For many teens across the country, prom night is an exciting time filled with fun, friends, and dancing. But no matter who you are, prom likely brings a lot of pressure. Whether it’s pressure to dress or look a certain way, to bring a certain date, to hang with certain friends, or spend a certain amount of money, some people find prom to be more stress than it’s worth. 

That stress can be compounded if you don’t feel very welcome at prom. Many schools institute discriminatory dress codes requiring attendees to wear clothes traditionally assigned to their birth sex. Other schools have a long history of racist segregation at prom. Students from across the country have recounted stories of not being allowed to bring a same-sex date to prom, having their outfits unfairly scrutinized, and of being banned from prom court based on gender. 

To provide an accepting place where teens can celebrate prom without worries of discrimination, the New York Public Library throws an annual Anti-Prom, an event meant for anyone who doesn’t want to go to their traditional prom, or who doesn’t feel welcome. 

Anti-Prom started in 2004, and after two-years of virtual prom due to COVID, the event was back in-person in 2022. Beyond a night of dancing and acceptance, the event features a fashion show put on by students from the High School of Fashion Industries. This year’s theme was “Sweet Dreams,” an opportunity to reflect on their future goals through creative expression.

“Over the past few years teens have been robbed of the ability to connect with one another and the Library is determined to disrupt this atmosphere of isolation, ushering in a new era for New York City’s kids,” library president Anthony W. Marx said in a press release about the event. “Anti-Prom provides them with a collaborative space that celebrates their creativity and ingenuity alongside their peers. It is an honor to welcome them back to the Library and support them with a beautiful event that embodies acceptance and community.”

Check out photos from this year’s Anti-Prom on June 3. 



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