This Saturday from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., Copley Formal Lounge will transform into a place of liberation, experimentation and pure entertainment. April 12 marks the ninth annual GenderFunk, a conglomeration of Drag Queens, trans* performers, music and dancing that comes together for a single night of nonstop pride. Free and open to all, it is an event designed to challenge social norms in a fun and meaningful way.
Thomas Lloyd (SFS ’15), president of GU Pride, explains GenderFunk’s history.
“GenderFunk as it currently exists came about several years ago during the height of the OUT for Change Campaign, around seven years ago now,” Lloyd said. “This was a period of dramatic change for Georgetown’s LGBTQ community and the way it interacted with its community. At the time, GenderFunk was a dramatic ‘win’ for the community, as many Jesuit schools had failed to host drag shows successfully.”
The event began as a little-known gathering of a small group of people and has only continued to expand its reach. More and more students are attracted to GenderFunk each year, and it now stands as GU Pride’s largest event of the year.
GenderFunk cannot be condensed into a single significant message. Instead, each person who gets involved comes away with a different interpretation of why he or she came and what the experience means to him or her.
Lloyd explains this equivocal message.
“Drag has a rich history of meaning different things to many different people including trans* folk, lesbian women or even straight men who want to perform or challenge or experience different elements of the way society constructs gender,” he said
Philip Tam (MSB ’14), one of the event organizers, elaborates on the impact it has for the community.
“GenderFunk serves as an event to allow people who might otherwise be hesitant about non-traditional gender expression to express themselves in a safe but also fun space,” he said.
It is important to realize that GenderFunk is an all-inclusive experience. Tam says, “Genderfunk is not geared only toward those in the LGBTQ community, but also allies and those who are willing to challenge their own gender expressions in whatever way they feel comfortable. We aim to attract a variety of people in order to showcase the diversity of the Georgetown community.”
For some, GenderFunk is a night to showcase their vibrant identities. For others, it’s a time to break from their comfort zone and experience a different perspective withinan unfamiliar culture. The performances and social elements create a welcoming community for all.
Beyond-the-norm gender constructs and forms of sexuality are often seen as controversial — even taboo — topics. GenderFunk is not immune to criticism, and it continually tries to reach out to those who look down on the event.
“In general, working to find commonalities and using dialogue has been a guiding policy if people are hostile toward the event or [to] us as organizers. I believe creating safe spaces on campus should never be something that is criticized. As is the goal of all Georgetown clubs and groups, the goal of GU Pride is to make Georgetown a safer, more engaging and better place for students, faculty and the community. GenderFunk works toward that mission,” Tam said.
GenderFunk holds importance to all participants and coordinators. Lloyd recalls his own experience with the event.
“I came to Georgetown in love with drag queens and the statement that drag makes as an art form. It wasn’t until GenderFunk, however, that I challenged myself to dress up in drag and go out in public. Wow, that was a powerful experience. For how ‘out’ I considered myself, I couldn’t believe how scary it still is to walk out of my room in a dress, even when everyone knows what I’m dressed up for. It has made me more aware of how our strict conceptions of gender and image still affect our community, and how they still profoundly affect me,” he said.
This significance expands well beyond the borders of the Georgetown campus.
“Even today, [Boston College], [Fordham University], [Canisus College], [University of Southern Florida], et cetera. have failed to host drag shows at all. At [University of San Diego], their drag ball is annually met by protests and severe backlash. GenderFunk is not just important for our community then, but also for other more conservative schools who look at how GenderFunk has become a welcome and important part of our Jesuit school’s community,” Lloyd said.
GenderFunk is a testament to the diverse LGBTQ community rooted in Georgetown life. It has evolved and is spreading its message to other universities, acting as a powerful role model for others looking to find new ways of expression. Although the event takes place for only one night each year, its importance leaves a lasting, daily impact on the community at large. It works as a voice that breaks societal constructs and redefines social norms. While to some, the wild entertainment may seem over-the-top, it’s exactly this experimental quality that allows GenderFunk to truly reshape our own perspectives on gender and sexuality.