Campus / News / May 7, 2009

Range of genders has a ball at Queer Prom

Queer Prom, presented by Common Ground, had a different atmosphere from the typical dance. From the very beginning, everyone was dancing, with no wallflowers to be seen.

Queer Prom took place Saturday night on the Gizmo patio. Senior Cameron Burke was instrumental in the creation of the prom. He said that he was inspired by prom season because everyone is asked to dress formal.

“We asked people to dress formally, but in any gender desired,” Burke said.

Queer Prom was created to allow everyone to be completely comfortable. Some people really got into the formal, cross-dressing fun, but there were plenty of attendees that came just to dance and enjoy themselves. Junior Ellie Poley said the point of Queer Prom was to have a “safe place to bring [a] date of [the] same sex or dress however you want to.” However, “there are plenty of people here that just dressed up for fun.

Most people danced like they were at ballroom practice rather than a dance. There was movement and energy, but in a coordinated way. There was not much grinding and booty shaking, common to most high school and college parties. One of the more popular songs, “The Time Warp” from The Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack, got everyone dancing just like the cha-cha slide usually does.

Dress ranged from girls in casual skirts and boys in slacks, to Victorian formalwear, to girls with drawn on facial hair and boys in dresses and skirts with balloon breasts. People dressed as the gender they identify with. Beautiful prom gowns and tuxedos were also popular.

Common Ground is an organization that exists to promote acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other gender issues. Poley explained that Common Ground hopes to connect with the Knox community through education, events and activism. They want to reach out to the campus.

“We want to increase visibility and show we are normal and like to have fun,” said Poley.

Freshman Charles Ely is also involved with Common Ground. He believes there are as many variations in gender identity as there are people. Ely feels that gender roles are restricting even for people without unsure gender identities.

The Knox College student body and administration regards itself as a very accepting school, and for the most part the members of Common Ground agree with this.

“When we are able to get people to events, they respond great,” said Poley.

Both Poley and Burke use Scott Turner Schofield as an example of how accepting Knox College is. Neither expected such positive results from the performance. Burke said that the Greek talk went great, with lots of good input and results. Poley said they expected people to be far more uncomfortable with Schofield. The meeting for gender-neutral housing also went more smoothly than Poley expected.

“I thought there would be some arguments, but the only issues were with wording,” said Poley.

Poley’s personal experience has also been a good one. She has been with her girlfriend the whole time she has been at Knox and has not had any problems. She attributes part of the acceptance to the anti-discrimination rules that Knox has which other schools do not.

However, Poley, Burke, and Ely all believe that the students and faculty at Knox still have a lot to work on. After much thought, Burke said it would be nice if the campus did not need a gender-neutral place.

“Campus, while tolerant and open-minded, is not completely so. It would be nice if everyone was able to be more accepting of different gender identities,” he said. “The student body is pretty accepting, but the administration has a ways to go. Progress still needs to be made in both ways, but we are lucky to be in an open-minded place.”

“Sometimes I wish people better understood this is our life and not an extracurricular activity,” said Poley.

Poley feels that “we take for granted that our biological gender and how we feel match up.”

Queer Prom was nice for students because, “at dances there is no anger, but there is still weirdness when same genders are together and dancing,” said Ely.

He added that, “nobody is openly hostile, but a lot of people are not comfortable giving correct proper pronouns.”

There are still problems, such as the idea of gender-neutralizing bathrooms. Ely said this is a structural issue though and there is no immediate solution. “We don’t want to take bathrooms away from others,” he said.

Overall, Queer Prom was one of many successful events from Common Ground that are helping to bring different corners of the Knox community closer together.

Jennifer Lloyd

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