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Queer Bash

Queer Bash is tonight.

Whatever its reputation and no matter what else it seems to do, Queer Bash is foremost intended to be a safe space to explore one’s sexuality through self-expression and consensual interaction with others. While in the past, there have been incidents of sexual violence, hate speech, and prejudiced actions, Queer Bash is never supposed to be a forum for any of these. With the help of the entire Williams community, the Eph Rainbow Alliance (ERA) will continue to try to prevent and counteract these heinous occurrences, in addition to continuing to throw the most spectacular and queer-friendly party at Williams each semester.

The theme for this semester is Arcade Gaymes, so dress accordingly! Or just dress however you want, but whatever your choice of costume, expect this semester’s Queer Bash to be FIERCER THAN TEKKEN & RACIER THAN GRAND TURISMO!

1) We did not have a Queer Bash back in the 80’s. When was the first? Who came up with the idea? We need to capture this history. I have been told that the costumes are often quite, huh, revealing. Is that still true? Has it always been true? What was Queer Bash like in the 90’s?

2) Even the homophobes among my peer-group would have loved a party at which beautiful Eph women were encouraged to dress (and act?) as sluttily as possible.

3) What was the analog to Queer Bash in the 1950’s? My DKE House Dad is mum on the topic.

4) Long time readers will recall the Queer Bash E-mail (QBE) controversy of 5 (?!) years ago. Interesting throughout.

5) In the recent WSO discussion about Juicy Eph, Jordan Tacher claimed that

[T]he college has already set precedent on this sort of matter by asking students to leave for comments made in emails or postings that weren’t illegal. It is a troubling pattern of events.

True? I have never seen clear evidence of that. Can someone tell the story, even if they leave the names out? I heard rumors that one or both of the QBE perps/victims took time off from the College, but it was never clearly because of that incident. (At least one of them got into fights more frequently than he should have.) I can’t think of another incident in which the College might have disciplined someone for just speech. Several druggies were caught via their postings (on Facebook?) and, I think, were forced to take time off, but this was a drug question, not a speech question. Mary Jane Hitler was not asked to take time off. If the College didn’t try to punish her, then who would they have tried to punish?

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#1 Comment By Dick Swart On October 10, 2008 @ 11:44 pm

An analog from the 50’s? You gotta be kidding, Dave. the closet hadn’t even been invented then, let alone equipped with a door.

Frank and Henry may remember more stuff than I do, but the big bashes were the three house parties.Lester Lanin and Meyer Davis contract orchestras playing slow-dance stuff or rock’n’roll or calypso – “I heard Calypso Joe singing Go Man Go when rock’n’roll came to Trinidad’.

Gay was Provincetown and that that was a long way in every sense of the word from Williamstown.

Meyer Davis summed it all up pretty well:

‘What we provide is an atmosphere . . . of orchestrated pulse which works on people in a subliminal way. Under its influence I’ve seen shy debs and severe dowagers kick off their shoes and raise some wholesome hell.” — Meyer Davis, Saturday Evening Post, April 20, 1963.

And those shoes were flats.


#2 Comment By hwc On October 11, 2008 @ 12:18 am

The first student at Williams came out pubicly as a gay male sometime in the fall of 1971. If I recall, he did so in an op-ed in Record or some other very public fashion. It caused quite a stir, but of course nobody really knew what to say about it.

Of course, “coming out” and “everyone knowing he is gay” were two different things. I can’t recall if Bill Finn ever came out while at Williams, but he certainly was a well-known figure on campus.

Generally speaking, the timelines at these schools run parallel. Here’s an excellent chronology that ran as a feature article in the Daily Gazette last year:

Queer History of Swarthmore

It details the start of the annual queer Sager Symposium (and presumably the “queer bash” dance of the same name in 1988. It also details the College’s policy decision in 1992 to offer insurance and benefits to same-sex couples on the faculty and staff.

#3 Comment By Vermando ’05 On October 11, 2008 @ 12:35 am

Your number 2 is oh so true and accounts for a lot of the popularity of this event amongst the broader Williams population.

#4 Comment By frank uible On October 11, 2008 @ 7:37 am

Swart: Before I read your comment I too thought “You’ve got to be kidding”.

#5 Comment By kirsten On October 11, 2008 @ 10:21 am

I graduated in ’94, and Queer Bash was definitely the party of the year during my time at Williams. I don’t specifically remember a Queer Bash from my freshman year (I just may not have gone), but definitely the other years.

#6 Comment By PTC On October 11, 2008 @ 10:40 am


“Queer Bash” party started 10-12 years ago. It was never an underground party to the best my freinds recollection. At that time, the gay community at Williams was either the GLU, BGLU, or that acronym that included the T, rather than the ERA. The official party is less than 15 years old.

It is much like “Dress to get laid” (in style) at Bennington… which has been around for decades.

#7 Comment By PTC On October 11, 2008 @ 10:42 am

Kirsten- My freinds memory of it jibes with what you rememberkind of. That puts the first party at about 1992/ 1993?

#8 Comment By Henry Bass ’57 On October 11, 2008 @ 11:44 am

I do not remember any students from the 50’s being openly gay. Tho there were gays. And Williams unlike many southern colleges did not have a zero tolerance policy towards gays. I never heard of anyone being expelled for being gay. I went to an Episcopal high school in Sewanee, Tennessee where there was also an Episcopal college. Sewanee College had a zero tolerance policy towards gays. As soon as the dean found out someone was gay he was expelled. This happened frequently at southern colleges. Some of the gays were later very sucessful with $. Sewanee is now asking them for $. The gays think Sewanee should first give an honrary degree to Gene Robinson, gay bishop of NH. Robinson is a Sewanee alum and Sewanee has always awarded an honorary degree to any of its boys who
makes bishop.

