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October 20, 2014

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They’ve got ‘Gaymers’: Youths break from tradition for LGBTQ prom

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Steve Marcus

Gaylyn Daniels and Andrej Lukovac are shown at the Center Wednesday, May 1, 2013. “Gaymer,” the 2013 LGBTQ youth prom, is scheduled for Saturday, May 4. The dress is video game-themed costumes or prom attire.

Gaymer Prom Prep at the Center

Anthony Ros makes prom swag at the Center Wednesday, May 1, 2013. Launch slideshow »
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Anthony Lyles, dressed as "Jack" from the video game "Mass Effect 3," models their costume at the Center Wednesday, May 1, 2013. "Gaymer," the 2013 LGBTQ youth prom, is scheduled for Saturday, May 4. The dress is video game-themed costumes or prom attire.

Click to enlarge photo

Gaylyn Daniels, dressed as a character from the video game "Legend of Zelda," models her costume at the Center Wednesday, May 1, 2013. "Gaymer," the 2013 LGBTQ youth prom, is scheduled for Saturday, May 4. The dress is video game-themed costumes or prom attire.

Prom season is in full swing, and like so many other girls in Las Vegas, Gaylyn Daniels is busy putting the final touches on her dress, a hand-made cream and forest-green number accented with gold ribbon.

“It’s all still held together with safety pins!” she laughs, turning out a tapered muslin sleeve to reveal a cluster of metal pins on the seam.

As she explains the jewelry and hairstyle completing the look, Daniels isn’t taking her inspiration from the pages of Seventeen or Teen Vogue, but instead from the video game “The Legend of Zelda.”

“Zelda herself wears a lot of high-end cream stuff with gold, so I incorporated that into the dress. And this sounds really nerdy, but I have a 'Triforce' necklace that I’m gonna wear to go with it,” she says of the symbolic golden relic featured in the game.

On Saturday, Daniels will be among hundreds of young people happy to let their nerd flags fly at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada’s annual LGBTQ prom, where the featured theme is “Gaymer.”

Weary of the conventional gown-and-tux fairytale themes standard for so many proms across the country -- the Center’s own theme last year was “Once Upon A Time” -- Daniels and several of the other youth leaders charged with organizing this year’s event opted for a prom off the beaten path. As avid video game enthusiasts, they saw gaming culture as a fun and creative alternative that had plenty of potential for style and flexibility.

“I was tired of themes that revolved around the girl’s dress and how beautiful and princess-y the girl looks. For once, we wanted it to be for the alternative crowd — for the strange people,” says Andy Ros, president of the Center’s community leadership group Evolve. “It also makes looking for an outfit a lot easier because you don’t have to go the traditional route. You don’t have to get a tux; you can get creative.”

Anthony Lyles, another of the group’s leaders and the go-to sewing specialist, is taking inspiration from Jack, the tattooed, crew-cut anti-heroine at the center of the game "Mass Effect 3."

In a hand-stitched vest, dark painted lips and tall lace-up boots, Lyles cuts a striking figure in an ensemble modeled after the character’s combat-ready look.

“She’s androgynous and badass, and so am I, so it was perfect,” Lyles says.

Ultimately, however, for the Evolve team, the nontraditional prom is more than an opportunity to get creative: It’s a chance to celebrate a high school tradition in an environment free of judgment — whether that’s of your “nerdy” pastimes or your sexuality.

“This is a way for me to help some others have what I couldn’t have,” explains Daniels, 20, who didn't attend her prom at Centennial High School after fellow students refused to sell her tickets because she was dating a woman. "To think that anyone else who wants to go to a prom is experiencing that is not OK."

Ros says that even at schools where discrimination isn't an issue, attending traditional proms can still be straining for LGBTQ couples.

"It's really uncomfortable to go to a prom where people are like, 'Wait, are those two guys dancing together? Are those two girls together, or are they just best friends?'" Ros says. "I'm doing this because everyone deserves to not be stared at when they go to their prom. It's as simple as that."

Follow Andrea Domanick on Twitter at @AndreaDomanick and fan her on Facebook at Facebook.com/AndreaDomanick.

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