On May 20, The Moravia Alliance sponsored an LGBTQ prom that provided an opportunity for youth from the region to “be themselves.” Promoted as a “judge-free zone,” the event was a tremendous success. The following story is re-posted here courtesy of the Cortland Standard.
By KATIE KEYSER, Living and Leisure Editor –
Victoria ldeman can’t wait to go to the LGBT high school prom, where she will finally be able to dress as she pleases -in a red dress and silver high heels. “Here, I have a picture of it,” she said of the strapless glittering gown, showing this reporter on her cell phone.
The 18-year-old, a junior at Moravia High School, is a transgender person. Though born biologically male, she identifies as a woman.
“We just had the junior prom last Friday,” she said, “I was unable to wear a dress. My mom worried I would be picked on, which I understand. I have been picked on all my life.”
ldeman is a member of the Moravia Alliance, a group of about eight in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning or queer community, as well as a few “straight” members who are “allies,” who meet regularly at the Moravia High School. The group is sponsoring the LGBTQ dance, open to any LGBTQ high school student in the surrounding area, 7 to 10 p.m. Friday at the Cortland Youth Bureau, 35 Port Watson St.
“I am very excited about this. It’s one goal I thought we would be able to do,” ldeman said. Students are welcome from Cayuga, OCM BOCES, Homer, Cortland, Ithaca, Skaneateles and anywhere in between.
The only requisite is tolerance – and that participants be who they are.
There is a small fee, but anyone who can’t afford it can get funding through Cortland LGBTQ Resource Center. Call 607-756-8970. There will be snacks, decorations and music provided by disc jockey Jim ldeman of Indianapolis, Victoria’s father.
Maria Magill, sixth-grade teacher, and Julie Hempson, eighth-grade social studies teacher, oversee the Alliance with help from Krystal Haranin, English teacher, all at the Moravia School District. “We are a brand new group. We started this year,” said Magill. “We have found a collective voice.”
Cameron Caza, 18, of Niles, a senior, is going to the prom. “I think it’s very surprising that out school is the one hosting it and not some larger school,” said the gay man. He plans to go by himself and will wear his usual formal dress wear, a purple shirt and dress pants.
Caza attended the Moravia prom last year, taking a ‘female date. “It felt conformative and traditional,” he said. And that was OK.
But an LGBTQ prom?
“I am thrilled,” he said. “I have an opportunity to meet more people like me, more so than the normal population.”
Chelsea Moroski, project coordinator of the center, a Cortland LGBTQ Resource Center on Main Street, said gay proms are unusual in this area. “But across the country, no. It’s really popular,” she said. “A lot of times they have LGBTQ graduations as well. It depends on the area, how much support the community lends to them.”
“It’s not just for the gay population. It’s for everyone in the community – lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, transgender… It’s for anyone not feeling comfortable going to their prom,” she said. Allies of the youths are welcome as well. “Most of LGBTQ people say they don’t even go to the prom because they don’t feel comfortable there,” said Moroski.
“It’s a very vulnerable population. Suicide rates in the (lesbian, gay, bisexual youth) population are really high’ (four times higher than straight suicide rates),” she said. Transgender rates are higher, she said. Half have seriously thought about suicide. A quarter have made an attempt, said Moroski.
Kids this age need the space to figure out who they are, she said.”The best thing we can do as a community is to support them,” she said. “Support parents who will support their kids.”
“Things are changing and people’s minds are going to have to start changing, even if it’s baby steps,” said James, “Jim” ldeman, Victoria’s dad. A former native of the area for a good 20 years, his grandparents owned Ide’s Lanes in Ithaca, he said.
He tries to be as accepting as possible of his child’s transgender quality.
“When they wrote the book on parenting, they didn’t have this chapter,” he said in a telephone interview this week. “I love him (Victoria) dearly and ·there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for him (Victoria), as any one of my children.”
There may be people who ridicule his child. “As far as I’m concerned, I won’t stand for it. If you want to pick on him (Victoria), you have to go through me,” he said.
The teens find strength in the Alliance.
“I was shocked when I knew that the school had a GSA (Gay Straight Alliance),” said Caza. “It’s very, very supportive.”
Victoria ldeman agrees.
During the school day, she wears clothing that will not make her stand out. But when she gets into the Alliance meeting, she puts on a wig (“I wish that was red”) and puts on heels. “I do do a few female things. I paint my nails. I put on makeup. Just this past week I put on mascara.”
She said she’s just ”trying to get through the school day. I’m here one more year. I will be able to be who I am: I stay positive through the day,” she said.
Her family has been key.
“I am just so grateful for all the love and support that my family has given me through this whole process,” she said. “I don’t know what I would do without them.”