April 24, 2012

Scenes from the Big Gay Weekend

A few weeks ago Out in UL had a whole series of events - first BICS, the Board of Irish College Societies Awards, then Queerbash, our big annual party, and then Sparkles, a day of queer-themed workshops. Here's some highlights!


"We've been out-gayed," we whispered to each other as the first presentation of the awards day started and we surveyed the competition. Other clubs had come far more together-looking than us, in matching hoodies or t-shirts, but another of the LGBT societies had gone all-out. They wore rainbow flags draped around their shoulders, and rode scooters wrapped in glittery decorations. When their name was called, they honked the scooters' horns, and another club from their university, a circus society, juggled encouragingly.

Photo by BICS
There were several LGBT societies nominated for a bunch of different awards. We were up against the students with the scooters, in addition to a bunch of unrelated societies, for Best Event; Cork's LGBT society was up for Best Society. For the most part, we didn't get to chat with them; much of the day was spent running back and forth to the different interviews that were the last part of our score before the awards were announced.

We finished the interviews and the presentations, and went to make ourselves cute for the dinner, award ceremony and dance. We were up for Best Event, Best Improved Society, and Best Individual; two other UL societies were up for awards, as well. Some of the big universities, like DCU, won often, and chanted loudly as their societies went up to collect: "DCU! DCU!" We weren't really expecting to win anything, and we lost for Best Event, so when our name was called for Best Improved Society, there was a little moment of shock while we all tried to figure out what to do. The entire club went up to collect the award -  we hadn't talked about it at all, just sort of all leapt to our feet. And I know I'm only here for a semester, and didn't do anything really to contribute to our victory, but I was really proud to be standing on the stage hearing the other societies from our school chanting: "UL! UL! UL!"


I didn't perform at Queerbash, but you wouldn't have known it from the amount of time I spent in the little upstairs space where the performers waited to start; Anne's choir was on first, and naturally the show started late, because these things always start late. We chatted through the sound check and the start of the party, singing along with the practice for the final number and watching people start to arrive. Eventually the show started and I went to join the rest of my friends downstairs. The choir sang a suitably dramatic song, the Drama Society and Dance Society both performed, Candy Warhol (a local drag performer) ate a baby on stage (yeah, that was weird). Eventually Return to Sender, a local rock band who I really really like, took the stage, and the dancing portion of the evening began.

After Return to Sender and before the DJ took over for the night, Niall called all of the performers up onto the stage for a chorus line. I was not a performer, but the last song was one of my favorites - "Drumming Song" by Florence and the Machine - so I followed Anne to the stage door anyway and sang along with all the performers. This week at the last Out in UL meeting we all shared our favorite memories from the year, and this was definitely one of mine - it was just such a spontaneous, exciting thing. When the song ended we went and found our group again, and the DJ started up, and the dancing continued.

I'm going to be honest - I'm not very good at parties. I love dancing with my friends, and the music was fantastic, but by 1am my "awkward-at-social-events" mode had fully kicked in and I was starting to wonder anxiously when the event would end. Anne and I had lost our friends, and a slower song came on, so we started dancing just the two of us. And then "Raise Your Glass," which I forever associate with Nationals baseball games, came on, and then "Born This Way" (it was, after all, a gay event), and the next thing I knew we had been dancing for more than half an hour and I hadn't nervously checked my watch or worried about looking silly or thought about sneaking away for the entire time.


Billie was the leader of the first workshop of the day, and you could tell she was cool because she had spiked purple hair. "Who here has done a sexual empowerment workshop before?" she asked. Only one of us had, so she went through the ground rules, and then explained that we were going to go around the circle and get to know each other a bit. "The question is: What is your greatest erogenous zone? What turns you on?"

Which was not how I had quite expected to spend my Saturday morning.

What followed was a discussion on the finer details of what, exactly, makes a good kiss; virginity and queer-ginity; and how the hell you even define sex anyway. I didn't really have any stories to share, but it was fascinating listening to everyone else's; Billie kept pointing out that it's weird that we don't tell people about these things even though they're obviously such an important part of our lives, and I agree.

I was nervous through the first two panels because I had organized the third, inviting two guest speakers from the Mid West Interfaith Network, and I worried that the speakers wouldn't be able to find their way there, or that something would go horribly wrong. Fortunately, they both found us without problem and a really interesting discussion ensued, though perhaps a bit more sobering than the sexual empowerment talk. My favorite thing was flipping through the feminist and queer Haggadah (Passover prayer books) our Jewish speaker brought. I didn't get to attend a sedar this year, but I've loved the ones I've attended (especially when I was the youngest and got to read some of the stories and invite Elijah in!), so it was nice getting to connect to that tradition at least a little bit through looking at these books.
Inside the pillow fort.


After Sparkles, Anne and I made a pillow fort. We brought blankets from her house to mine and stole all of the cushions from the couch downstairs. Once our brilliant fort was constructed, with only minimal catastrophe and things falling loudly from shelves, we watched Buffy inside and ate oreos until we fell asleep.

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