From Monday, May 20, to Thursday, May 23, the Cave sponsored a series of student-led events—a Queer Meet and Greet, movie screening, discussion regarding sex titled “Sexclamation Point (!)” and student drag showcase—celebrating the first-ever Queer Week at Carleton.
Oswaldo Cota ’22, Carleton Student Association (CSA) Class Representative and part of the Cave staff, proposed the idea of Queer Week in the second week of spring term, after noticing a lull in LGBTQ+ events on campus.
“The Cave and the Gender Sexuality Center (GSC) were very active in promoting a lot of queer events in the fall term,” said Cota. “But in Winter term, they became radio-silent. Serving on CSA Senate has shown me that we’ve become complacent with standards for LGBTQ+ youth here at Carleton. I just felt like we needed something to say, ‘Hey, we still exist here.’”
Cota worked with then-GSC staff and managers of the Cave to plan the week. The Cave provided a venue and monetary support for the event. The GSC itself was not involved in the process.
In planning, the group aimed to “actively live up to the definition of inclusivity,” according to Cota.
“One of the issues that I encountered fall term was that there’s all these really radical queer people on campus, who are on the extreme side of what queerness is supposed to be,” he said. “I know they don’t intend to be that way, but I know that for people who are closeted or discrete or questioning, you can feel very intimidated. It’s supposed to be a queer space that actually becomes this zone of isolation.”
Maya Kassahun ’19, the general manager of the Cave, noted that supporting and hosting Queer Week was in line with many of the Cave’s values.
“The Cave managers have been extremely intentional this year in making the Cave into a space that is safe, vulnerable, open and inclusive,” said Kassahun. “Queer Week at the Cave makes the most sense not only because it is a fun space that doesn’t take itself too seriously but also because it is a space best suited on campus to hold multiple identities and to actively witness and welcome that.”
Of the events that were held, Cota’s personal favorite was the Queer Meet and Greet, which was a dinner for all members of the LGBTQ+ community. It was also the first event of the week, taking place on Monday.
“Maybe it’s my bias because I hosted that one, but it was just really nice overhearing some of the conversations that were going on,” said Cota. “Like, ‘this feels like home far away from home.’ I felt like I was going to cry.”
The meet and greet was followed by a casual movie screening on Tuesday.
“In planning, we considered the fact that it was 8th week, so not everyone had that much time or energy,” explained Cota.
Sexclamation Point (!), which was a more structured and focused event, was hosted on Wednesday.
“We talked about how we interact with our partners and how to engage in safe sex,” said Cota. “We also talked about the tips and tricks that you’re supposed to know at a very young age, but no one really tells you, especially if you come from a very difficult upbringing.”
The week culminated on Thursday with the student drag showcase, featuring performances from the newly formed student drag group, Knights in Tights, which the Carletonian has previously reported on.
“Knights in Tights was already going to host a showcase, so we just incorporated it into Queer Week,” noted Cota.
Dylan Larson Harsh ’19 was one of the student performers. He noted that, as a senior, he wanted to “get in all of the queer opportunities” before graduating.
“I used to play dress-up and always be a princess or witch or something,” said Larson-Harsh. “I always had fun with that but then, as I grew up, you learn to kind of stop doing that. Recently, I’ve been trying to reclaim some of that and figure out what I like doing. I like doing drag performance, so I am very excited about my performance at the Cave.”
Reflecting on the week, Larson-Harch is optimistic about its implications for the future of the queer community at Carleton.
“With this new drag club and people organizing events like Queer Week, there’s been more of a push for queer events on campus. I’m really glad that the students have rallied to do their own thing,” he said.
Looking forward, Cota is similarly optimistic about establishing and improving Queer Week.
“We knew it was probably going to be kind of chaotic for the first time,” said Cota. “But the point is to make sure that presence is there. From there on, year after year, we can host and improve it. In the future, if this is going to be at the Cave, we can do Spring Allocations, get more budget for the event, and have it on a larger scale.”
Editor-in-Chief Sarah Lieberman ’20 contributed reporting.