You find progress where you don't expect, sometimes.
Though Andreas Villazane, 22, was his high school’s prom king — its first Hispanic prom king, in fact — the night wasn’t quite complete.
“I didn’t go to prom with my boyfriend because I was afraid of what people would think,” he says, touching the collar of his coral dress shirt. He looks up and smiles. “We couldn’t go to prom together, so we got to do it tonight.”
Villazane sits at a confetti-spangled table behind a bevy of red and black balloons, taking a breather from the dancing at Noche de Arcoiris (Night of the Rainbow), a queer youth prom held in Pilsen, Chicago’s largest Mexican American neighborhood. Behind him, in the Mexican Fine Arts Museum’s West Wing, the few wallflowers watch the crowd from the sidelines. Fledgling drag queens test their heels on the dance floor, from time to time touching the ends of their hair. A girl in a red salsa dress, grinning, elbows a male friend towards a tall, dapper boy in a fedora, and a slightly older white lesbian couple, one in a suit, the other wearing a midnight-blue gown, grin sheepishly at the boys grinding on the dance floor. Two girls share a tender kiss.
The event is hosted by WRTE 90.5 FM’s Homofrecuencia, the country’s only Spanish-language queer youth radio show, as a reclaimation of the beloved and benighted high school ritual. It is, to the best of their knowledge, the first time a queer prom has been held in Chicago outside of the North Side’s Boystown, Chicagoland’s mostly-white gay mecca. “That’s part of the point,” says Homofrecuencia producer Tania Unzueta,. “We want to create a safe space for us within our own communities. We want to be who we are, where we live.” Unzueta says the invisibility of Latinos in the queer community inflicts a crisis of identity on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and quuer Latino youth. “It implies this dichotomy,” she sighs, “that gay means white, and Latina means heterosexual. If youth can’t see gays within the Latina community, and Latinas within the gay community, it affects their image of themselves.”
Next step: getting to their regular prom with the person of their choice. After that, who knows?
Small steps, as they say.Posted by iain at June 14, 2005 12:46 PM