As a social documentary photographer, I have learned the importance of capturing unique groups of people, at particular times, in particular places. This moment in history represents an important juncture when a thirty four-year tradition continues to play a vital role, while the lives of these youth hang in the balance between imminent, broad social acceptance and historical, outright discrimination and oppression. These images are the result of a ten-year project photographing the Boston Alliance of Gay & Lesbian Youth (BAGLY) Prom. BAGLY provides a safe haven for youth who are often, even in these progressive times, outsiders in their own youth culture and who may not yet have a foothold in adult gay culture. The images in this body of work reveal the delicate balance between youth vulnerability versus defensive self-protection as these grow up facing intolerance of their developing identities.
The yearly BAGLY Prom fills the hole left when these youth are not allowed to attend, or don’t feel a sense of belonging at the traditional youth proms in their own high schools. Held in Boston for thirty-four years, the Prom flies under mainstream radar, yet thrives within gay youth subculture. Attendance has reached more than 1000 youth from New England.
Although they may not dwell in the mainstream of the larger culture, these youth are not exotic subject matter. They are our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and students in the classrooms of our high schools and colleges. It is up to us, as adults to not only support youth self-expression, but to celebrate their courage, imagination and exuberance. This project is based in the hopeful idea that one day such an event may not be necessary.