By Alyssa Gautieri
Members of the College’s LGBTQIA+ community gathered in the Education Building to celebrate in an environment they called “welcoming” and “safe,” with ’90s-themed music and food to boot. Students were even invited to document the dance with Polaroid cameras.
PRISM, the College’s gender and sexuality alliance, hosted its annual Queerball to kick off Queer Awareness Month on Tuesday, Oct. 4.
Karissa Schoemer, treasurer of PRISM and a sophomore political science major, dressed to fit the ’90s theme.
“But the theme doesn’t matter that much,” Schoemer said. “Everyone is encouraged to dress as they want to.”
The ball is just one of many events held in October that strive for acceptance and equality for all people.
According to Max Nazario, president of PRISM and a junior chemistry major, most people know of PRISM as “just the gay club.” However, he said PRISM is so much more.
According to Nazario, PRISM seeks to educate and advocate for equality, regardless of gender expression or identity, sex or sexuality.
“The Queerball gives members of the LGBTQIA+ community the chance to enjoy themselves,” he said. “And who doesn’t love free food (from Mexican Mariachi Grill) and dancing?”
The purpose of hosting Queerball is to “break everyone out of their shell and encourage them to come out and literally have a ball,” senior nursing major Jordan Stefanski said. This year marked Stefanski’s fifth Queerball.
When they were in high school, many students at the College might not have had the opportunity to bring the person they wanted as their date or dress in a way that made them comfortable with their identity. Queerball seeks to provide these students the opportunity to be who they are, free from any restrictions or judgement.
“It warms your heart to think that this organization goes out of (its) way to give people the experience they may not have had otherwise,” Stefanski said.
According to Nazario, Queerball was created when it was still within a school’s power to deny students the right to bring a same-sex partner to prom or school dances.
Although society has become more accepting of queer couples over the past decade, Nazario was unable to bring his boyfriend to his high school prom in 2014, since the school required students to bring prom dates of the opposite sex.
On the other hand, sophomore biology major Alina Osborn was allowed to bring a same-sex date to her high school prom. Still, Osborn recognized that not everyone was so accepting.
“Regardless of whether queer kids were allowed to bring a same-sex person, it’s likely they felt uncomfortable or they felt ostracized to do so,” Osborn said.
Stefanski views Queerball as the place to be himself. He broke out his glitter lipstick and stilettos and embraced his personality.
“This is the place that I can just glitter up and be gay, and it’s fantastic,” Stefanski said.
PRISM encourages students to be themselves year round, but Nazario believes October is an especially important time of the year to remind students to take a break from stressful classes and midterms to relax and have a good time.
“The idea of prom is so heteronormative, and Queerball is the place to say, ‘Screw all that’ and do what you want,” said Elysia Jones, a junior English major.
Later in the month, PRISM will host the Coming Out Monologues, various guest speakers and Big Gay Bingo.
“Queerball definitely highlights some of the best qualities (of PRISM), which are enjoying ourselves and expressing ourselves as a community,” Nazario said.