Kiku Johnson

Taking pride in making the prom inclusive

Kiku JohnsonCONCORD, CA (Feb. 25, 2022) — Pop radio was my religion, my shrine, my own curated soundtrack to my 17-year-old life, especially in my senior year of high school.

I was still aiming to mainstream into this American culture and embracing what was coming through the radio allowed me to be part of that culture. Don’t even get me started with how MTV fed my imagination for interpreting and visioning every powerful lyric of every song that somehow spoke to me.

Connecting and relating to the music of the time provided me a ticket to “fitting in” and not being as different, an outsider or weird. I was fluent in the language of music when my name, family and quickly developing butch persona continued to diverge past the ability of truly fitting in with my peers.

In truth, I also jammed out to my mom’s Cantonese pop cassette tapes at home, behind closed doors, and only with my younger brother, noshing on leftover Chinese BBQ pork and rice, still trying to save the Nintendo princess in the Legend of Zelda.

Prom and its pressures

We had entered a new decade, it was officially the ’90s, and my senior year presented the customary rites of passage, including homecoming, senior portraits, class rings, graduation and the ever-coveted senior prom.

At its best, prom is an opportunity for friends to gather, celebrate one another, be in community, feel honored and create a beautiful memory. For me, prom required wearing a dress, having a boy ask me, photo ops and a group of friends that I would also be able to perch alongside for safety in numbers, because remember, I had the music part locked down – and I can surely dance. Besides the music, I had none of these things and did not see prom within my reach.

Though many of our LGBTQI+ youth may be welcome at a traditional prom, they still face the pressure of stereotypical gender norms and are not always affirmed in these long-held school traditions. Still, in 2022, there are these trappings and pressures around the outfit, date, where to go to dinner, and who will be prom king and queen.

A prom with pride

Together with PFLAG ClayCord, Rainbow has imagined something for our queer youth – the county’s first Pride Prom. This affirming space, co-created with youth input, holds freedom of expression and identity at the core of its values. A prom with all the glitz and glamor, and a more affordable ticket price, allowing everyone who wants to attend with a date, on their own or with their friend crew to have an exceptional celebration of this time in their lives. With a community that lifts them up, loves them and centers them.

Who would pass up this opportunity? Not I.

I will be fulfilling, 31 years later, a rite of passage, alongside our county’s queer youth as a chaperone to the first Pride Prom as a proud trans man, with my found Princess Zelda, and proud community by my side, ready for the photo booth.

Pride Prom will take place 8-11 p.m. Saturday, April 23, at Concord High School, serving all juniors and seniors from the following districts and schools: Mt. Diablo Unified, Martinez Unified, Carondelet, De La Salle and Clayton Valley Charter. Guests of students attending also need to purchase a ticket, can be from any school, and must be between 16 and 19. Homeschoolers are also welcome.

If you’re disappointed that not every Contra Costa County high school is listed, know that we are starting small. We want to centralize a partnership with PFLAG ClayCord and offer an experience that is safe and accessible. The goal is to expand this event throughout the county in future years, and we need support to do that.

‘More than Words’

In the spirit of my personal senior year anthem, do enjoy a hearty listen to “More Than Words” by Extreme:

“Hold me close, don’t ever let me go. More than words is all I ever needed you to show. Then you wouldn’t have to say that you love me. ’Cause I’d already know.”

Then navigate to the PFLAG ClayCord site to support Contra Costa County’s first Pride Prom by donating a ticket, or two – or 10 at https://pflagclaycord.org/pride-prom.

Kiku Johnson is Rainbow Community Center’s executive director. As a man of color and trans experience, Kiku has invested his life engaging and elevating youth and adult voices of marginalized intersectional identities. Send ­questions and comments to kiku@rainbowcc.org.

Kiku Johnson
Kiku Johnson
 | Website

Kiku Johnson is Rainbow Community Center’s executive director. As a man of color and trans experience, Kiku has invested his life engaging and elevating youth and adult voices of marginalized intersectional identities. Send ­questions and comments to kiku@rainbowcc.org.

[USM_plus_form]