On the night of Saturday, April 13, the boring heteronormative confines of high school prom exploded into an awesome rager of gender-bending glory. Queer Prom, held at the Psi Upsilon fraternity house, conquered the Saturday nightlife scene with a fantastic mix of loud music, drag, glitter, and stolen flannel.
Queer Prom has been going on for a long time - at least as long as event organizer and Mayor of QueerWes Izzy Rode ’14 has been attending Wesleyan. Now that QueerWes (the umbrella group for Wesleyan’s various queer communities) has been put in charge of the event, it’s gotten a big boost in publicity. Queer Prom was hosted at Beckham Hall for two years in a row, but this year Rode made the decision to move it to the higher-profile Psi U. In addition to augmenting capacity, the move was a big step for integrating Wesleyan’s queer communities into the wider campus culture.
“We wanted a big open space,” Rode said. “It’s also great to throw parties with Psi U, because, not that there’s no overlap, but we don’t get to overlap with them too often.”
The event featured live sets by performers including DJ KenziiKenz (McKenzii Webster ’13), DJ WatsonFrick (Mark Frick ’14), and DJ Kilbourne (Ashe Kilbourne ’14). All three brought down the house.
In addition to the concert aspect of Queer Prom, there was a prize portion of the evening. Prizes were awarded based on a number of factors: Best Prom Invitation, Best Drag, and Best Themed Costume.
“Best Asking A Date Out To Prom went to Ariel Lesnick [’14] and Laiya Ackman [’15] for asking out Amanda Palmer on Foss Hill during the Wesleyan Humanity Festival,” Rode said.
Unfortunately, Palmer did not attend the event, despite much hype about her potential appearance. For many, this was probably the most disappointing aspect of the night.
Best Drag went to Johnny LaZebnik ’16, not-coincidentally the co-founder of campus drag group BELLIG, and Best Themed Costume went to Enobong Etteh ’14 (the theme was “Glitter and Grunge,” so use your imagination). Although there were tangible prizes for each of these categories, they ended up being stolen before they could be awarded.
“While we were buying decorations, we bought these flannels that we were gonna cut up and put on the walls, because, ‘grungy,’ flannel, but we decided to spray-paint the backs with ‘QP13’ and give them out as superlative prizes,” Rode said. “So someone out there has five flannels with QP13 nastily spray-painted on the back in glitter.”
While Queer Prom was received as a success overall, Rode lamented that several members of Wesleyan’s queer communities seemed to take issue with the number of straight people in attendance.
“While I was there, a few people approached me and said that there were too many straight people there, and then on the ACB there was a thread that started, ‘Queer Prom Is Awesome,’ but quickly diminished into, ‘There were too many straight people,’” Rode said.
QueerWes’ mission with Queer Prom was to integrate the University’s queer communities within the broader Wesleyan culture and to bring issues of allyship and diversity to the forefront of campus conversation.
“When I started QueerWes, the idea was that, just like queer is an umbrella term, QueerWes is an umbrella group for everything within it,” Rode said. “It includes both people who identify as queer and allies. In a way, if you’re saying, ‘Someone isn’t queer so they can’t participate,’ you alienate people who might be questioning, or who might actually be [queer], and make them feel like they’re not queer enough, which is a ridiculous thing in my mind.”
Rode expressed unqualified happiness with the event’s success and looks forward to its future alongside other QueerWes programs.
“I can’t speak for everyone in the queer community, but I know I was very happy with the spectrum of people there,” she said.
Additional reporting by Contributing Writer Nicholas Selden.