FAU students celebrated a “New Year, New Perspective” at gender-bending masquerade ball Friday night

Tracy Abel and Jamie Vaughn

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FAU’s LAMBDA United and LGBTQ Resource Center hosted a masquerade ball Friday night to give students a chance to celebrate diversity and defy gender roles, encouraging students to be whomever they wanted — judgement free — for a night.
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All judgment was tossed aside as Florida Atlantic University students of all orientations came together with disco lights and a DJ to celebrate diversity on Friday, Jan. 31, wearing masks to honor the night’s masquerade ball theme.

The masquerade ball, whose slogan was “New Year, New Perspective,” was an event that combined FAU’s student run organization, LAMBDA United, with the on-campus LGBTQA Resource Center.

Drag queen, Momma Ashley Rose strikes a pose while hosting the Gender Bender Ball.

Drag queen, Momma Ashley Rose strikes a pose while hosting the Gender Bender Ball.

The night started with an appearance from Momma Ashley Rose, the event’s hostess and resident Drag Queen. Momma Ashley Rose had students roaring with laughter at her suggestive comments about people in the crowd she deemed “sweet as sugar” and her lip-synch versions of uplifting songs about being wanted despite your faults, like Dara Maclean’s “Wanted” and Jennifer Knapp’s “Dive In,” left everyone cheering.

Throughout the night, Momma Ashley Rose worked the room dancing with the crowd and posing for numerous photos.

“It was nice having actual contact with her in between her performances since usually drag queens tend to host and perform, but the guests don’t really get to have a conversation with them,” said Milor Perdomo, freshman political science and criminal justice major.

Public relations officer of LAMBDA and senior biological science major Graham Brown stressed the importance of both the organization and the ball.

“LAMBDA United is the on-campus Gay-Straight Alliance. We emphasize that we aren’t only for the gay or LGBTQ kids. We welcome everyone,” said Brown. “Most of the members hang out in the Resource Center to have an atmosphere where you feel comfortable and welcomed.”

The Resource Center, located across from the Health Clinic above the Breezeway, is part of the FAU Multicultural Affairs office. During office hours, you can walk inside and see members of LAMBDA sitting around chatting with friends, discussing politics or just enjoying the Center’s strict no-judging-zone policy.

“There is such diversity in orientation on this campus. Being young and being different can be a lonely time. It’s so important to have a space like this,” said Brown. “This campus is a second home for most of the students, and I love that the very basic nature of it [FAU] is to have a family, so you never feel lonely.”

Junior English literature major Sam Rickim said, “The people at the Resource Center are just fantastic, extremely nice and accepting, and I really haven’t found that anywhere else.”

Rickim also said he was impressed by the ball and is looking forward to seeing more from Momma Ashley Rose in the future.

FAU students cheer during a performance by Momma Ashley Rose.

FAU students cheer during a performance by Momma Ashley Rose.

Halfway through the night, southern belle Momma Ashley Rose exited the stage in her second outfit of the evening, sporting a luscious blonde wig of curls and adorning a sparkly, black rhinestone eye mask to complement her cowboy boots. Momma Ashley Rose referred to this outfit as her “little southern girl way” as she took the time to express her joy of being part of the ball.

“I do a lot of charity events and special events — anywhere from HIV awareness to gender identity. This is [a] great thing that FAU is doing, that they’re allowing this type of diversity to happen. The students are getting involved, they’re dancing, twerking, just having an amazing time with each other,” she said.

“What I really like about tonight is that everyone is here: straight, gay, bi, transgender, it doesn’t matter how you identify yourself. We accept you the way you are, the way you were created. We are all here to celebrate life,” said Momma Ashley Rose.

This ball was the first ever Gender-Bender Ball at FAU and there are plans to make it an annual event, much like the annual drag show the Resource Center and LAMBDA host in the fall.

Though it was technically considered a masquerade ball, the event became reminiscent of a prom when attendees were told that they could put their names into a drawing to win king or queen. People swarmed the table to put their name on a pink paper for queen or a blue paper for king.

Momma Ashley Rose picked three names out of a jar for each category and the nominees had to play a game consisting of panty hose, grapefruits and a finish line in order to win the crown.

In true fashion of a gender-bending ball, the winners were not what you’d expect. Instead of the typical guy and girl style winners, two girls were crowned queen and king.

Despite a minor malfunction with the king’s crown, the queen and king received prizes for winning: a basket of gifts based on stereotypical gender roles for each, including a toilet bowl scrubber for the queen and tools for the king.

The winners then shared a dance to “Same Love” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, where others later joined in and eventually ended up in a group circle with everyone holding hands and singing the lyrics of the song.

As the night came to an end, members of LAMBDA stuck around to help clean up, making plans to continue the night together at a favorite spot of theirs and chatting about the professionally shot photographs they took throughout the night with the photographer provided at the event.

“I just think the event was so much fun and since it’s only the first annually, I can see it growing to become a major event on campus like the drag queen show we host at the beginning of the year,” said Perdomo, who is a member of LAMBDA.

While helping take down decorations, he was asked how it feels to be a part of a group like LAMBDA. He looked around the room at his friends and smiled before replying, ”I love these people. They are my family.”

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The masquerade ball may be over but there are other LGBTQA events on campus to look forward to. 

FAU’s LGBTQA Specialist, Emily Calfo, thanks the crowd for coming out to support gender equality at the masquerade Gender Bender Ball on January 31, 2014.

FAU’s LGBTQA Specialist, Emily Calfo, thanks the crowd for coming out to support gender equality at the masquerade Gender Bender Ball on January 31, 2014.

Emily Calfo, FAU’s LGBTQA specialist, took some time away from dancing with Momma Ashley Rose to list some of the upcoming LGBTQA events that will be sponsored by either the Resource Center, LAMBDA or both organizations.

“On Feb. 13th we will be screening the film ‘Rent’. February is a month where we discuss relationships and family, which are all so different across the board — it’s not just one specific way to live, and ‘Rent’ represents that. And the third Thursday of every month we do an open-mic night called Rainbow Café in Majestic Palm,” said Calfo.

Another new event they are looking forward to this year is the mock wedding to celebrate National Right to Marry Day taking place on Feb. 12 where students of different orientations will marry one another in support of marriage in the LGBTQA community.

Brown also mentioned some future events being hosted by LAMBDA and the Center, including the love and sex workshop around Valentine’s Day which will be held in an effort to educate LGBTQA students.

There will be a panel discussion on Feb. 17 where Brown will personally be involved in a panel centered around being a person of color in the LGBTQA community.

National Day of Silence, April 11, is a day of silent protest for anti-bullying in the LGBTQA community. LAMBDA will have a hate wall where they will display hate words and slurs that have been directed toward them and at the end of the day members will smash the wall in a show of breaking away from those hateful thoughts.

To contact Emily Calfo you can email her at [email protected] or visit the LGBTQA Resource Center website for more information.

To contact the president of LAMBDA UNITED email Daniella Feriozzi at [email protected] or visit their website for more information.