Zoe Perry-Wood The BAGLY Prom Series
Archival Pigment Prints
The BAGLY Prom Series is the result of eight years of photographing the Boston Alliance of Gay & Lesbian Youth (BAGLY) Prom. BAGLY provides a safe haven for vulnerable youth who are often, even in these progressive times, outsiders in their own youth culture, yet without a foothold in adult gay society. The annual BAGLY Prom fills the hole when these youth are not allowed to attend, or don’t feel a sense of belonging, at the traditional proms in their own high schools.
As a social documentary photographer, I have learned that documenting unique groups of people, at particular times, in specific places, can have a significant impact. This project is based on the idea of giving voice to LGBTQ youth during a key moment in our social history. A moment when a thirty-four year tradition continues to play a vital role, while the lives of these youth hang in the balance between imminent, broad social acceptance and historical, outright discrimination and oppression. As rapid change takes place in our society, affecting what is perceived to be the acceptable norm, it seems important to have documented this period, with the hope that one day such an event may not be necessary.
1. the practice of officially examining books, movies, etc., and suppressing unacceptable parts.
Censorship is the suppression of speech, public communication or other information which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, politically incorrect or inconvenient as determined by governments, media outlets, authorities or other groups or institutions. Governments, private organizations and individuals may engage in censorship. When an individual such as an author or other creator engages in censorship of their own works or speech, it is called self-censorship.
A Response to Attempted Censorship of an Exhibition of Selected Images from the BAGLY Prom Series
An important fact to reflect on is that the people in these portraits are LGBTQ and Questioning Youth attending their Prom. They are, in fact, between the ages of 15-21. They often still live at home with their parents, and they live in New England, some, in fact, live in Lexington, Concord and other nearby towns. They are the older brothers and sisters of the very children that some people seem so worried about, that some feel would somehow be injured or harmed by seeing these images. Young children live in the same home with these teens everyday. They are not “Others” who should be seen as offensive or inappropriate to children. Many young children readily talk about the fact that their older brother or sister is gay or trans. It is natural and normal to them, and so much easier for them than for us older folks who wear the damage of living through decade after decade of a deeply homophobic society. In addition, some of the youth in this body of work are, in fact, teenage children in families who have been members of the First Parish congregation and religious education program. They are being raised here in Lexington, in our schools and in this church. I am proud that our families and our religious education programs are helping children to be open and strong enough to question the binding gender roles that society hands them. Of course, as youth do, they will push us beyond where we are comfortable - that is their role. It has always been the role of the younger generation to push the entire society in the areas where we are stuck, and it always will be. As a UU church it is so very important that we follow through with supporting them and creating safe spaces for them to be themselves and that we examine and question our own discomfort. I am pleased that this project has made a strong enough impact to ignite the kind of conversations that we obviously need to be having and I thank the people who raised their concerns and gave this community an opportunity to find a voice and stand up for these youth and their images. I am happy to speak more about my work and encourage open dialogue about these issues.