US & Canada

LGBT prom cancelled over safety concerns

Storybook Pride Prom Image copyright Storybook Pride Prom

A prom organised for LGBT teenagers in Florida has been cancelled after fears that protests against the event would jeopardise the safety of attendees.

The Jacksonville Public Library was set to host a "Storybook Pride Prom" which invited teens to "create their own 'happily ever after'", and "come dressed inspired by your favourite book character — casual, formal, or in drag — whatever makes you feel great".

However, after a campaign against the event, spearheaded by conservative activist Elizabeth Johnston, the library decided to cancel the gathering.

Ms Johnston, known as "The Activist Mommy" on social media, urged her 636,000 Facebook followers to call the venue to "express your disgust that this perversion is taking place in a taxpayer funded library".

A spokesman for the Library told WOKV that the prom was intended to be "a fun night for teens who may not feel comfortable in other situations or other places, they may not feel comfortable at another prom. We thought we would give them a nice little prom, where they could have a good time".

In a statement published on its Facebook page, the library said "the co-opting of the event" for political purposes meant they are "not confident that it will be 100% prepared to provide a safe, secure environment."

Local drag queen BeBe Deluxe was set to perform at the prom, and is disappointed that the library "caved under pressure... from a religious hate group".

Explaining the importance of the event, BeBe wrote on Instagram: "Trans kids need to see themselves represented in healthy trans adults. Gay kids need to see happy gay adults. Straight kids need to learn to help make the world better for everybody".

Image copyright BeBe Deluxe
Image caption Drag queen BeBe Deluxe also reads to children at a 'Drag Queen Story Hour' event

Despite the prom not going ahead at the library, BeBe is determined to host an alternative event for LGBT teenagers in Jacksonville, to be organised in conjunction with local businesses, charities and churches.

BeBe came out at the age of 13 "in the deep south", and says the experience was "brutal".

"LGBTQ+ youth are told their existence is up for debate and their visibility is inherently perversion at work," BeBe told the BBC. "Safe, age-appropriate spaces are essential for all young people. Unfortunately, many LGBTQ+ kids aren't given that opportunity."

By George Pierpoint, BBC News