Prom event to provide LGBTQ community an entertainment outlet

Jun. 24—A downtown Decatur business owner plans to hold a prom for the LGBTQ community for the second consecutive year and says tolerance for the community has grown in Morgan County.

"In a town like this there's very old money, traditional-style viewing, but you do have to leave space for people to grow and be different because that's what makes any place better," said Lynsey Staggs, owner of Urban Atlas. "I always have so many people coming to me (thanking me) for a place where (they) can feel safe."

The prom will be Saturday — the sixth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage — at Staggs' record and art shop. She said much of the inaugural prom was improvised because of the pandemic, but Saturday's event has been more heavily and publicly promoted.

"I had a lot of people say, 'I couldn't go to prom ... because I wanted to go with a girl or I wanted to go with a guy,' so I thought, 'Let's just have one here,'" said Staggs, 24, a 2015 Priceville High graduate. "I had started out doing lemonade socials and I'd have art from the LGBTQ community, but everybody was just kind of sitting around so I ... (wanted to) do something a little more fun," she said.

This year's prom will run from 7-9 p.m., with proceeds going toward the Human Rights Campaign through admission and T-shirt sales. Tickets are $15 individually or $20 for couples and can be purchased at the door or on Urban Atlas' website, and the shop on Second Avenue Southeast will hold a "best dressed" competition and offer prizes to the winners.

Jasmine Cameron, 22, attended the first prom with her girlfriend and said she was pleased to see it return for a second year as a more structured event as all types of gatherings resume.

"The parades we do are very small, so having a pride prom is pretty great," Cameron said. "I'm sure there were a lot more people that wanted to come but were a little worried (about COVID last year)."

Cameron grew up in Somerville and is a 2017 graduate of Brewer High. She said she has seen support for same-sex relationships increase and hopes events like the prom can increase visibility of the local LGBTQ community.

"(LGBTQ acceptance) has gotten a little better," she said. "It used to be really tough, so much so that a lot of people don't come out until they're out of school and then they're adults and you can't do anything about it."

The storefront will undergo a conversion from a retail space to a dance floor before the prom, with a back event room additionally offering food from A's Café of Courtland and a photo booth for participants to take a photo with their friends or significant other, Staggs said.

"The photo booth prints out the little strip like at a real prom, and we're going to have a DJ," she said. "We're going to have food, cake (and) ... I'm also going to have some light spritzers for people 21 and over."

Cookie Stoner, who has conducted same-sex marriages as one of the American Marriage Ministries' pastors in Alabama, said she has appreciated the launch of the prom and Urban Atlas as a "place of respite" for the LGBTQ community.

"Seeing some of the young people who felt such love and acceptance — where to me they should be able to get that anyway — was great," Stoner said of the first prom. "I actually met an older trans woman there at the prom who moved to town and felt comfort there because they'd lost that." or (256) 340-2437. Twitter @timmnail