QPenn, Penn's annual celebration of LGBTQ culture, focused on building community at Penn this year through collaborative events including a pride walk, a drag show, and discussions on mental health.
QPenn co-Chair and College junior Amber Auslander said the student organizing board tried to bring different LGBTQ organizations on campus together, as the community can feel disconnected due to the large number of affinity groups.
“We feel that a lot of the LGBT groups on campus tend to not work together even though we all have this one core trait in common,” Auslander said. “It is really cool when all of these groups get to work together and cover unique intersections that maybe one single group on their own would not have thought of.”
The "Building Community" theme was showcased this past week through a variety of events, all co-sponsored by different LGBTQ groups on campus. Some events included a Pride Walk with Lambda Alliance, "Queer Zine Making" with Penn Non-Cis, a mental health discussion with Out in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics and Penn Student Nurses Understanding Gender and Sexuality, a Pride Shabbat dinner at Hillel with J-Bagel, and a drag show hosted by the Queer Student Alliance.
For groups like Penn Non-Cis, representing the transgender community and its role, as well as it difficulties, is important. College sophomore James Aykit, the social media chair of Penn Non-Cis, said he thought it was important for the group to host its own QPenn event.
“Having a space just for trans people is super important," Aykit said. "Trans people face difficulties that are different than that of other members of the LGBTQ community.”
J-Bagel, a group that represents both Jewish and LGBTQ identities on Penn’s campus, hosted a free Pride Shabbat dinner for students on Friday at Hillel.
“It’s always so exciting to see the table clothes all decked out in rainbow, with streamers hanging from the ceiling, and to have people laughing and mingling,” J-Bagel co-president and College senior Brooke Rosenthal said.
Auslander said to help build community, the QPenn board tried to make events accessible to all students and faculty.
“We really wanted to make sure our events were open to every member of the community, regardless of financial status or disability,” she said.
To this end, the board tried to make as many events free as possible, including Saturday night's QPenn and QSA Drag Show. The show, held at the Platt Performing Arts House, featured student performers and professional drag queens and kings from the Philadelphia area.
At the show’s intermission, the student hosts gave a moment to Jonathan D. Katz, a visiting professor in the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies department who was the first professor of Queer Studies in the United States to gain tenured status. Katz urged students to support Queer Studies at Penn.
“We are about to begin a very serious push for Queer Studies here at Penn," Katz said. "With that, the one thing you can do is enroll in our classes. The more of us in them, the more the University can understand that they need to build the curriculum in Queer Studies.”
Attendees said they enjoyed the drag show and the week's events.
“Being a gay man on campus, I feel like the community gets disjointed a lot of the time so when there is a big event like this, especially when it is free, it is just really nice to be able to come out and show my support,” College freshman J’aun Johnson said. “I would definitely recommend the show to anyone in the future, especially if you are interested in gay culture and understanding it, or just want to have a good time.”