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‘It all feels so magical’: New England college students celebrate an LGBTQ prom at Dartmouth

Two Dartmouth Pride organizers get ready to cut a vanilla and a chocolate cake that both say "Happy Queer Prom"
Olivia Richardson
Felipe Mendonca (left) and Rosario Rosales (right) get ready to cut a vanilla and a chocolate cake as a crowd of attendees gather around them. Both cakes are decorated with the words "Happy Queer Prom." The two are pride organizers for Dartmouth. This is Mendonca's first queer prom, since he didn't have one in Brazil, his home country. This is Rosales' second queer prom, but this time she got to organize it and put a little bit of her own personal touch on the night.

Students from MIT, the University of New Hampshire, and Colby Sawyer College danced under a disco ball and rainbow lights at a first intercollegiate prom for LGBTQ+ students in the New England area this past weekend.

The dance, put on by Colby Sawyer College and Dartmouth College, was hosted on Dartmouth’s campus with the goal of providing students who missed out on their prom experience during high school because of Covid or not being able to attend with their dates.

Two students dance at the intercollegiate queer prom
Olivia Richardson
Ellie Montemayor (left) and Sonia Meytin (right) dance at the queer prom, celebrating their four year anniversary. The two went to Meytin's high school prom together. Meytin remembers sitting next to an ice cream bar; Montemayor recalls a generally nice evening. Both were excited to attend the intercollegiate prom to meet more LGBTQ students beyond their own college institutions.

The night was organized by student representatives of Pride organizations across New England.

Katya Delgiado, the Pride president at Colby Sawyer College, initiated the idea. She’s from St. Petersburg, Russia – a city that she says she’s really happy to be from. She said, the city itself is beautiful, and it taught her about perceiving beauty and including it in her life. But she didn’t have a prom that she could attend when she lived there.

The concept of prom was exciting to her. Delgiado wanted to know everything about it like what it is, what it feels like, and how it’s done. Her curiosity helped her create an event for others.

“I knew that there were people for whom it would make a difference to be able to go to an event like that,” Delgiado said.

The idea of a prom for LGBTQ students was something Delgiado said she had heard had been passed down from year to year. When she became president at her college’s Pride club, she wanted to make it happen.

Rosario Rosales and Felipe Mendonca are co-chairs for Pride Week at Dartmouth. They helped Delgiado put the event on when she reached out to them.

Mendonca is from Brazil, a country that has one of the largest pride parades in the world, in São Paulo. But prom was something he hadn’t experienced.

He said his first thoughts on how the night should go was about creating a good atmosphere for attendees.

“Everyone dressed so amazingly,” Mendonca said enthusiastically. “It all feels so magical, and it feels like that it belongs to the community and is for the community.”

Rosales said she and Mendonca, along with Delgiado and others, have been working on this night since December. This is her second queer prom.

Abigail Farley poses with a crown.
Olivia Richardson
Abigail Farley won the title of prom monarch. It was her first queer prom, and she was hesitant to show up because she's new to attending LGBTQ events. She said the win was surprising, though it brought a smile to her face. She's wearing the dress she wore to her lavender graduation earlier in April.

“It's just as magical as I remember it and even better because we got to put a little bit of ourselves into it,” Rosales said.

Instead of the traditional prom king and queen, the prom Monarch and Majesty were recognized along with the “most fierce.”

Abigail Farley, from Franklin Pierce University, was crowned the prom monarch. She was also experiencing her first queer prom that night.

“I’m still kind of new to this even though I learned I was trans two years ago,” Farley said. “I still am kind of new and outside, so I wanted to get myself into it, and I’m very happy I did.”

She heard about the event earlier in April when she attended her lavender graduation – where LGBTQ students can have their chosen name recognized, and students can celebrate graduation with the queer community.

She was a little nervous to attend prom at first, but the win was unexpected and exciting, especially as ‘Abigail C.’ was originally called for the crown.

“I’m pretty sure the person who voted for me was also named Abigail, and it was hilarious,” Farley recalls of the moment she won.

The night concluded with cake. Organizers hope that there might be more proms like this to come.

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Olivia joins us from WLVR/Lehigh Valley Public Media, where she covered the Easton area in eastern Pennsylvania. She has also reported for WUWM in Milwaukee and WBEZ in Chicago.