May 4, 2022 - News

Parents organize Tampa Bay's first Homeschool Inclusive Prom

Students pose at prom

Students at Tampa Bay's Homeschool Inclusive Prom. Photo: Teresa Pyskaty Photography

A group of local homeschooling parents banded together this spring to create Tampa Bay's Homeschool Inclusive Prom, a celebration the parents say is the first of its kind for LGBTQ+ teens and allies.

Driving the news: As the critic-deemed "Don't Say Gay" law and anti-trans actions from the DeSantis administration loom over Florida students, Land O' Lakes homeschool parent Denise Mestanza-Taylor told Axios she wanted to give LGBTQ+ students, like her 16-year-old Emmalynn Taylor, a safe and affirming place to celebrate.

  • She created Tampa Bay Homeschool Inclusive Prom as an LLC, but is hoping to obtain nonprofit status for future proms.

Flashback: ​​Mestanza-Taylor recalled the outrage she felt when a 17-year-old was denied entry to the 2019 Tampa Bay Homeschool Homecoming dance for wearing a jumpsuit.

Details: About 100 students attended the "Starry Night"-themed prom at Metro Inclusive Health in St. Petersburg on Saturday.

  • Invitations were extended to all 2020 and 2021 graduates in Tampa Bay — public, private and homeschooled students.
  • The event space also included an outdoor "Chill Lounge" and two quiet rooms for students to take a break from the action.
  • Rose Dynasty Foundation provided entertainment, including performances by drag performers Mistah Aphrodite, Eros Rose, Scarlet Sinderella and MC Momma Ashley Rose. The foundation also handed out bracelets with its motto: "loved, accepted, and wanted."

What they're saying: Rose Dynasty president Jason DeShazo, who performs as MC Momma Ashley Rose, said this was the best prom they'd ever done.

  • "Seeing the joy in their eyes … they were just so excited," DeShazo told Axios.
  • "I want people to understand how important events like this are in the times we're living in in this country, and especially this state. Kids need a safe place where they can feel loved and accepted."
Siblings Al and Emmalyn Taylor at Tampa Bay's Homeschool Inclusive Prom. Photo: Denise Mestanza-Taylor

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