May 1, 2009

Q&A Pride Week events misrepresented

In reading Luke Dumas’s “Having a Gay Old Time” (4/28/09), I found it impossible to resist “straightening out” a few of his most misinformed and offensive comments.

In reading Luke Dumas’s “Having a Gay Old Time” (4/28/09), I found it impossible to resist “straightening out” a few of his most misinformed and offensive comments. The most embarrassing error, of course, is that Pride Week is not, in fact, part of the LGBTQ Programming Office, but was initiated and planned by the student group, Queers & Associates (Q&A). Mr. Dumas’s mistake (and the Maroon’s own: Voices, same issue) is in fact a reflection of Q&A’s inclusion of a diverse range of organizations and interests, co-sponsoring events with nine different University-affiliated groups and incorporating a number of Chicago-area performers and personalities. Such intentional collaboration reflects “real gay” life beyond the mainstream cultural schmuck that makes up what “the public” thinks of the “gay lifestyle.” It seems that Dumas did not actually bother to attend the less “colorful” events (his terminology). For example, the political forum was not a legislative discussion but a debate between students and staff on the multiplicity of queer responses to political organization, and, by the Maroon’s own admission, Cherríe Moraga was “entertaining and humorous as she delivered her politically charged commentary” (News, 4/28/09). The Genderfuck drag ball, I admit, included several scandalous and salacious performers (My favorite: “Personal Jesus,” with all the erotically-tinged blasphemy that implies). Boas and high heels were present, alongside more uncommon forms of genderfucking not conveniently endorsed by Perez Hilton and Queer Eye.Pride is not always about assless chaps or leathermen or flamboyant and fashionable gay men—that kind of pride already monopolizes mainstream gay visibility, assigning homosexuality a false image of homogeneity. The beauty of “real gay” life is that our campus includes “eco-gays,” as well as debaucherous dykes, abstinence fags, and all manner of fabulous queer identities. Q&A attempted to show our U of C pride and our queer pride, not simply in stodgy academic lectures but through radical cheerleading workshops, social bowling events, debates about whether or not we are angry queers, and yes, lewd drag performances with pelvis thrusting and sexual innuendo galore. Celebrating a gay or queer identity is about sex, yes, and drag, and ass-less chaps every once in a while, but it’s also about music, art, politics, community building, and student empowerment. Dumas’s erasure of Q&A’s effort is also an erasure of the students who designed, planned, and executed the weeklong series of events, all of whom are proud of what they accomplished. The beauty of student-driven events is that students actually care: Even the smallest Pride event had 20 attendees, and the largest had 150. It seems somebody was proud of Pride Week.Those interested in irreverent, but respectful, discussions about the realities of LGBTQ identities and lives are encouraged to join in the fun at Q&A’s weekly 6 p.m. meeting in 5710 South Woodlawn Avenue. Antonia CliffordClass of 2010President, Queers & Associates