On Saturday night, the Cornell homosexual community and allies took over the Straight and hosted the fourth annual Filthy/Gorgeous Party, which aims to celebrate the LGBTQ atmosphere at Cornell.
“I like to consider it the gay Slope Day,” said Ben Lebrun ’10, president of the Gay Straight Alliance.
This year’s event drew more than 600 students, some dressed in drag, others coming with their same-sex partners. Some came wearing platform shoes and chains. The party also drew people from outside the gay community. Attendance is up from 400 last year, which did not surprise Lebrun.
“I feel that an event that cost $27,000 and took 11 months to plan speaks for itself,” Lebrun said. Approximately $7,000 of this came from Student Activity Fee funding, according to Chris Basil ’10, vice president of finance for the Student Assembly. Proceeds from the event benefitted Sylvia’s Place, a homeless shelter for LGBT youth, and the Metropolitan Community Church of New York Homeless Youth Services.
The party was originally started back in 2006 and was the brainchild of John Connelly ’03. To make the event stand out, Connelly wanted to create a sex-positive environment. At this year’s party, a bin of condoms sat on the table for people to take as they paid the $3 entry fee. Half-naked male and female dancers, some who work at the Splash Bar in New York City, were hired to get the crowd excited by sporadically kissing one another on stage and also by kissing members of the audience — regardless of gender.
Mike Ortiz ’12 took the opportunity to dance on stage with the dancers.
“I grew up in New York City and I’ve been out since 15,” Ortiz said. “Getting on stage without a shirt on is second nature.”
This year, organizers brought back Chi Chi LaRue, a transgender porn director and drag queen, to DJ the event and the group Whore’s Mascara to perform original songs. LaRue — who noted that this year’s party was twice as exciting as last year’s — said the crowd at the Straight was quite different from the usual audiences in his hometown Los Angeles.
“This is a happy, young, student crowd, the rest are all jaded bitches,” she said.
LaRue said that she enjoyed the mix of students, who came with different outfits and ideologies. “It’s a melting pot,” she said. “You don’t know who’s straight and who’s gay — and I guess that’s the point.”
According to Lebrun, Haven’s goal for Filthy/Gorgeous was to create a safe place for the LGBTQ community to express itself in an environment different than the Cornell Greek community. He added, “I feel like if you are surrounded by behavior that doesn’t represent you, it can make the coming out process harder.”
This celebration — quite fortuitously — was held just two weeks after the Student Assembly passed Resolution 44, extending the full rights of membership to all members of student organizations in an effort to prevent discrimination within independent student groups. The resolution’s sponsors, At-Large Rep. Andrew Brokman ’11 and LGBTQ Rep. Matt Danzer ’11, both attended the event.
Danzer said, “I think Haven itself — as well as the event Filthy/Gorgeous — highlights why Resolution 44 is so important. The LGBTQ community spans the spectrum of culture, community religion and Haven and its affiliated organizations try to encapsulate that by creating an event that welcomes everybody.”
According to John Connelly, in light of the recent approval of the non-discrimination clause, the timing of Filthy/Gorgeous was a lucky coincidence.
“This party wasn’t necessarily an intentional celebration of Resolution 44, but I’m sure it contributed to the happy vibes,” he said.
Billy Hanson of Whore’s Mascara, who performs under the stage name Lonni Bahls, said that he had been looking into some of the controversy before coming up to Ithaca from New York City.
“There really needs to be a Resolution 69,” Hanson said. “People should be afforded all rights no matter what.”
Some students in the gay community, however, were not happy with the party. Nate Treffeisen ’12 said that he did not find the in-your-face nature of the party very receptive. He had been opposed to the party as soon as the posters went up, but still attended to see what it was all about.
“I’m not here to be filthy, I’m not here to be gorgeous, I’m here to be gay,” he said. “I think in a way it reinforces [gay] stereotypes in the sense that the name Filthy/Gorgeous does not necessarily reflect the way every gay person … goes about their daily life.”
Because of Haven’s prominence on campus, Treffeisen expressed concern over the fact that the prominent LGBTQ group on campus — the face of the gay community — opted to sponsor an event with a name so prone to reinforcing certain gay stereotypes.
Treffeisen said, “[The event’s name] was definitely a controversial issue because it does definitely represent the entire gay community at Cornell and I think it’s personally offensive … to a lot of the gay community.”
Having discussed the issue with other members of the Cornell gay community, Treffeisen observed, “Not a lot of people are speaking out … but there really is a lot of unrest. No one is particularly happy with the way the event represents them.”
Danzer did not share Treffeisen’s concerns.
“I think it’s important to remember that Filthy/Gorgeous isn’t the only even that the LGBTQ community puts on at Cornell,"” Danzer said. “It’s one of a number of events that are put on throughout the year. … If Filthy/Gorgeous were the only event they were putting on I could see where those comments were coming from … but given that it’s not I think it’s wrong to say that [the name of] the event is stereotyping.”
Danzer did not see the event’s portrayal of the University’s gay community as problematic enough to interfere with the party-friendly atmosphere. “I was at the event and people were just focusing on having fun not on how it portrayed the community,” he said.