This week has marked the first ever Queering The Forest, a week of programing focused on LGBTQ issues and celebrating queer identities. Organized by the Office of Student Engagement, the Office of Residence Life and the Office of Student Activities, QTF fell on the first week of LGBTQ History month, with National Coming Out Day falling on Friday, Oct. 11.
PHOTO COURTESY OF ALYSSA SILEO
The week started with a Kickoff Breakfast on Monday morning from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. on the EC patio with rainbow bagels from Madison Bagel. The day continued with a Safe Space Training to equip the campus community on how to combat predjudice against LGBTQ students and community members. That night was Gayme Night from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. in the Pub. The event, sponsored by the Esports Club and the Gaming Club, provided board games and video games, such as Just Dance and Mario Kart.
Tuesday boasted events such as Queering Your Closet and the House of Eon X Drew University Event. Queering Your Closet was an opportunity for students to “get clothing that better affirmed their gender-identity or gender expression,” according to Student Activities, and started a few weeks prior, when students were asked to donate clothes. There were collection bins in each dorm as well as the EC for students, faculty and staff to drop off clothing and accessories for the “closet” that was then set up in the Pub on Oct. 8. Students could come in and take any clothing they wanted, browsing through the over 500 items donated, ranging from t-shirts to pants to skirts, dresses, shoes and flannels, among other things. All items of clothing that did not find a new home through the event will be donated to Triad House in Ewing, N.J., “a 24-hour residential group home for youth ages 16-21 with emotional, medical and behavioral challenges,” as stated on their website. “Triad House promotes a safe and inclusive environment for all youth and emphasizes the importance of youth understanding and celebrating diversity regarding their sexual orientation, religion and ethnicity.”
Tuesday night was the first of the three big events of the week, with the House of Eon coming to Drew to talk about ball culture. The performance company taught attendees to vogue and ended the night with a performance. The main star of the event was Jason A. Rodriguez, founder of the House of Eon, member of the House of Extravaganza and an actor from FX’s hit show “Pose.” He kicked off the event by showing clips from the second season of “Pose” and talking about the HIV crisis and the importance of remembering queer history. After teaching those in attendance the basics of voguing, they hosted a mini ball, with Rodriguez as the MC. Members of the House of Eon took turns walking the runway in Crawford Hall. After going head to head, fighting for space on the runway and being ranked by the three judges, Jess Luis (‘22), Kyle Gniazdowski (‘20) and Maya Rector (‘22), the members of the house left the stage, making way for the best dressed portion. This segment was exclusively for Drew attendees, and anyone who thought they were the best dressed were invited to strut their stuff on the runway. After their initial walk, the participants went head to head with only one student taking the title of best dressed. The members of the House of Eon returned to the runway for a final voguing battle, with Kaia taking the title.
“I just think it was a fantastic invitation for people to come to [the] table to learn more about LGBT+ history and learn a new dance style that promotes self expression,” said Leonardo Ramos (‘21) of the House of Eon event.
Wednesday offered free HIV/AIDS testing in the EC from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. as a way to empower students by letting them know their status and, “be confident in their sexual endeavors,” Wednesday night was the second of the larger events, with Sex Toy Bingo starting at 9 p.m. and running past 11 p.m. The EC eatery was overflowing with students attempting to win one of the coveted prizes by getting a bingo or winning a raffle. Prizes ranged from big to small and there was something for everyone: from vibrators and strokers of all shapes and sizes to edible underwear and cock rings to an anal training kit and strap-ons. An educator was present at the event to explain each prize, how it worked, how to clean it, etc. She also answered students’ anonymous questions about sex in between round, with questions ranging from “How often should I get tested?’ to “How can I last longer?”
“I really liked the events that were held during the Queering the Forest week! It felt really nice to have events that normalized all different sexualities and other queer identities,” said Ava Gustafson (‘20). “I think that by having these events, we can have a more inclusive campus where seeing pride flags is more common and queer people can feel secure in their living and learning environments.”
Thursday was host to PRIDE Zumba, Black and Brown at Drew: #LetsChat and We Are Family: An Interfaith Celebration of Queer Identity. After getting sweaty in the Simon Forum, community members could attend either or both of the other two events. The #LetsChat event focused on the stigmatization of mental health in black and brown communities, with guest Dr. Broderick Sawyer to talk about racial trauma and healing. The Interfaith Celebration filled the Pub with singing and blessings as the community celebrated their identities.
Events concluded on Friday with a celebration of National Coming Out Day with photo ops on the EC patio and the OUT in the Forest Drag Show. The show, from 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. in Crawford Hall, included an educational portion about what drag is and how it became such a cultural phenomena as well as featuring a number of drag queens to perform.
“I love that Drew is working to put on events to include minority students,” said Violet Wallerstein (‘20). “We’ve never had so many LGBT events and it just makes me really happy and supported to see the events this week. Also, everything I attended has been so cool and so much fun.”