Trans Teens Reclaim Joy: A Sparkling Prom at the US Capitol

As we have already seen by mid-February, 2023 is shaping up to be an unyielding year of legislative onslaught against trans lives, particularly affecting trans youth. We’re living in times where each day unravels a new low, where politicians do not hesitate to belittle, dehumanize, and disrupt the lives of trans people.

Amid these turbulent circumstances, I was approached by a group of young people and their parents with the hope to organize a symbol of joy and resilience centered around trans youth. The goal was not just to resist the unjust anti-trans laws but to craft our own narrative, one filled with strength and positivity.

In the past three months, we set up a creative action to serve as a beacon of hope and a call for change against the ongoing political and cultural discourse surrounding trans lives. Led by a steering committee of four radiant young minds, we, along with singer, actor, activist, and iconic drag performer, Peppermint, marshaled a team of seasoned organizers. Together, we channeled the spirit of our queer predecessors and kin, shed the limiting frameworks set by politicians and legacy media, and decided to celebrate ourselves.

On May 22, after months of careful planning, a group of 50 young people from 18 states along with their parents, guardians, and 50 trans adults gathered outside the US Capitol to host the first-ever Trans Prom of its kind. These families, some of whom were planning to abandon their homes in Texas to safeguard their trans children from Governor Abbott’s ruthless policies and other legislative attacks on trans youth health care, sports participation, restroom use, and life, found solace in this event.

One young woman denied the right to wear a dress to her high school graduation due to archaic dress codes, found herself missing her graduation. Nevertheless, she traveled all the way from Mississippi to join us, showcasing her indomitable spirit. Other participants hailed from school districts where they had been weathering bullying for years. Despite the daily struggles, they held onto their light, their sparkle.

As the attendees arrived by bus at the reflecting pool between the Capitol and the Washington Monument, the atmosphere was electrifying. Looking fabulous and divine, they marched through a tunnel of love flanked with trans adults holding signs of love, then under an arch bearing a reminder— “you are loved”— and through walls of glitter.

During the ensuing four hours, we lived a transcendent narrative of trans life — one of the people loving each other, caring for each other, relishing in their beauty, and realizing the dazzling potential that comes with freeing ourselves from the constraints of gender binary.

The parents could finally find a moment of peace, watching their children held in joy and love, dancing with friends, new and old. And for the trans adults, this day served as a healing moment, allowing them to reclaim stolen childhoods and mend past traumas.

We must remember that despite the terrifying fixation on trans lives, progress is happening. These young people are living proof of that. Trans-life has persisted in the face of cruelty throughout history and generations, transforming the world into a more beautiful, more liberated space.

Trans Prom was intended as a breather from the daily barrage of attacks on our existence — not only for us as trans people but for everyone. We must remember that we have the power to change the world’s conditions; we can dream bigger. Whenever we feel despair or overwhelm by anti-trans hatred, we can look back on the joy-filled moments we created this week. Remember, trans joy is transformational. Join our party.