Bowdoin’s Sexuality, Women and Gender Center (SWAG) held its first Pride Prom in Daggett Lounge on Saturday. This event was designed to mimic a high school prom but aimed to foster an environment for authentic self-expression where students could be unapologetically themselves—an opportunity not all high school proms afford.
Both students and staff worked to organize the inaugural event. SWAG Director Natalie Turrin, who was appointed to the position this year, moment she stepped foot on campus. Coming from an institution that hosted an event similar to Pride Prom, Turrin hoped to bring this tradition to Bowdoin.
“Multiple people from multiple class years, and across multiple offices, all pitched the idea … and so it was clear that it wasn’t sort of any one person’s idea, but that there was an ask and an enthusiastic desire to support an event like this on campus,” she said.
Student directors from SWAG and the Center of Multicultural Life (CML) were also highly involved in executing the event. From the theme and decor to promotional strategy, student directors turned Turrin’s idea into a reality. Event coordinators’ main objective was to create a space that would encourage students to express themselves in a free and creative manner without being concerned about others’ opinions. As part of this mission, directors took participants on a thrift store shopping spree to purchase affirming clothes and assemble outfits for the prom leading up to the event.
“A couple of students led a getting ready pre-prom event so that they could get ready in very affirming ways…. Putting on makeup, tying ties, the very gendered things you do to prepare for prom that can be intimidating,” Turrin said. “It’s fun to do them together and celebrate our identities in that way.”
Advertising for the event included a photo shoot celebrating self-expression within the LGBTQ+ community on campus. Shi Thompson ’24 from the CML organized the photo shoot and helped students choose the props and locations.
“The photos were amazing, and I know that the posters also turned out great,” Student Director of SWAG Alena Lemeshova ’26 said. “And I also have heard from a lot of people who came just to see faces that they know. [It] motivated a lot of people to come.”
According to Lemeshova, event turnout exceeded all expectations.
“There was a lot of traffic,” Lemeshova said. “The Daggett Lounge was filled.”
SWAG plans to make Pride Prom a Bowdoin tradition and use the experience from this year to improve it in the future. SWAG is also considering hosting queer performers, like drag queens, at next year’s event.
“I know students have enjoyed Curbside Queens and performing,” Turrin said. “So those are some of the things worth thinking about next year, but just having it on the calendar and knowing that it’s something that they can expect will happen each year.”
In addition to Pride Prom, SWAG held intensive programming for October’s “OUTober.” For the rest of the semester, weekly meetings and socials are planned to continue to build community between students across shared identities and interests. In March, SWAG will celebrate Women’s History Month with events and initiatives designed to bolster student representation, inclusion and self-expression.
Turrin is optimistic about the future of SWAG under her leadership and is committed to being a resource for the students it serves.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing what already exists on campus and what SWAG can bring,” Turrin said.