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Senior Prom Parties Under the Night Stars at L.A. Zoo

Senior Prom 2024

Late last month, more than 300 LGBTQ+ older adults gathered at the Los Angeles Zoo on Friday for the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Senior Prom, an annual celebration of Pride, resilience, and chosen family.

An annual Pride celebration organized by the Center’s Senior Services department, Senior Prom gives older adults the opportunity to relive their prom experience as their authentic selves, with a partner of their choice. For many older adults who didn’t get the chance to attend prom as teenagers due to fears of harassment or discrimination, the event is a judgment-free space to eat, drink, dance, and cut loose with friends.

“A lot of Pride celebrations aren’t necessarily the greatest for folks that are older to get to and engage in,” Kiera Pollack, Director of Senior Services, said in an interview with the Washington Post, noting the inaccessibility of outdoor events like parties or parades. “To feel like they’re still able to celebrate being part of the community is really important.”

“It’s a wonderful thing to be in a place where you’re totally accepted for who you are.”

Andre Simpson, Senior Services client

“A lot of elders in the LGBTQ community have survived a lot, and still their spirits are happy. They’re still joyful inside. They have not been destroyed by life’s disappointments,” said Andre Simpson. “It’s a wonderful thing to be in a place where you’re totally accepted for who you are.”

Guests were provided free transportation from the Senior Center at the Anita May Rosenstein Campus in Hollywood to the L.A. Zoo, where the dance was held under the stars at the Treetop Terrace. 

Ivy White, who attended Senior Prom for the first time last year, said she now looks forward to the event as a rare opportunity for all of the seniors to gather in one place and celebrate the tight-knit community they’ve formed through other Senior Services programs and activities.

“I outlived my other family,” said first-time Senior Prom attendee Kenneth Jimerson. “I was diagnosed with HIV when I was 26, and I’m now 65. I outlived my siblings and my parents; I only wish they could’ve gotten the medical care that I’ve had. The Center makes sure I get that care. They make sure I eat healthy, exercise, and they always invite me out to events—so many that I can’t even attend them all. It’s really amazing.”

“I’ve been to many, many Senior Proms,” said Hermina Ban, who’s been involved in Senior Services activities “practically since before the turn of the century. Ban the friends she’s made through the program have become like a new family to her at this stage in her life. 

“This is, really, my second home,” she said. “I’m so grateful that they’re here and that the Center has so many activities that allow me to grow and engage with new people.”

Photos by Jordan Doyel and Maxwell Poth.

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