PMPC Defines a Queer Space With Queer Pub Nite Takeover

by Tessa Hannigan

 

Thursday night, to kick off Pride Month, Pub Nite was hosted by students in the Pride Month Planning Committee (PMPC).

The Pride Month Pub Nite gave party hosts and partygoers an opportunity to have a slightly different experience within the bounds of traditional Pub Nite. Maya Henry, co-president of SQU and a member of the PMPC, said this change of pace was important for making parties inclusive to more students on campus. “I think the Pub Nite committee needs to understand that the drinking games make a lot of people uncomfortable and the music they play is repetitive and not inclusive,” said Henry, chronicling some of the reasons that some POC and queer individuals feel uncomfortable at traditional parties at Swarthmore College.

Queer Pub Nite provided a refreshing space for queer people and straight allies alike, as Henry says, "a lot of people who hadn't been to Pub Nite before had a great time and felt welcomed.”

Pub Nite is a longstanding fixture in the Swarthmore party scene with a fairly established structure: the lights-on socializing and beer pong from nine to eleven, the lights-off hour of dancing, and the traditional end of “American Pie” and “Closing Time.” The question: how to adapt it to cater to and center queer students throughout the night? How to make it more inclusive? The PMPC chose to decorate the space with flowers, bright lights, and rainbow colored tassels. They constructed a playlist of all POC artists with a high representation of queer POC artists. They replaced drinking games as the central attraction with a round of Karaoke starting at 10pm.

Karaoke was presented as a new twist, a place for any and all to come up and sing, lipsync or just dance. It brought the room together and ignited multiple conversations about favorite songs and favorite queer songs, automatically making the space more inclusive. These changes and additions helped to create the vision the planning committee had: a queer space in Thursday night Paces.

But, what exactly is a queer space? Here are the voices of some students before the night began:

“It is a space where I feel very comfortable being myself,” says Cindy Lopez ‘20, one of the key organizers of the event. “[It’s a place] where my friends are able to express themselves.”

According to Gretchen Trupp ’18, President of SQU and a key organizer of the event, it is a space where “welcomes are genuine, and people compliment your weird outfit.” Queer spaces can be special, unique, undefinable, and accepting.

“We know what each other have been through, we know each other’s cultures and customs and we’re here for each other,” Ian Ortiz ‘20 said with one of a deep, genuine smile.

For Adrianna Berring ’18, a queer space “doesn’t have to be a fun space. Because there is also a need to be together in solidarity. There’s a need for a space to express yourself however you are right then. Sometimes that’s mourning.”

According to one of the lead organizers of the event, Romeo Luevano ‘19, a queer space “has good music. It’s a safe space for queer folk to come together and not be intimidated by others.”

Pride month Pub Nite has been in the works for three weeks, with abundant support from the IC and queer students on campus. Organizing went down to the wire however, as the party permit wasn't approved until 6:15pm on Thursday. Finally set to go, a community of students began putting up decorations amid music and laughter at 8:30pm Thursday night.

The inclusivity created was challenged at one point when a non-PMPC member switched off “Gold Digger” by Kanye West mid-way through the song and replaced it with “Sk8er Boi” by Avril Lavigne. Sk8er Boi, which centers around a straight romance and is sung by a straight, white artist, was not on PMPC's playlist for the night. It did not inspire or fortify the diverse, celebratory, welcoming space the organizers intended to create.

Maya Henry ’20, co-president of SQU, took action immediately. She spoke with the people who had switched the song, and was told not to bother because “people like it.” Henry soon succeeded in switching back to the original playlist. As the music settled in again the dancing continued; some people hadn’t stopped, some people had.

One dancer’s response came in the form of  a question, “Can we have a break for just one day?”

“I was trying to make black and brown queers and black and brown people of any orientation welcomed and safe. I feel like people of more dominant social groups were trying to take [the space] back,” said Henry.

Even in a designated queer space, queer students-- some more than others depending on their gender, racial, and religious identities-- are put in a position where they feel they must fight for space and fight to have a voice.

Trupp says, “students are the backbone of this school. And they make or break the party scene.”

Queer Pub Nite took responsibility for the party scene and produced a unique space, inviting queer and straight people alike to feel free to express themselves and to embrace each other.

According to Lopez, a key member of PMPC, “A lot of queer spaces have been established, it’s about building them up and making them able to fulfill people’s needs.”

PMPC is making headway with significant momentum after the joy present in Thursday night’s turnout. More Pride Events will be occurring throughout the month.