In April, I had the honor of attending a few events which, from my perspective, speak volumes about LGBT life in Nashville. But the one I can’t quite stop thinking about is the Stomp H8 Prom, hosted by the Music City Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Stomp H8 also enjoys the support of community groups like GLSEN and OASIS Center, of course, but it is also supported from outside our community. Belmont United Methodist Church has broken the mold in reaching out to the LGBTQ youth of Nashville, showing us that we have friends everywhere, and that religion itself is not our enemy.
Stomp H8, an alternative prom for LGBTQ teens, celebrated its third year in Nashville on April 18, attracting more youth than ever. Those who showed up enjoyed dancing and snacks in a carefully constructed safe space, with entertainment by Veronika Electronika, Paige Turner, and the St. James sisters!
Stomp H8 is a reminder of the very best and very worst of our community. It is painful that society necessitates events like Stomp H8. Even if not formally excluded from proms by rules specifically designed to bar them or erase their identities (couples only, with couples defined as opposite sex pairings, etc.), LGBTQ teens may find attending the most iconic of high school events impossible due to the long term psychological impact of bullying or the threat of violence. I fear this will get far worse before it gets better: in the aftermath of a SCOTUS decision affirming gay marriage, for instance, social conservatives and their spawn may increase the *social* pressure on our teens in retaliation.
However, it is my hope that long after the need for Stomp H8 has disappeared such events will persist. LGBTQ kids face a great deal of adversity, but they show such a great measure of independence and creativity. They showed up to their prom in casual clothes, dress casual, full formal, and even cosplay outfits: they dance and prance and play in configurations impossible for the mainstream to conceive, even if it can tolerate it. Teens in our community assert themselves through their uniqueness, and I hope that a space will be maintained for them to be as different as they can dare to be, even when they are allowed to be “just like everyone else.”