Fire, glitter, color and “Queerleaders” brought the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities together in an exuberant performance last night at the GenderBenderRevueCUBED in the Michigan Union Ballroom.
University and local high school students, Ann Arbor residents and others from as far away as Portland, Ore., drew a record-high audience for the event.
The event was a part of the LGBT Association”s Queer Visibility Week, which culminates with today”s “Kiss-In” in the Diag.
“It”s part education, part activism and all fun,” said Beth Harrison Prado, creator and producer of last night”s event. Transgender activists are “usually responding to some kind of violence or some kind of hate. What we didn”t get to do a whole lot was celebrate,” Harrison Prado said.
Performances ranged from the “Firestarter,” the fire-swallowing and fire-breathing act of Jase Ousley and Shane Pain Evans, to stand-up comedy and original poetry and songs.
Harrison Prado said other universities have drag shows and poetry slams, but the GenderBenderRevue is truly unique.
“It”s so much more than a drag show. It”s more than a talent show. It”s not an open mike. It”s not a rally. It”s a chance for all of us who are transgender, transsexual and genderqueer, plus friends and allies, to come together and have some fun, make some noise and be our beautiful, fabulous selves,” Harrison Prado said.
Original artwork by Ann Arbor”s Community High School lined the entrance of the ballroom, and free condoms, pamphlets and posters from the afternoon”s health fair in the Michigan Union Pond Room adorned tables around the room.
LSA junior Pierce Beckham, who coordinated the health fair, said the afternoon event went beyond promoting education and awareness of sex and sexually transmitted diseases.
The tables lining the walls of the Pond Room reflected organizers” efforts to include a wide variety of health concerns pertinent to the LGBT communities, including psychological aspects, in the health fair.
“The suicide rate for the LGBT communities is alarmingly high,” said Ben Conway, co-chair of the LGBT committee. He added that depression rates are also high. “Addressing depression, self-mortification, eating disorders and self-image is very important, specifically to the LGBT communities for overall health,” he said.
Speakers came from Counseling and Psychological Services and the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center provided additional information.
“It”s not us-them. It”s everybody,” said LSA freshman Clair Morrissey, who worked at SAPAC”s table. “People of all orientations are survivors of sexual assault and dating violence.”
Other groups came to increase their visibility on campus and to let students know their resources are available.
“It”s because no one else talks about it,” said Medical student Nersi Nikakhtar, co-coordinator of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual People in Medicine. “There are not a heck of a lot of out med students, so we try to provide a place for those who are or want to be.”
LGBPM provides resources within the medical community and also tries to establish mentoring relationships between faculty members and students.