After a three-year pandemic hiatus, The LGBT Center’s Senior Prom returned with a much-needed togetherness on the evening of June 24.
Nearly 200 senior guests and 50 volunteers filled L.A.’s Friendship Auditorium, according to LGBT News Now.
“This year was really special, because people have been cooped up for two and a half years,” says Michael McFadden, the Center’s Senior Services associate director of programs, who helmed the team that put together this year’s Senior Prom. “Loneliness and isolation are things that seniors as a whole struggle with, and LGBT seniors are even more disproportionately impacted by them. And then you add in COVID, which of course the senior population is disproportionately impacted by, too.”
Although this year’s Senior Prom attendance rate was lower, McFadden said many were afraid for their COVID safety.
“We were trying to make sure that we were being safe from a social distancing perspective by not packing the room,” he said. “For those who did come, this was a really important opportunity for them to get together, get out of their house to see their friends, and feel like there’s a little bit of normalcy coming back, because these have been some scary times.”
This year, a group of ten seniors from the LGBTQ Center Long Beach carpooled.
“One of their staff members rented a van and they drove on up. It was the first time for all of them, and they were ecstatic to be there,” McFadden said.
New bonds were forged, and plans are already in the works for the Center’s Senior Services to do a reciprocal field trip to Long Beach, McFadden said.
Instead of a historically crowned king and queen of prom, Senior Prom introduced a gender-spectrum encompassing royal court.
“We had historically crowned the king and queen of prom, but to make it more gender inclusive, we just celebrated the royal court instead—so the oldest person in the room regardless of gender,” McFadden explains. “This year the oldest was 92-year-old Alice Myers and the second oldest was 88-year-old Jack Rappaport, so they were both crowned.”
During the last Senior Prom, Senior Prom was part of a short film directed by Luisa Conlon and shown on PBS.
“In the documentary they highlight the fact that Senior Prom is really special because a lot of our participants didn’t get to go to senior prom with the person that they would have wanted to go with,” McFadden said. “So now to get to go with their loved ones and friends and family members, to be out and to get to dance with someone of the same gender—it just is a really powerful kind of moment to be able to do that, and to be who they are in a way that they may not have been able to even legally be when they were younger.”