UCF students got a second chance at prom on Wednesday night.
The LGBTQ+ Prom: Sparkling Knights allowed students to attend a dance they might have missed during high school due to uneasiness related to their sexuality or gender identity.
More than 100 people dined and danced together at the Fairwinds Alumni Center on UCF’s main campus to celebrate the school year and support inclusivity. Multicultural Student Center Pride Director Fausto Cardenas, a senior studying political science and sociology, began planning the second annual LGBTQ+ prom in November.
Cardenas said the prom gives LGBTQ+ people the option of having a prom-night redo, especially for those who didn’t feel safe or accepted going to their high school prom.
“Unfortunately, there are many times where LGBTQ+ people can’t really go out and express themselves,” Cardenas said. “They have the fear that other people are going to be mean to them or ridicule them.”
The importance of having a safe space to be yourself and go to prom is invaluable, Cardenas said.
“It’s not easy to be gay or trans or queer or any of those identities alone. That I have this community matters a lot to me.”
Maxwell Kaplowitz, a UCF senior majoring in interdisciplinary studies, and Dean Wynn, a UCF junior majoring in interdisciplinary studies, attended the prom together. Both are transgender students transitioning from female to male.
Kalowitz said the two have been dating for the past six months and met in an online group chat for transgender students. During that time, Kaplowitz said he started taking male hormones with Wynn. Male hormones are used to change a transgender person’s secondary sexual characteristics — such as hair production and voice pitch — from female to male.
UCF’s LGBTQ+ prom was their first formal outing together, Wynn said.
“We love getting dressed up and taking pictures,” Wynn said. “It tracks our relationship but also our physical transformation into manhood.”
Kaplowitz said being able to attend the prom as authentically as possible surrounded by an inclusive community was exciting.
“I was not out as gay or trans in high school,” Kaplowitz said. “When my prom came around, I wanted to go with a female friend, but my parents did not want me to.
Haley Wood, a UCF sophomore majoring in graphic design, said she was an ally to the LGBTQ+ community and attended the event with a group of friends to show her support.
“These events are important because many LGBTQ+ kids didn’t have the opportunity to go to prom for the fear of being outed or ostracized,” Wood said. “This event gives everyone the opportunity to be themselves in a safe environment.”
After a buffet-style dinner, RUKUS, a hip-hop dance team at UCF, performed to a cheering crowd. After the performance, crowds of people took to the dance floor.
However, Katlyn Duncan, a UCF junior studying psychology, stayed seated at her table.
“I’m not really a big prom person to begin with,” Duncan said. “I’m not into crowds or dancing.”
Duncan said she was unable to attend her own high school prom because she couldn’t bring her girlfriend as her date.
“I went to a religious school so [my relationship] wasn’t really supported,” Duncan said. “I wasn’t surprised by their decision.”
After an invitation from a friend, Duncan finally was able to attend a prom. She said this prom was fun, but that she didn’t miss out on anything by skipping her high school prom.
“Sometimes you didn’t go to prom with the partner that you wanted to in high school,” Cardenas said. “Now it’s their chance to redo that. This is a space for LGBTQ+ people and allies to kind of come together and literally have a good time at prom.”