The other night I attended the West Michigan Alternative Prom, sponsored by Fountain Street Church. As I walked into the gym, I saw a group of diligent young folks sitting around the table, talking and laughing, having just finished decorating for the prom.

I tottered to the kitchen balancing my cake-donation, and my ACLU literature in my hands and thought how fun the evening would be for everyone. Who doesn't like a prom?

I attended the chaperone meeting where we discussed safety, our assigned stations, and different responsibilities for the night. And then I took my place behind my ACLU table and watched the students arrive.

As they arrived in their gowns and suits, I became aware of a slowly creeping realization. This isn’t just some cute, rainbow-decorated event. This is some serious stuff.

There were some issues outside that evening – kids coming by, harassing the LGBT kids. A team of security guards were there, donating their evening to keeping these kids safe. I was struck that even a sweet and innocent prom celebration was marked with an awareness of the bigotry these kids face every day. 

I realized that although I was just lending support for the evening, these kids are doing what so many busy, stressed, self-absorbed adults don’t have the courage to do.

They are living lives of authenticity, right here in Grand Rapids, Michigan. They are taking a stand for believing in the legitimacy of who they are and living it out, despite a world full of hatred and discrimination.

The kids inside spent the rest of the night dancing their hearts out, enjoying themselves. I drove off to dinner with friends and talked about my evening, and lessons (hopefully) learned.

By Julia Henshaw, West Michigan Administrative Assistant