QPenn begins today. It’s a week full of on–campus cultural events ranging from mixers to discussion groups, a keynote speaker event, and even a drag show to improve the experience of the LGBTQ community at Penn. Ella Bei (C ’20), one of QPenn's two arts supplement co–editors, shares what it’s like to be involved in the event.
Every year, the week follows a theme. This year it’s Lineage. “We wanted to focus more on LGBTQ history, and all the things that happened historically that led up to the LGBTQ situation today,” Ella said. The events follow this overarching theme, but the term is also applied loosely to facilitate an array of discussions.
Ella seemed the most excited about the art supplements that are included in QPenn's online publication. “Every year we release a supplement with LGBTQ students’ artwork and writing and stuff like that," she explained. "We have a supplement full of submissions from over the period of a month, then we put that into an online publication. We wanted to give LGBTQ kids a platform for their artwork to be displayed." The supplement also includes a timeline for LGBTQ history, including dates that are especially pertinent to Philadelphia.
Oftentimes, Penn’s campus can be a monster. Large, scary, and overwhelming. It’s easy to forget who you are or what got you here in the first place and to sacrifice mental well–being for activities that are considered more productive instead. QPenn’s week, which incorporates a coalition of groups ( , among others), hosts events that can make any and everyone feel more at home. “Different constituents do different events every year, and they usually decide what’s more suitable,” Ella noted.
The drag show, for instance, is hosted by Penn Queer Student Alliance. All students are welcome to participate, and it’s generally one of the more popular events according to Ella. If you’ve never experienced a drag show, it’s a great opportunity to check one out.
Another popular event is the annual keynote speaker. “When choosing keynote speakers, we try to focus on minority identities, because that’s what’s underrepresented,” Ella said. One past keynote speaker was , an actress from the acclaimed LGBTQ film Tangerine. This year, the speaker is , an openly gay Iraqi activist. He is the founder of IraQueer, a network and resource for the LGBTQ community in the Iraq/Kurdistan region.
“Our guest speaker Amir is able to talk about his own background and lineage as someone from the Middle East, and he’s able to combine aspects of his identity,” Ella said. She underscores that a lot of LGBTQ folk are products of multiple cultural identities. “It’s very intersectional. It’s not focused on one type of dialogue. You can talk about the intersection of your different identities.”
Some schools host IvyQ, a rotating annual conference that brings together elite schools to discuss pertinent topics regarding the LGBTQ communities at various institutions. It’s usually up to three days long. QPenn is longer and Penn–specific. “This is a pretty unique thing that we’re doing, from my knowledge,” Ella shared.
Most importantly, groups on campus get to put on events that showcasing what their individual constituencies stand for. As Ella previously mentioned, intersectionality is essential to modern LGBTQ dialogues. And Penn is doing a fair job at promoting this, she adds. “I feel really fortunate. A lot of my friends at others schools have very white–oriented LGBTQ scenes, so they don’t feel like there’s much of a sense of community. So the fact that Penn has more than one group, like many different constituents that explore different aspects of LGBTQ, is really valuable.”
Ella struggles to find any one specific event to recommend because "they’re all so great in their own ways." She does, however, highlight Q&A's event, “especially because I’ve read on Street about people fetishizing minorities, and just like the struggles that minorities have in dating. I recommend that one because it’s such an important topic.”
“Allyship is very important. A lot of these events are super educational,” Ella said. QPenn is a great opportunity for anyone, whether or not they identify as LGBTQ, to educate themselves on larger scale issues and to form a part of a critical conversation, all the while having a great time.
March 19: QPenn: Pride Walk + Mixer
March 24: Asexuality 102