Trans Youth Prom Centers Defiant Joy

Trans kids from across the country gathered by the Capitol to celebrate themselves and their potential amid a wave of anti-trans legislation.

A person at Trans Youth Prom holds up a pink sign with black text reading,
Trans kids from across the country came together in Washington, D.C. to celebrate the first Trans Youth Prom. Austen Risolvato/Rewire News Group

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So often this job includes sharing really difficult news and explaining some of the cruelest methods of attacking our communities and our reproductive autonomy. Not this week! This week, I’m thrilled to shine a spotlight on the first ever Trans Youth Prom that took place in Washington, D.C. on Monday. Rewire News Group was on the ground documenting the day-long celebration of trans lives and futures. And let me tell you: The joy was infectious.

Dreamt up and organized by trans youth from more than 16 states, the goal of the event was deceptively simple and effective: Center trans youth and their joy as a critical way to push back against the harmful narratives about trans folks by conservatives. Trans Youth Prom was an opportunity—with our nation’s Capitol as the backdrop—to let trans kids just be kids. They laughed, danced, and were righteously, joyously themselves in public. “This is about trans joy, trans creativity, trans brilliance, and trans futures,” said Chase Strangio, a civil rights lawyer and transgender activist who spoke at Monday’s prom, in a press release.

The joy and celebration Strangio described Monday was palpable. If you have a chance, please check out our Instagram and see for yourself. It was simply a spectacular day. And one that was so needed given the fact that, this year alone, conservative lawmakers have introduced at least 549 anti-LGBTQ bills, a legislative record. Included in this watershed of hate legislation is another dubious record—over 220 bills targeting trans and non-binary folks this year alone, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Within those anti-trans bills, more than 125 bills would prevent trans youth from being able to access age-appropriate, medically-necessary, best-practice health care. Conservative lawmakers advanced more than 45 bills banning transgender students from playing school sports and more than 30 “bathroom bills” that require students to use bathrooms that align with their assigned sex at birth, not their gender identity.

It’s been nothing short of a tidal wave of targeted legislative harassment. And it comes with a great price for those who find themselves the target of this latest conservative hate campaign.

“Trans Prom came from the anger and exhaustion trans kids like me felt after continuously fighting against anti-trans legislation and after continuously debating our personhood and our identity to people who don’t seem to care,” said Daniel Trujillo, Trans Youth Prom Steering Committee Member and organizer. “Trans Prom is evidence of what trans joy is. It is living proof of what trans people can achieve when supported and loved. Not only by parents, but by friends and even strangers.”

If you’re a frequent listener to the Boom! Lawyered podcast, then by now you’ve heard us talk about how important it is to center joy in political organizing especially given the fascist threat we face today. The simple truth is fascists hate joy and they definitely hate the joyful and exuberant expression of self the Trans Youth Prom represents. That’s because it is such a rejection of everything the current conservative movement embraces and endorses. So, as May winds down and we begin Pride Month in June, I can’t think of a better way to center joy than by celebrating trans lives and potential and by just letting these kids be kids.