The song “Footloose” blared across the greenery on Northrop Mall on Monday as Drag kings in boot-cut slacks and fake facial hair graced campus and kicked off Spring Pride Week, 1999.
Spring Pride, the second major annual event of the Queer Student Cultural Center, focuses on being gay and the contributions queer people make to the community.
“It’s about bringing queer people together around pride,” said Matthew J. Brauer, a sophomore in the College of Liberal Arts and press director of QSCC. “It’s kind of a celebratory event. Folks outside the queer community will at least gain an indirect understanding of the things we like to do, what we’re about.”
In addition to the festivities, QSCC co-chairman W. Brandon Lacy Campos gave the first annual Queer State of the Campus address.
Campos spoke about the inroads and advances QSCC has made this year, including additional student funding and new gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender programs. He added that although more work is needed to further GLBT issues, “this year was a very good year for GLBT students on campus.”
“It’s fabulous,” said Brett Rowlett, chairman of the Minnesota Student Association’s Student Life Committee. “It doesn’t mean that the work is finished; it is a movement to open the minds of people and there is no better place to do that than at a university.”
The rest of the week’s events run the gamut from today’s Kiss-In to a Salsa and Swing Mixer on Saturday night. The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Program Office, QSCC and University and community organizations helped plan the Spring Pride activities, which are free and open to anyone interested.
Through participation, cultural center officials want to encourage a discussion of those sexual- and gender-identity issues that are important to students.
“Identity is central in the discussion of oppression,” said K. Kjersten Reich, a senior in CLA and co-chairwoman of QSCC. “It’s something we’ve worked on throughout the year in terms of what kind of a role and how we define identity politics in our movements.”
Two events this week are especially designed to address transgender and diversity issues — areas in which QSCC officials feel their organization is lacking sufficient programming.
“Treyf,” a film about two Jewish women who fall in love with each other, will be presented tonight at 7 p.m. The film highlights characteristics that ought to be recognized other than sexuality, cultural center officials said.
Spring Pride’s keynote speaker, Riki Anne Wilchens, is a noted author and transgender activist. She recently wrote “Read My Lips: Sexual Subversion and the End of Gender,” and spoke at a GLBT leadership conference in Madison, Wis. Members of QSCC said they were impressed by her casual, in-your-face deconstruction of gender concepts.
“This year, one of our focuses has really been addressing multicultural identity and multigender identity or breaking gender norms,” Campos said. “In mainstream queer society, transgender people are often ignored and people of color are often ignored.”
An encompassing view of queer society is presented in “Collecting Ourselves,” an exhibit of a portion of the Tretter Collection organized by the GLBT programs office. The collection contains more than 3,000 GLBT materials, including the world’s largest GLBT pin button collection and a complete resource of every gay publication ever published, estimated to be worth $300,000.
“We think that part of having an identity in the community and pride in the community is knowing our history, knowing where we come from and the evolution of the community,” said Beth Zemsky, director of the GLBT programs office.