I don’t know if Williams ever had a zero tolerance policy. I can’t imagine Dean Brooks expelling somone for being a practising gay.

#9 Comment By Ken Thomas ’93 On October 12, 2008 @ 1:06 am

There was a QB in F’91; I was at DS for F’90 (but on campus around this week that year–) — I don’t recall F’89 but I would have been unlikely to attend or notice in ’89 or ’90 (mostly dealing with Bob Jackall and Friedrich’s reading lists in ’89).

As for the early 60s… I’m going to hold off there, except to say that I’ve heard tales…

#10 Comment By Ken Thomas ’93 On October 12, 2008 @ 2:44 am

Also: extreme exception to David’s use of “sluttily.” “Provacatively” or just “well-” (dressed), perhaps; but “sluttily” … no problem with a woman who boldly declared herself a “slut” (with explanation) on her door in Currier in ’95-’96, but the usage above has ‘hidden premises’ that are both obvious, and obviously base — common– gutter– Gemein, as it is said in German, meaning something rather ‘poor’ and [self-] ‘degrading’ less than we should be.

#11 Comment By frank uible On October 12, 2008 @ 5:28 am

One of my Deke fraternity brothers crept, with some but not apparently great difficulty, out of the closet by degrees starting about 1954. In 1955 he transferred to Bennington College in order to complete his undergraduate education by majoring in dance there. Thereupon and shortly thereafter he entered the larger world of dance as a professional and, not unexpectedly, the obviously homosexual world.

#12 Comment By jcob On October 13, 2008 @ 2:21 am

Queerbash has toned down quite a bit since I was a freshman. I’ve been every semester (except when I was abroad) and this year I saw the lowest proportion of costume/ scantily clad people to oxford button downs ever. It was disappointing.

Jordan is referring to the an incident in which an e-mail was sent out to the members of a team detailing a sexual encounter of the sender. It got out, and the student is now gone.

#13 Comment By Larry George On October 13, 2008 @ 8:08 am

Re #12: this fall?

#14 Comment By ’10 On October 13, 2008 @ 8:50 am

Re Larry George@#13: this would have been, I believe, from Spring 2007. I know the student was away all last year…

#15 Comment By PTC On October 13, 2008 @ 9:19 am

jcob- Too bad. That is a spin off of the “Dress to get laid” party at Bennington college. Part of what makes the party “outlandish” and a good time. Too bad they toned it down. It is like you are not even allowed to joke around and have a good time anymore. Guiliani in drag… come on. Why not?

Whatever happened to streaking and such? Skinny dipping? One of the things I hope that happens soon is that the culture police calm down a little bit and let society have some fun.

#16 Comment By Larry George On October 13, 2008 @ 9:57 am

’10 –
Thanks for the information.
Re: 14: is the person back? It has to be gutsy to come back; at least one student did it recently and apparently very successfully. I don’t know what to think of the separation (I don’t have enough information to have an opinion, anyway), but I hope Williams can do well in helping students find their way back into the community.

#17 Comment By jcob On October 13, 2008 @ 3:48 pm

PTC- It’s not that there has been any official effort to make the party more subdued, it’s just that more and more students who attend choose not to dress up.

The administration has never condemned nudity. In fact, the Springstreakers willipedia article lists Nancy Roseman as the contact. It’s the students who are timid- and I would be too if I thought pictures of me would end up on facebook, the most mindlessly invasive website in existence.

Larry- I thought the student was expelled, but I was wrong, and I do believe he is back.

#18 Comment By Larry George On October 13, 2008 @ 4:26 pm

How ironic to think that Facebook, which often seems to this oldster to be so “out there” or to promote the uninhibited life, is actually giving rise to major inhibitions and taking some of the fun away compared to the wild old days of yore. But I bet that’s right.

#19 Comment By PTC On October 13, 2008 @ 5:01 pm

Larry- Of course it is. Can you imagine if they put the things we did when we were 19 on the internet. We’d be rich… and in jail!

#20 Comment By Dick Swart On October 15, 2008 @ 11:21 am

Just when you thought this post was kaput, comes a poll on whom would you rather date – Prince Harry or Prince William.

With so much time and money and attention paid to polling in these last few (thank God) weeks before the election, I am surprised that not one poll has measured the desirability ratings of the candidates among the gay community.

Can readers comment?


#21 Comment By Jay Wilson On October 23, 2008 @ 4:35 pm

Well, I may be unfortunate in having two sons and no daughters but at least I don’t have to deal with the problem of their being hit on from two sides of the preference divide. Listening to the stories of lassies who have been at Smith and Holysmoke (my wife’s college), I gather that true sexual equality will come on the day that college deans decide to limit the amount of gay female sexual harrassment which is presently permitted in the name of political correctness.

#22 Comment By Woody Register On November 16, 2008 @ 2:05 pm

For Henry Bass: I teach U.S. history at Sewanee. I am trying to put together an oral history project with current students on “gay Sewanee” in the period between World War II and the admission of women at the end of the 1960s. Your comments indicate the existence of some informal network of communication among men who attended the college in this period. Local folklore has it that this period was one of active and systematic repression, and I have come across documentary evidence that supports what people who are still here say about the era. Would you be willing to communicate with (even talk to) me about this project?