Queer Formal, an annual dance held in Winter quarter, was on Friday at the GCC. I didn’t attend this year. I have attended in the past, but this year I had no desire to go. I didn’t really realize why until an hour before the event was supposed to start. My house threw a large happy hour as a preparty to the formal. The e-flyer for the formal said:
COME GET YOUR FREAK ON AND LEAVE TO DO THE HORIZONTAL HOKEY POKEY WITH SOMEBODY NEW (or old, or blue, or borrowed)!
*drag is highly encouraged*
So naturally the attire of all the people in my lounge en route to the GCC was . . . a strange mix of formal wear and “crazy fun drag wear”. Granted, there were a couple of fiercely beautiful queens in formal wear. But the overall feel was very much a freak show feeling to me – complete with straight guys in drag. I still don’t know how I feel about that co-optation of an element of queer resistance against a repressive straight society by straight people at a queer event. I’m happy when people fight gender roles, but I’m somewhat offended when it’s done by those who don’t understand the meaning and history – at a queer event, I suppose.
I guess what got me the most about Queer Formal this year was that it was marketed in a way that turned it from a formal into any other hypersexualized and freaky fun queer party. Don’t get me wrong, I love those parties, which is good because queers hold a lot of them. But Viennese Ball was also on Friday.
Viennese Ball, probably the most formal dance event Stanford holds, is a very romantic, fun, and formal affair. But just by the nature of the dance (tuxes and gowns, leads and follows, etc), the entire event is very gendered to fit a straight society, and I know lots of queer people who are hesitant to attend. Two boys (or girls) in tuxes dancing together at this event would stand out much more than at a Queer Formal. I know that it’s likely it wouldn’t be an issue for same sex or same gender pairings at Viennese Ball, but many people in the LGBTQ community are very nervous about attending these “very straight” events because of past incidents, current climates, etc.
So the only option for a guaranteed queer-friendly formal event at Stanford is Queer Formal . . . or at least it was. Now, as my friends who attended report, “It was just another queer freakshow.” Will we get more respect when we can demonstrate to the rest of the world that even we love romance, and getting dressed up to take out a sweetheart? Or will we be constantly doomed to prejudices of freakness or hypersexuality that we ultimately take up as a defensive measure?
I want a real Queer Formal. There is nowhere else to get this. I can wait until Genderfuk, Terra Parties, Queer parties, any weekend night in the Castro for tongue-in-cheek-drag and “horizontal hokey-pokey”. Perhaps I’m just old-fashioned.