Queerfest Celebrates Queer Communities on Campus

Back to All Stories

On March 25, as the academic quad filled with flags representing various queer identities — the rainbow of the gay flag, black and purple of the asexual flag, and the pink and blues of the transgender flag — the annual week of Queerfest activities officially began.

Events throughout the week destigmatized queer identities and educated allies, explored pleasure in a non-heteronormative way, and supported queer artists.

“We have a population of people here that are LGBTQ identifying, and it is really important for folks to know that they aren’t alone,” LGBTQ+ Initiatives Director Tiffany Lane said. “My hope for the week was for folks to be among community, raise visibility, and know that their identities are affirmed here.”

The Center for Women’s Studies held a kickoff celebration on Monday, allowing community members to view the Queering the Timeline project. A TV displayed a student-assembled timeline of queer activism at Colgate, compiled using archival research and conversations with faculty and alumni, in an attempt to reclaim Colgate’s queer history. Students were also encouraged to contribute to the Queering the Map project, a website and collective project that maps queer moments around the world: where someone came out, had their first queer kiss, or had their correct name used for the first time.

Also present was Our Closet, a gender-affirming clothing collection with more than 100 gently used items, donated by the Colgate community. The rack of clothes was meant to provide a low-cost option for students to explore their gender expression.

Tuesday’s events featured poet, playwright, lyricist, and screenwriter Kit Yan. In the morning, Yan held a slam poetry workshop in the women’s studies lounge, helping students write and perform a poem. Students read each other’s works, screamed their poems, and whispered them in an effort to think about how delivery affects a work’s meaning. Several students performed at the end of the event, tackling gentrification and race issues among others in their spoken-word pieces.

“A lot of times, our memories live in the body in different ways, and, through performance, they come out,” Yan said.That evening, Yan performed the full-length poetry collection Queer Heartache at the Edge cafe. This work explores Yan’s queer identity, both celebrating the resilience of queer love and tackling the social and medical difficulties members of queer communities face.

I hope people walked away feeling like there is a community here and the school is doing what it can to make sure people feel supported and affirmed.

Tiffany Lane LGBTQ+ Initiatives Director

An Open Safe Zone Training was held on Wednesday, bringing together allies and members of the LGBTQ+ community to discuss how to improve understanding about queer communities at Colgate and how to make the lives of queer students easier. Student LGBTQ+ Initiative interns Jake Licker ’21 and August Halbach ’22 led the discussion, which was attended by students, faculty, campus safety, and nurses.

Gathered in ALANA, the interns discussed the difference between gender and sex, explored what the acronym LGBTQQIT/SA(A) stands for, and eventually led deeper discussions on the ways in which white supremacy’s influence on Western values has negatively impacted queer communities.

“Gender issues and race issues are all too connected,” Licker said. “The same methods that are used to talk about white supremacy — that black bodies and brown bodies are abnormal — are used for queer bodies.”

On a lighter note, Thursday’s festivities included a Demystifying Pleasure Workshop, titled “I’ll Have What They’re Having,” led by Licker, Halbach, and intern Anika Rutah ’20. Audience questions served as gateways into larger discussions about what defines sex, especially in queer relationships, and the benefits and harmful components of the porn industry, particularly to those with fetishized identities. The discussion ended with a variety of safe and queer-friendly sex toys being passed around the room, further contributing to educational atmosphere of the event.

The week concluded with Friday’s Family Dinner in the OUS/ First Generation House, where attendees gathered to debrief the week and spend time together. Throughout the week, students also signed the transgender flag in a show of support for International Transgender Day of Visibility, which strives to celebrate transgender identities and raise awareness for the discrimination they face on a day-to-day basis.

With the flag going up in the Women’s Studies Center, Queerfest concluded and marked Colgate as a welcoming environment to all students.

“It’s just one week,” Lane said, “but I hope people walked away feeling like there is a community here and the school is doing what it can to make sure people feel supported and affirmed.”