An essay about attending prom by a Black Hills High School student who identifies as gender-fluid was published in The New York Times over the weekend.
In the essay, titled “My Gender-Fluid Senior Prom,” Ara Halstead, 18, writes about what it means to be gender-fluid and how school dances always seemed off limits.
“Some days I feel more feminine, some more masculine, and some days I’m somewhere in the middle. There aren’t many people I know of who are openly nonbinary at my school — fewer than five.
“All of this meant that school dances — where almost everything is not only gendered but ultra-heteronormative, from the clothing to the prom royalty to boys on one knee handing girls roses — were not exactly what I thought of as a welcoming environment for me,” Halstead writes.
But when it came time for senior prom, Halstead had a change of heart, writing that maybe going to prom would help make gender-fluid people more visible to the rest of the school.
“I believe the big fights for equality around L.G.B.T.Q. issues, such as hate violence, homelessness and economic fairness, can’t be won unless we fight the smaller ones along the way: the ones that parents tell you to shrug off and school administrators tell you to live with, including that homecoming courts contain kings and queens, and prom dress codes must involve either dresses or suits.”
Halstead told The Olympian most of the feedback about the essay has been positive. That includes congratulations from the Tumwater School District.
Halstead responded to a post from The Trevor Project, which helps LGBTQ young people, when it was looking for gender-fluid teens who planned to attend prom. That group then connected Halstead with an editor at the Times.
"It can always be pretty terrifying when you're putting yourself out there," Halstead said. "But it's always better to speak out."