'It's just a safe space': Regina Pride Prom offers night of celebration for queer youth

As prom season approaches for students across the province, one organization has already created a night to remember for LGBTQ+ youth in Regina at this year's Pride Prom.

The prom was organized by Queer Connections YQR and took place at Regina's Lakeview United Church on June 7. More than 100 students celebrated in a welcoming space for queer youth and allies.

"You can come as who you are, not as people see you," said Corinne Pirot, adviser for Queer Connection YQR.

Pirot is already used to running social spaces for queer youth connect at. So when Queen City Pride asked the group to organize and host this year's Pride Prom, she said it was easy to take on the task.

"We were pretty honoured that they would trust us with this huge event. The youth were totally gung-ho, just jumping up and down," she said.

17 year-old Maxwell Baiton, a member of Queer Connections YQR, says it's not his first "rodeo" attending a pride prom, but being able to organize the event adds a special feeling. 
Queer Connections YQR member Maxwell Baiton, 17, says it's not his first time attending Pride Prom, but being an event organizer adds a special feeling. (Tyreike Reid/CBC)

Among the students there was 17-year-old Maxwell Baiton, a member of Queer Connections YQR. He said it's not his first time attending a pride prom — but being able to organize the event adds a special feeling.

"I never thought that I could get to this point where I would be in such a high position from a queer perspective," he said. "I'm happy that I can create that sort of shelter, that haven for Pride Prom."

As this year's prom comes and goes, Baiton reflected on his first time going.

"It was nice to see so many people who were like me, or in the same community as me, in such a fun and open space," he said.

Event brought together community members

The event has been hosted by different groups in the past, and Pirot says that Queer Connections YQR wouldn't have been able to move forward without the community's help.

Corinne Pirot, Advisor for Queer Connection YQR, said it was easy for the group to take on the task of organizing the prom because they're already used to running social spaces for queer youth.
Corinne Pirot, an advisor for Queer Connection YQR, said it was easy for the group to take on the task of organizing the prom because they're already used to running social spaces for queer youth. (Tyreike Reid/CBC)

Pirot says the group received plenty of donations from several different businesses and individuals. They ranged from food, money, and decor.

"It kind of blew me away, I wasn't sure what to expect, but we just put it out there and we said we kind of just need some help," she said.

Among the donated items included prom wear such as dresses, suits, purses, and jewelry.

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"Then we had a special night where we had the kids come, and they were able to try on gowns and suits, and see what they felt good in," she said.

Volunteers and three seamstresses helped with pinning and alterations so that the clothing fit more comfortably on the students.

"There were kids trying on gowns and there's tears in their eyes because they felt they could dress how they feel and who they are," Pirot said.

Pride Prom helps take a stance against controversial policies: Pirot

While the event support and visibility for queer students, Pirot notes that recent policies such as Bill 137 by the Saskatchewan Party government has "put a damper" on students' comfort levels in schools.

The policy requires teachers to seek parental consent when students wish to change their name or pronoun at school. Pirot says that these policies don't allow schools to fully protect queer youth.

"There's a lot of policies and guidelines that limit what we as teachers can do for kids in schools," she said.

Pirot says that events like Pride Prom are needed to help support the community around such policies. She says her hope is that the event grows each year.

For students like Baiton, the prom will always be meant to provide students with the opportunity to attend a prom while feeling safe.

"In the alternative environment you're able to just exist, without your existence making others uncomfortable," he said. "It's just a safe place."