Celebrating LGBT history through burlesque

The Pride Center combined history and entertainment for this years LGBT history month.

Published by Megan John, Date: October 14, 2022
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The Women’s and Pride Center hosted its second annual Burlesque Bash on Oct. 8. The event was held in the Smith Student Center Ballroom, featuring student performers, catered food, casino games, a photo booth and raffles featuring gift cards donated from local businesses. Even a magician visited tables to perform tricks. 

Burlesque is a type of performance involving “extremes of behaviors or dress or caricature,” according to Jen Salamone, assistant director of the Women’s and Pride Center. 

“Burlesque has always been queer and camp,” she added.

“Performance is related to gender, because we talk about the performativity of gender, right? We perform maleness or femaleness, and that’s about expression. … We’re giving people space to play with that. And it obviously brings up sexuality as well. Just the ability to be open with that expression in public.” 

“In my imagination, it allows people to express themselves in ways that weren’t necessarily appropriate back then—quotes around that, because appropriate changes over the years,” said Jarod Piccioli, graduate assistant for the Women’s and Pride Center. “It’s up to interpretation, but I think it is an environment where people aren’t afraid to be themselves.”

Salamone associates burlesque with the movie “Cabaret,” which, to her, is about “social justice, rising above oppressive regimes and just doing what you want in those spaces.” 

“They were the places where people could be free to express themselves, to talk the way they want, to interact the way they want,” Salamone said. “So, it really is a liberatory experience.” 

October is LGBT History Month, a separate entity from Pride Month in June. 

“LGBT History Month, I think, really tries to focus on our elders or ancestors, what LGBTQI people have brought to the world,” Salamone said. “[We] focus on those trailblazers and the ones that are still … doing that kind of work.” 

In her words, Pride Month is more about being accepted or being seen in your authentic self. However, since Pride Month takes place when school is out of session, LGBT organizations on campus are combining pride and history in October. RockOUT is planning a Pride Week from Oct. 24-28. 

“Coming out is important, because people see that you exist and that you’ve always been here,” Salamone said. 

“That’s the thing about LGBT history: Queer stuff is not new. Sometimes people say, ‘that queer stuff, it’s all over the place now and it wasn’t like that before.’ Well, that’s not true. LGBTQIA+ people have been here all along, and they’ve actually built culture. Queer kids aren’t taught about their history, you know? Connecting to our history and the things that we’ve done and knowing we can make an impact [is important].” 

Burlesque Bash was a social event with educational elements. SRU alum Nic Condon attended to inform students about voter registration and its importance. 

“A lot of college students are not registered to vote,” Salamone said. “A lot of LGBT folks are not registered to vote, especially trans folks who [may] have to identify themselves with a different name than they would want to be identified with.” 

Everything else was intended for entertainment and to showcase our students, because all of our students were the entertainment, Salamone said. 

“Really, it’s just our kickoff event. I think in future, we want to make Octobers a little more robust, and focus on the education part a little bit more. But we have a solid kickoff to get people involved and get our community together. 

“My goal as the assistant director of the Women’s and Pride Center is to meet folks on campus who might identify as part of our population, so women or queer, and make some connections. That’s what I want to do.” 

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