The Center Project Youth Director Gloria Williams poses with Brian Hollon, Rainbow Beach Film Director.

MYRTLE BEACH — Rainbow Beach, the LGBT youth group at The Center Project of Myrtle Beach (TCP), hosted the first gay youth prom in the history of Myrtle Beach and Horry County. The May 3 event marked a giant step forward, not only for LGBT kids on the Grand Strand, but in the South in general, where gay proms are still rare outside urban areas.

“The idea to have a gay prom came about after the kids at our Valentine’s Day Dance had so much fun. That event attracted nearly 30 young people, many from outside the area, who danced, held hands, flirted and did all the things that straight teenagers have always been allowed to do at high school dances,” said TCP Youth Director Gloria Williams.

“So many LGBT kids have never gone to a prom, or if they did, they had to go with a friend of the opposite sex. None of them had ever taken a same-sex date to the prom and they deserve that opportunity, so the youth group decided to make it a reality.”

Rainbow Beach went to work raising funds, selecting the prom decor and deciding on a name for the event: “Queens of the Damned: An Elegant Evening For Children of the Night.”

“It’s a play on words. There’s a lot of spoof movies out right now, and this is our spoof for the vampire movie, ‘Queen of the Damned,’” explained Oscar Owens, one of the founding members of Rainbow Beach. “We also think that vampires aren’t afraid of their sexuality and that’s the kind of self-confidence we want our youth group to have.”

Myrtle Beach youth attended a ‘Queen of the Damned’-themed alternative prom.

Assistant Youth Director Spaz Gladney added, “We describe our theme as ‘vampire mystic’ because we wanted the whole atmosphere of our prom to be dark, romantic, elegant and mysterious. It’s edgy and it’s fun.”

Response to the prom and its theme was enthusiastic from LGBT kids all across the Carolinas. Jeremy (whose last name is being withheld upon request), the 18-year-old webmaster of the Rainbow Beach MySpace page, was able to announce the event to a huge audience through online outreach.

“We had kids contacting the website from everywhere, excited about the whole thing,” Jeremy said.

“Kids from Orangeburg, Florence, Greenville and also several towns in North Carolina. I got an email from a girl telling me that she had just come out to her parents because she wanted to go to the prom with her girlfriend. She was all happy because it went so well. I had no idea who she was, but she knew about the prom.”

Financial support of the prom from LGBT adults and businesses was very good, in part because of an open letter posted on the home page of TCP’s website.

“I wrote that letter for Rainbow Beach so that people would understand how different it is for gay kids to try to raise money for something compared to straight kids here in the Bible Belt,” said Jeremy, who grew up in Florida. “I didn’t know that The Center Project would post it, but I’m glad that they did because it brought in some donations.”

The prom was held from 7 p.m. until midnight in TCP’s multipurpose room.

“It was so cool,” said Brian, from Surfside. “They covered all the walls and ceiling to look like a nighttime sky with stars and a full moon.”

“It looked like a moonlit garden,” said Rachael, a 19-year-old from Clemson, who drove down to the prom with her date. “They had a three-tier fountain, a full-sized gazebo, metal gates and a whole forest of trees filled with twinkling lights and spanish moss.”

To pull off the event, Williams and TCP received help from volunteers associated with Habitat for Humanity, Americorps, Coastal Carolina University and Step-Up.