OUTreach’s Pink Party encourages us to defy stereotypes

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By: Corina Varlan, Class of 2020

“Drag is an exaggerated, theatrical and performative gender presentation. Drag can be an opportunity to defy stereotypes, not just exaggerate them,” our beautiful MC Masala Sapphire said as she opened our annual Pink Party Drag Show, dropping jokes along the way. She went on to explain that drag is not only for LGBTQ-identifying people, and it is not exclusive to men, nor is it an attempt to pass as another gender or mock gender.

We got to see drag in action this past Saturday in Boystown, as over 300 Boothies enjoyed the annual Pink Party, the result of over 2 months of work and preparation from the OUTreach organizers, members, and allies. Most of all, we got to see 7 impressive (and at times entertaining) student performances, from groups such as The Ladies of Booth Dragby, the Whine Club, and Larrye Antoinette and her maids from House of Follies.

Vendetta Ho (aka Vincent Ho) prepares to go on stage for her performance

Vendetta Ho (aka Vincent Ho) prepares to go on stage for her performance

OUTreach throws Pink Party every year with the purpose of sharing and celebrating LGBTQ+ culture with the Booth community. We throw this event in Boystown specifically, so we can engage with and give back to the broader Chicago LGBTQ+ community. This neighborhood is one of the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities in the United States, and is a vibrant part of Chicago well known for its nightlife. We believe that Boothies have a lot to gain by exploring this side of Chicago. I asked my friend Alice Ren what she thought about the party – she said that “it was a way of leaving the Booth bubble without leaving the Booth bubble. It was magical.” And that is exactly what we wanted people to feel! As Ally co-chair of OUTreach, I was particularly impressed with the support we got from our allies. This is a participatory and immersive experience, and I could feel the work and energy the groups put into their performances.

This year marks the first when we have involved three local drag queens in performing. Masala Sapphire was our MC, with Evah Envy and Dixie Lynn Cartwright performing as judges. We believed that having professional drag queens present would motivate our contestants to up their game, as well as help Boothies better immerse in the local culture.

MC Masala Sapphire and judge Evah Envy announce the performance

MC Masala Sapphire and judge Evah Envy announce the performance

Supporting us as judges were not just the 2 Drag Queens, but also 2 Professors. Jonathan Dingel, who teaches Managing the Firm in the Global Economy, and Thomas Talhelm, who teaches Negotiations, served as our firm yet sassy faculty judges. Professor Dingel was characteristically sarcastic in his commentaries about how the Snow Bunnies of BSSC (Ski Club) started us off on the bunny slopes, and criticized GBC for their almost complete lack of lip-synching abilities. Despite the bunny slopes, Ski Club managed to score the highest among all performers and went home with the Booth Drag Race King and Kween Crowns.

We hope that this was not just a fun experience for people, but also an opportunity to reflect on gender – what it means for each of us, how it is constructed and how we can play around with it. See you again in Boystown next year!