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Orlando massacre remembered at Long Island LGBT prom

Deer Park residents Derrick Hayward, 18, and Amanda

Deer Park residents Derrick Hayward, 18, and Amanda Lacoff, 20, take a break from the dance floor during LIGALY's 16th Annual LGBT prom held at Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury on Thursday, June 30, 2016. Credit: Jennifer A. Uihlein

Samantha Collazo didn’t go to last Sunday’s Pride March in Manhattan at the urging of her parents, who were concerned about her safety after the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando in the early hours of June 12.

But Thursday night, Collazo was able to join her community at the 16th annual LGBT prom, held by the LGBT Network and LIGALY (Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth) at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury.

“It’s just sad to think that we’ve come such a long way with the marriage equality and then we became a target again,” Collazo, 19, said. “But, we have a community so we’re all safe together.”

“We also need to remind ourselves, we can’t live in fear over one shooting,” added her brother, Frankie, who was there with Samantha and her date as a show of support. 

LGBT youth and allies gathered in prom attire for cocktail hour on the outside patio, followed by dinner and dancing in a ballroom inside and the crowning of the Rainbow Court, an alternative to the binary prom king and queen.

The events in Orlando were on the minds and hearts of the young attendees, age 13-21, but others kept another important day at the forefront. Christina Kenney, 21, recalled last year’s prom occurring on the same day that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of legalizing gay marriage.

“We had our prom that night. It’s been a year, and here we are now,” she said.

LGBT Network CEO David Kilmnick said he views the prom as the best way to remember the victims in Orlando -- a show of solidarity and positivity for their rights and safety.

“Events like this, especially for our young people, are critical to have so that we make sure we move forward and we’re not going to go back in the closet,” he said. “We’re going to be out, we’re going to have these safe spaces for our LGBT and allied youth, and then we’re going to be resilient. We’re going to continue to fight for the change that needs to happen, and this is part of that.”

The highlight of the evening was the crowning of the Rainbow Court, comprised of six youth who were unaware they were in the running for the awards, Kilmnick said.

Each award represented a color of the rainbow and a planet, as well as certain characteristics: Communication and intellect (Mercury, red); happiness, music and dance (Venus, orange); intelligence (Jupiter, yellow); grounded strength (Earth, green); hard work and wisdom (Saturn, blue); dreams and illusion (Neptune, purple).

The celebration of these unique characteristics at the LGBT prom, just weeks after others’ lives were taken in Orlando, is something Julia Robinson, 17, said was on her mind. She could freely walk into a bathroom door marked “Gentlemen” and help her friend, Kyle Harper, 20, put on a skirt, for example.

“I think about the juxtaposition between Orlando, where people were being killed for who they are, and here, where we get to celebrate who we are, and what a weird world we’re living in right now,” she said.

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