LGBTQ Gender Fusions celebrates identity, diversity

By Campus Editor

LGBTQ people and allies packed into Stage Two, 618 S. Michigan Ave., for an evening of food, dance, fashion and a keynote presentation from prominent transgender rights activist Geena Rocero for a celebration of diversity and identity.

“I just want to gender f–k things and deconstruct all these notions of a gender binary,” said Rocero, a transgender fashion and beauty model who founded Gender Proud, an advocacy and awareness campaign that fights for the rights of transgender people.

Rocero visited the college on April 24 for the 11th Gender Fusions, an annual event hosted by Common Ground, the college’s LGBTQ and ally organization, celebrating gender, sexuality, cultural and other forms of identities.

The theme of this year’s show was “Gender Galaxy,” chosen to illustrate the “multidimensional possibilities” of what makes up a person’s identity, according to Lex Lawson,  Columbia’s coordinator of LGBTQ Culture & Community.

“We picked this theme because it exemplifies that we are all multidimensional people,” Lawson said. “We are not just one thing. We’re like a little universe that’s right inside of us.”

Kicking off the night was a set of several activities attendees could participate in to celebrate their identities, including film screenings, positive affirmation activities and a “Constellations of Identities” wall on which individuals could plot different aspects of their identity—such as gender, race or sexual orientation—in the solar system and connect their traits with other people’s to highlight diversity and togetherness.

“We are celebrating resilience, visibility, triumph and us moving onto the future,” said Precious Davis, assistant director of the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. “It’s an exciting moment to be LGBTQ, and I am so excited and proud to be a trans woman of color.”

Just as diverse as the identities people celebrated were the ways in which they were shared. Following Rocero’s presentation was a series of performances, including dance, poetry, singing and theatrical skits in which performers shared their experiences with identity.

Brian Danzy, a freshman music major, wooed the audience with an acoustic set in which he sang about struggling to find peace of mind and the importance of self-acceptance. 

Continuing with the theme of self-love, Liz Zaroogian, a freshman cinema art + science major, shared an original poem celebrating their femininity titled “Femme as f–k.”

Later, the room sat in a still silence when Khloe Richardson, a freshman theatre major, shared the pangs of loving somebody of the same gender who cannot come to terms with their homosexuality in a dramatic poetry reading.

Michelle Nance, president of Common Ground and a senior fashion studies major, said she was pleased with how the theme celebrated all forms of identity, not just gender.

“We are at totally different points in our identities, and we are all one giant universe here today,” Nance said.

Closing the evening was a “gender non-binary” fashion show in which students, accompanied by Rocero, strutted down a runway showing off their favorite looks and expressing their gender identities.

“This is an intergalactic exploration of identities, connections and multidimensional possibilities,” Rocero said. “It feels so good to be part of this dimension. That’s my ideal world!”