Leo said. “They’re very fun and everyone’s just so kind.”

Leo, who attended the prom once before, already has plans to make it to next year’s event. “When I go to school dances at my school, it’s mostly just about dancing with really loud bass that makes your heart feel weird,” Leo said. “And this, like everyone is talking to each other and meeting each other and saying nice things.”

Ri, 16, and Elijah, 17, helped Kelsi decorate the space.

“The teachers here are great, understanding, helpful,” Elijah said, about attending the high school. Ri agreed, adding, “I’m trans, and all of my teachers are like, ‘Cool, I understand that.’ And if people in the class mess up my pronouns, they’ll step in.”

The dress code is decidedly anti-dress code, with students sporting rainbow-colored floral crowns, vintage Champion athletic wear and two-piece ruffled cocktail attire, among other get-ups.


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