Freedom High School senior Blair Smith has been planning Pride Prom all year, and on Friday night, it all paid off.
Smith estimated between 230 and 250 people attended his LGBT-friendly prom at the towering Bellevue Conference and Event Center in Chantilly. He had picked up the mantle of organizing pride prom, first begun in 2015, with the goal of making it the biggest yet.
And he succeeded. What started as Loudoun’s pride prom became the Northern Virginia Pride Prom, with attendees from across the region.
Smith organized this year’s Pride Prom amid a renewed debate over LGBT rights in Loudoun. In June of 2016, the Board of Supervisors created “Love Loudoun Month” rather than recognize LGBT Pride Month, and in January the School Board declined to adopt specific LGBT protections in its employment policies.
But Blair and his fellow students have moved ahead anyway, reinvigorating gay-straight alliances in Loudoun schools and strengthening networks among those clubs across the county. And at Pride Prom, organizations like NOVA Pride, which had a role in supporting the event, and the national Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, were in attendance.
“The thing that I keep telling people is that our area is so full of really great puzzle pieces, but it’s a matter of putting everything together to make a bigger picture.” Smith said. It can be difficult to put those pieces together in the face of unsupportive family members or even simple obstacles like not owning a car, he said, but: “When it does happen, it’s just super meaningful and impactful.”
He added there is “strength in numbers, and there’s more power in a collective idea.”
Former head school psychologist Amy Cannava was Smith’s advisor through much of the process. She said many of the kids at pride prom “would not feel comfortable being their authentic selves in their own schools.”
“They’re already asking and talking about it for next year, and I hope we can continue it to the same caliber,” Cannava said. “The kids were just glowing and happy.”
Smith organized Pride Prom as his senior capstone project.