Photo of the year: A moment of warmth at Queer Prom

  • Henson Aubrey Murdough, 8, of Braintree, Vt., left, hugs their aunt Courtney Bowen, of Rochester, Vt., while they dance during Queer Prom at White Church in Bethel, Vt., on Friday, June 24, 2022. Bethel Pridefest co-organizer Leonard Meek grew up in New York City, where Pride events are abundant, and wanted to give queer young people in Bethel access to those supportive and inclusive spaces and to let them know “we see them, we respect them and we love them.” (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News / Report For America — Alex Driehaus

Valley News Staff Photographer
Published: 12/28/2022 10:48:39 AM
Modified: 12/28/2022 10:45:43 AM

Bethel’s inaugural Pride celebration was for the young people, and they turned up to Queer Prom with their personalities on full display — adorned with flower crowns, glitter and capes fashioned from pride flags. It can be difficult to find queer spaces outside of more urban areas, but community members in Bethel, like Pridefest co-organizer Leonard Meek, were determined to create an environment where LGBTQ+ kids and teens could be themselves and be reminded that “we got you,” Meek said.

Attending Pride events always makes me cry. Whether it’s women carrying “free mom hugs” signs or just seeing so many queer couples holding hands in public, I know there will eventually be a moment that has me choked up. That moment in Bethel’s White Church was watching Henson Aubrey Murdough, 8, and their cousin, Wilder Bowen, 10, dancing with their family members. Both parents and children were absolutely beaming as they spun around the dance floor together, and it was clear how loved and supported those kids felt.

It has been a tough year for the LGBTQ+ community, with discriminatory legislation being introduced at the state level across the country and the mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado in November. That backdrop makes it all the more important to remember the moments of joy throughout the year. That’s why I keep returning to the photo of Henson Aubrey, smiling softly as they are wrapped in the arms of their aunt and surrounded by the love of their community.

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