LGBTQ groups in Billings are trying to increase the number of spaces teens can enjoy being themselves. Saturday night, 406 Pride held its first prom in partnership with youth group Rainbow Coffeehouse.
Halfway through the night, organizers interrupted the dancing for a classic prom tradition, the crowning of the royal couple.
Around 50 students danced and snacked on rainbow cupcakes at the venue downtown.
Friends Casey Abels and Ryn Ruiz stood outside.
Abels identified as lesbian and said she feels more accepted at this prom than she would at a dance organized through her high school.
“Other couples or just people who go, they will give you weird looks, they’ll call you names. You just don’t want to go,” said Abels.
Ruiz identifies as pansexual, and agrees that this prom gives her the comfort that her high school prom would not.
“Kind of just a freedom to not worry about being ridiculed or just kinda cast aside,” said Ruiz.
Both students say they’ve felt isolated from their classmates.
“Even though more people are accepting, there’s still that hostility lingering,” said Ruiz.
“And especially since it’s montana, we’re kinda just on our own up here,” said Abel.
LGBTQ groups in the city are trying to change that experience.
Laura Fisher is a volunteer coordinator with Rainbow Coffeehouse. She feels like Billings’ LGBTQ community is improving.
“I know we still have our challenges and it might not be as welcoming as some cities, but I think that it’s changing in the right direction,” said Fisher.
She mentions resources now available, like Rainbow Coffeehouse, which holds weekly get-togethers for teens, and 406 Pride, which recently opened a resource center for LGBTQ people and their allies.
Both sponsors hope to continue the LGBTQ prom tradition in coming years.