Anger over the treatment of Queerfest as a party rather than a celebration of queer culture has led to thwarted efforts by the event’s organisers to prioritise the LGBTQ+ community.
Queerfest is an annual celebration of queer culture run at Wadham, planned for Saturday 21st. The event is organised as part of Wadham’s ‘Queer Week’, which features events addressing the issues faced by the LGBTQ+ community.
Queerfest is described by its Facebook event page as a chance to “escape heteronormative hegemony and cissexist society and ascend to queer heaven”. However, many LGBTQ+ Oxford students feel this aim is undermined by non-LGBTQ+ partygoers who appropriate the event. While the event specifically says that all are welcome regardless of sexual orientation or gender, there has been anger that the rapid sale of tickets in the past has led to LGBTQ+ students missing out.
Organisers of Queerfest, alongside Oxford LGBTQ Society, have made efforts to prioritise LGBTQ students this year. Joel Hide, President of Oxford LGBTQ Society, said, “This year the LGBTQ society has worked closely with Wadham’s SU LGBTQ Officer Olivia [Braddock], and the SU Entz reps to provide ways for LGBTQ people to get tickets before they go on general sale, as last year tickets sold out so quickly that a lot of queer people missed out.” Tickets for last year’s Queerfest event sold out in a matter of hours.
One way that the organisers aimed to prioritise the LGBTQ+ community was by selling tickets at an LGBTQ+ drinks event prior to general release. However, widespread anger resulted after these efforts were allegedly undermined by non-LGBTQ+ attendees who crashed the LGBTQ+ drinks in order to take advantage of the early ticket sale.
Comments on Oxford LGBTQ society’s Facebook page expressed anger at the crashing. Daniel Morris wrote, “The LGBTQ+ community would like to extend a massive thx to all tha cishets who showed up at drinks 2nyt, we felt so ***liberated*** as we were crushed by you while queueing for our queerfest tix. Looking forward to seeing you at future LGBTQ+ drinks to continue your excellent allyship work, and hope you’ve enjoyed attending all of the other Queerweek events!!!! [sic]”
Commenting on the anger, Hide explained to Cherwell, “I would view the problem as being that a lot of cis-het [cisgender and heterosexual] people come to Queerfest just because it’s a cheap party, without engaging in the any of the other events or talks that take place during queer week and without appreciating that the event is intended as a celebration of queer culture.”
A Tumblr page has been set up to stress the aim of the event, asking viewers why they want to go to Queerfest. It provides two options: “Join the party” or “Celebrate all things queer”. Pressing “Join the party”, the page reads, “Maybe give it a miss? Whilst QueerFest is a great party it’s the final celebration at the end of Queer week – so it’s really just for people who want to celebrate all things queer! If that’s not you then there are plenty of other things to do.”
Olivia Braddock, LGBTQIA officer, and Hannah Marshall, a Queer Week committee member, said, “It is saddening that [Queerfest] receives so much more attention than the events of Queer Week, and we would appreciate any efforts towards correcting this imbalance. It has also come to our attention that some people crashed the LGBTQ drinks this week… which is very disappointing and shows a shocking lack of respect.”
Analysis: Queer identities need space in a heteronormative society (Molly Moore)
Can I go to Queerfest? That’s a question many people should have asked themselves before jumping on the party bandwagon and joining the hot pursuit for Queerfest tickets this week. The event has triggered a larger debate on the nature of queer spaces and who should primarily be able to access them (well done if you answered ‘queer people’).
There is no doubt that Queerfest will deliver the amazing party it has promised, but something that all students in Oxford need to account for is the limited number of queer spaces available to LGBTQ+ people in Oxford. Sure, there’s Plush. Once, there was Babylove too. Aside from LGBTQ Society events, internal college gatherings and liberation events, the scale of access to queer-only spaces is limited.
As the LGBTQ Society’s Women’s Welfare Rep and Christ Church’s LGBTQ+ Welfare Officer, protecting the safety of my community is my main concern at any queer event. I’m sure countless students have been exposed to the chaos of Plush on a Friday night and the influx of cis/straight-identifying students who have turned up post-crewdate just to enjoy the party.
Something that almost inextricably occurs is cis-het people taking offense at the queerness around them, or fetishising normal aspects of queer life that really aren’t their business. Having straight guys comment on how sexy they find my sexuality is something I have been exposed to more times than I could count. It’s time to sort it out. Please lads, no more.
Prioritising access to tickets for LGBTQ+ students this year was an immensely positive move by Wadham SU and the LGBTQ Society. It means that people who have most likely attended other events in Queer Week will get the chance to celebrate queer culture in all its radical, glittery glory this Saturday. So we all thought. On Tuesday night at drinks I saw some familiar faces: cis-het faces that don’t normally appear at Tues-gay drinks. Either way, surely it occurred to them that LGBTQ+ events should first and foremost be accessible for LGBTQ+ people? After all, every Queer Week event is of equal value and Queerfest is but one of them.
It is a complex issue, given that queer identities are numerous, non-binary, and not adherent to the boxes hegemonic society would like to place us in. But there is no way to know how queer anyone is. When accounting for the safety of LGBTQ+ individuals, it is no one’s place to assume anything about anyone’s identity. Policing queer identities is the last thing any LGBTQ+ person needs. We should not have to prove our identities, or evidence of our queerness in order to gain access to environments such as Queerfest, nor should we have to worry about being judged as ‘straight-passing’. But nor should we have to feel as though our queer spaces are threatened by cis-het people who don’t understand the significance of queer events to queer people.
The solution can only be that cisgender, heterosexual people think more about fixing the imbalance between queer spaces and cis-heteronormative society. Queer Week celebrates the LGBTQIA community. Queerfest is simply the finale in a series of the amazing events which comprise Queer Week. Are you going to Queerfest to engage with queer culture? If the answer is no, maybe just take a trip to Camera instead.