The Prom You Always Wanted

Montreal Queer Prom 2011 Gives Prom a Second Chance

  • Graphic Eric Bent

In the 1986 teen romance Pretty in Pink, Iona (Annie Potts) tells Andie (a young Molly Ringwald) that prom is thesingle most important event in a teenager’s life—even though the experience is “the worst.”

Andie then makes the painful choice to attend her prom sans date, and is rewarded for it with the boyfriend she’d always dreamed of.

Too many teen films from the ‘80s and ‘90s have told us that prom encapsulates all that is most romantic, dramatic and memorable from our adolescence. Even those of us who always felt a little bit different believed that we, too, could waltz into that ballroom (or spruced-up school gym) with the best-looking boy or girl on our arm.

Invariably, however, that fantasy gave way to crushing disappointment: bad music, nauseating food, and worst of all, the prom-night breakup. Maybe you made the sane decision to stay home and boycott that most overblown of teenage traditions.

But Sherwin Sullivan Tjia knows your deep, dark secret: you really, really wanted to have the perfect prom. And next week, the Montreal Queer Prom 2011 promises just that. It’s the “prom you always wanted.”

This past year Constance McMillen, an openly gay Mississippi teen, received overwhelming media support when her high school prom was cancelled because she wanted to bring her same-sex partner as a date.

Tjia, a Concordia alumnus who also organizes Slowdance Nights and Strip Spelling Bees in Montreal and Toronto, is no stranger to McMillen’s struggle.

The Queer Prom is, above all, an opportunity for those who never fit in to reclaim this formative high school experience.

“When you live in a world like this one, which has a very fixed notion of what ‘normal’ is, it’s very exclusionary for a lot of people,” said Tjia. “Everyone needs a second chance to have a good prom.”

Featuring some prom night mainstays like a balloon archway, campy cover band, and cheesy photo booth, Tjia also promises more outrageous stunts that will go above and beyond the conventional prom-night experience.

The band, Ron’s Fantasy, will be playing a host of sing-along favourites, Journey included. Keep on the lookout for a blood-soaked Carrie in the crowd, and nominate yourself or a friend for Prom Kink and Queer.

But behave (or don’t)—a naughty Dom teacher will be prowling the dance floor, making sure that hemlines hang well above the knee.

“In a way, this event is a prom making fun of proms,” Tjia added. “I wasn’t sure if that was too ironic, but I like to make fun of things.”

But irony isn’t Tjia’s main objective. The Queer Prom aims to foster true connection and a sense of belonging in an age where ironic detachment has become the epitome of cool.

“It’s hard to be ironic when you’re holding someone in your arms. When you’re touching someone, irony doesn’t exist,” said Tija. “One of the things I don’t want to happen when people come to my events is for everyone to be really cool or witty, because my feeling is it’s best for people to be warm. But I understand that people need to be cool in this world. That’s how people get ahead culturally, but that’s not how we get ahead emotionally.”

Tjia hopes to make the Montreal Queer Prom an annual event, but that all depends on your attendance. So give prom a second chance. Just remember to bring an open mind, and maybe a corsage.

Montreal Queer Prom 2011 / La Sala Rossa / 4848 St. Laurent Blvd. / Sat., April 9 / 8:30pm / $15 advance, $20 at the door.

Tickets available at Cheap Thrills, Atom Heart and Phonopolis.

This article originally appeared in The Link Volume 31, Issue 29, published April 5, 2011.

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