Was the rain enough to stifle the spirit of Pride? When it came to celebrating diversity and growing better together, nothing was going to stop the LGBTQ+ community of the College of William and Mary from celebrating Pride April 5 in Trinkle Hall.
For the first time in the history of the College, the Pride festival was co-hosted by the Rainbow Coalition and the Lambda Alliance, with this year’s theme being “Let’s Grow Better Together.” The festival featured neon-green T-shirts with plant designs, which emphasized the themes of inclusivity and personal growth.
“We were thinking about Pride themes, and this year we were trying to stay away from the word ‘queer’ which we’ve used in the past, because there’s certain people in the community that don’t like that, and we’d like to be as inclusive as we can be,” Lambda Alliance Co-President Anna Bi Ledwin ’21 said. “So, we thought, what gay things can we theme something around? Throwing around ideas for LGBT acronyms, we thought ‘Let’s Grow Better Together.’ I think ultimately, the inclusive theme was accomplished.”
Walking into Trinkle, students were immediately greeted by a variety of booths set up by student organizations–from the Wesley Foundation to UndocuTribe–which aim to foster inclusivity in the community. Also in attendance were musical performers, such as the band Ruth, to showcase the talent of the College’s LGBTQ+ community.
“We tried [to] grab groups that we knew [had] LGBT members within the group,” Ledwin said. “Because it is Pride, we wanted to make it not just LGBT-inclusive but LGBT-integrated, so we wanted performers who could relate to the label.”
For the various students in attendance, celebrating Pride has different connotations, especially for those who are a part of other marginalized communities.
“It’s really cool, especially since Lambda reaches out to different organizations and a lot of them are making some type of political statement,” Aida Campos ’20 said. “I think it’s important that we show solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community on campus. I came to my ‘gaywakening’ pretty late, but I definitely have to say that on campus it does feel like there’s a limited amount of [gay people of color] and that the white gay space dominates.”
Even though the LGBTQ+ community on campus is active according to Yessica Bonilla ’20, there is still some work to be done in terms of including minority students into LGBTQ+ initiatives.
“In terms of Latinx people, there is very little visibility of Latinx queer people,” Bonilla said. “There’s not enough discussion being had about it. [There are] not enough events oriented for them.”
Minority and cultural groups already suffer visibility issues on campus, and Campos said this creates an issue for people who identify as LGBTQ+ and also as a person of color. These individuals may feel as if they have to choose to prioritize one identity over the other.
“Even within our own community, we don’t have discussions, celebrations or spotlights for the LGBTQ+ Latinx identifying people,” Campos said. “But even on the broader, campus [level], I feel like we are doubly invisible.”
Representatives of the UndocuTribe organization, Campos and Bonilla, think that when organizations try to serve too many communities with events, they really cannot serve many people at all.
“It’s an issue of trying to serve a large community, you blanket entire communities into one monolith,” Bonilla said.
For Sarah Grace Frary ’20, president of the Wesley Foundation, Pride is a reminder that self-love and feeling loved is an important life essential.
“In the context of being a president of a spiritual organization, for me pride is the ability to be yourself and love yourself fully,” Frary said. “If you’re part of a community that stifles your pride, then it’s a problem. The Wesley Foundation is devoted to allowing people to love themselves fully while loving them back.”
Frary recalled an experience with the United Methodist Church that affected her perception of the relationship between her gender identity and her faith.
“The United Methodist Church since the ’70s has been struggling whether to ordain clergy who are queer; the decision they came to in February was a firm no,” Frary said. “It was a reminder to me that I’m still not welcome in my own spiritual sanctuary — I’m still not a part of it. That’s why the Wesley Foundation is important to me. I can be myself and the gender that I want to be without it mattering to the people around me in the same way that it doesn’t matter to the God that I believe in.”
Associate Director for the Center for Student Diversity and advisor to Rainbow Coalition Roxie Patton assisted students in organizing the Drag Ball event that took place the evening of April 5.
“We had several meetings throughout the year just to start thinking about logistics and we are also helping to navigate the Drag Ball, so as a team we figured out who to bring for the show, which is why we got Pretty Boi Drag,” Patton said. “[The Center for Student Diversity has] a small part in a larger role, and it’s really the students who make Pride the event that it is.”
Though Pretty Boi Drag headlined the Drag Ball, students were also graced with performances by their peers. The opening act to the Drag Ball was performed by Prince Peach, who lip-synched to “DDD” by Exid, a K-Pop song with strong rhythms and a meaningful story. They worked the stage and received a surplus of applause from the crowd.
Harper Bazaar followed Prince Peach, opting to express themselves with a melody of songs from the hit television program “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.” Songs such as “Feelin’ Kinda Naughty” and “Put Yourself First” characterised this colorful and energetic performance.
Bitch Nixon utilised the whole room in their performance, working the stage and the stairs alike. With a powerful performance of Rihanna’s “Don’t Stop the Music,” no one will be forgetting Bitch Nixon anytime soon.
However, no one lit the stage up more than Dakota Moon. One might mistake this vibrant performer for a professional. Working a unique medley of “Applause” by Lady Gaga, “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” and a clip of former Governor of Florida Jeb Bush’s “Please Clap” speech, Moon knew exactly what they needed to do to make a memorable performance.
After Moon, the kings, Pretty Boi Drag — a Washington, D.C. based drag king troupe comprised of people of color — entered center stage to the tune of One Direction’s “Drag Me Down.”
“I hope to inspire another generation of drag kings, queens and everything in between,” Pretty Rik E said. “Rule number one is have f—ing fun. If you love a song, sing it. If you want to dance, dance. Can we do that?”
In the most sensual performance of the night, Molasses took to the stage to “Sex on Fire” by Kings of Leon. With suave dancing and body movements, Molasses fired the whole crowd up.
Shaking the crowd’s expectations after such a fiery performance, Larry Styles performed Vanesa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles,” entering the crowd with their fake piano before ultimately returning to the stage to destroy the piano.
Not to be left out of the action, Pretty Rik E and Phoenix King, two of D.C.’s most renowned drag performers, lip-synched to “Time of Our Lives” by Pitbull and Ne-Yo.
As an intermission, Larry Styles hosted a parody of the “lip-synch for your lives” segment from “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” After student performances of Britney Spears’ “Toxic” and Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” neither of the two finalists had to “sashay away,” as RuPaul would say.
Coming back for a second wind, Molasses took the stage to “Feel it Still” by Portugal, the Man, running into the audience with an LGBTQ+ pride flag. Needless to say, the crowd exploded at the sight with emotions running high.
In the final performance of the night, Phoenix King synched to Queen’s “I Want to Break Free” as Bob Belcher from the program “Bob’s Burgers.” Still in character, they came out with an easel containing a fast food menu, while handing out McDonald’s Big Macs.
Eventually, the sun set on Pride at the College. This year’s wide range of tabling clubs, performances and special guests resulted in a successful event for the Lambda Alliance and Rainbow Coalition. It remains to be seen what lies just over the rainbow for 2020 Pride.