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New Student Orgs Bhad V. Nails, Knights in Tights celebrate LGBTQ+ friendly spaces on campus

<nday, April 8, Carleton’s student government approved charters for the two new organizations on campus which will cater to students interested in gender identity exploration: Bhad V Nails, a group that uses nail art to help students in “their artful expression,” and Knights in Tights, Carleton’s premiere drag performance group.  According to their founders, these organizations are part of a larger movement at Carleton of LGBT+ and non-binary students advocating for community and representation. 

Creator of Bhad V. Nails, Veronica Alvarez-Zavala ’22, asserted that “we need a place at school where people can get a break from being policed about every part of their body…places to counter toxic society.” Her organization will provide nail styling services, equipement and advice to students who want to use the medium of nail art to “most authentically express themselves.”

Alvarez-Zavala hopes to cultivate a community that not only appreciates the beauty of nail fashion, but also supports students to feel confident and comfortable in the ways they choose to present their identity. For many trans individuals, Alvarez-Zavala noted, “nail art is one of the first steps people take in their transition.” Bhad V. Nails, she believes, will resonate especially with gender non-conforming, gay and trans individuals, as well as people of color. “I started this group just because I love nails, but I also recognize the wider implications and benefits.” 

The intersectionality of this group offers a unique and refreshing opportunity for underserved populations of students at Carleton to connect and bond over nails and the accompanying, “therapeutic love, support, and good energies” nail art offers. 

Knight in Tights, according to co-founders Ilan Friedland ’21 and Harry Matthiasson ’20, shares similar goals as a student-led organization. The idea behind Knights in Tights was sparked after Matthiasson and Friedland watched one of St.Olaf College’s drag events. 

“We saw a show at St. Olaf and thought it was really cool. We knew that we were capable of doing something similar at Carleton.” Knights in Tights would be the college’s first drag performance group, which Friedland and Matthiasson claim will bring greater visibility to the campus’s queer community.

Friedland described a “gap in cultural queerness at Carleton that creates a constant feeling of needing to put on an act for the dominant, heteronormative majority.” The two feel that the presence of students who challenge, play, and explore gender expression through the art of drag might help change things. “Drag is so queer, and having future drag events in the Cave would make it impossible to miss,” Matthiasson shared.

Besides making the queer culture more pronounced on campus, Knights in Tights also aims to build up spaces and community for students.

Friedland admitted “This project is a bit self-serving. The promise of college for queer kids is freedom and belonging. I struggled at Carleton to find groups that reflected who I was.” 

Built into the very framework of drag performance and culture is a sense of family and emphasis on uplifting others. “A huge part of drag is hyping people up and making them feel validated.” 

The group’s CSA charter will fund a shared closet for performers, cover show expenses, and potentially contribute to visits from professional drag queens in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Friedland and Matthiasson emphasized that all are welcome to the club, regardless of experience and skill, and are encouraged to reach out to learn more. 

For students at Carleton who do not wish to conform to the structures of dominant, heteronormative culture, some noted a problem in finding safe spaces to express themselves. Before making their group, Friendland felt that “people couldn’t be and outwardly act as queer as they wanted to at Carleton.” 

Mathiasson added, “It’s easy to see the gay community as a few actors floating around independently, which can be lonely. And the GSC, although it exists and can be a great spot, feels removed and marginal.” 

While it is crucial for students to have communities and spaces to be themselves, for students like Alvarez-Zavala, Friedland and Matthiasson, Carleton has fallen short in achieving this. Student-led organizations are meaningful and effective solutions to this problem, allowing like-minded peers to connect.

 With LGBT week at Carleton coming around the corner during 8th week, this recent wave of action by students comes at an important time on campus when gender, identity and culture will be at the forefront of discourse.

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