Though it might be easier to confess your affections in an anonymous online forum or introduce yourself to someone under the cover of a dimly-lit party, these atmospheres aren’t always conducive to getting to know someone. Harder still is it to form any kind of lasting friendship or relationship on the basis of such encounters.
In the spirit of not only meeting new people in a venue with better lighting, but also doing so in a space which promotes solidarity and community, Laura Van Eerde ’13 organizes Queer Ladies’ Socials, an event which occurs about twice a semester.
“They are primarily a way to meet fellow queer women as friends and potential romantic partners, and also to spend time with those whom you already know but might not get to spend much time with,” wrote Van Eerde in an emailed statement. She continued, “The chance to socialize without having to go to a drink-and-hook-up party or sit through a meeting is really great and important. It brings the community together in a way that’s more relaxing and accessible to people.”
Though each Social may be a little different—“one was classy wine night, one was gourmet cupcakes, one was French-themed,” explained Van Eerde—the idea behind them always remains the same.
“The idea of the Queer Lady Socials was initially thought of as a way to join together the LGBTQ Center and the Women’s Center. What better way to do that than to bring together the two overlapping identities in a social way?” said Van Eerde. However, Queer Ladies’ Socials are more than just the sum of these two components. Though the ladies who regularly attend the Socials may have already found solace in the Women’s Center or the LGBTQ Center, there is something unique about the kind of space these events provide.
“I think it’s important because there aren’t really any other spaces on campus meant specifically for queer- and female-identified people. There are spaces for the general queer community, but these are often highly male-dominated,” said Willow Carter ’15.
Queer women, she went on to say, are often subject to issues different than those that queer males face, making an event like the Queer Ladies’ Socials essential for their community.
“I feel like it’s important to remember that the [Queer Ladies’ Socials] aren’t just a space for queer women to meet, they are specifically a space for queer women to meet outside of the male gaze,” Carter stated.
Van Eerde said, “Queer women tend to get unwanted attention, looks, comments, etc. from men, more so than the other way around. That’s why some think it is more important for queer women to have these events than queer men,” though she added there is no reason for men not to have a similar event if there is a demand for them.
Though Erin Boss ’16 agreed that men should pursue their own equivalent if they so choose, part of the reason why they are a necessity for queer women is due to the “underground” nature of their community.
“I think the queer/male presence on campus is fairly loud and visible in a way the queer/female presence may not be, so the need for a Queer Men’s Social is not as pressing,” she wrote in an emailed statement.
Alluding to the issue of male-dominated spaces, she emphasized the importance of remembering the privilege of maleness in both queer and non-queer spaces.
Given what these socials represent to those who attend, Boss cautioned non-queer women who might wish to attend to support a friend to be respectful of the space.
“It’s not meant to be a super exclusive space, but also it’s supposed to be a safe space for specifically queer-identified individuals. Non-queer allies who attend should be mindful that they are entering a safe space meant for the queer- and female-identified community on campus but are still welcome,” she wrote.
Carter agreed, stating that almost every space on campus is open to straight men and women, so visitors should be mindful before entering one that is meant specifically for queer ladies. “I feel like any non-queer allies should be very conscious of the fact that they are visitors in the space, and that it is not meant for them. I think that you can go to pretty much any other party on campus and find straight people to mingle with, so I don’t feel like the non-queer students are particularly missing out on anything,” she said.
However, that is not to discourage anyone who wishes to attend in order to experiencine different parts of their identity.
Van Eerde clarified, “Queer Ladies’ Socials are not exclusive events; no one is turned away on the basis of their identity. However, the events are specifically meant to provide a safe space for those who identify with both the women community and the queer community of Vassar, and should be respected as such.”
Carter highlighted the importance of non-exclusivity, stating, “I think that it is also important to keep the social open to women who may be questioning or exploring their identity.”