Spring is here and this year it brings not only the unexpected April shower, but also gay flowers, according to the tagline of Queer Formal. The Sexuality and Gender Alliance (SAGA) will host the return of the formal April 15 — an event that holds a special place in students’ memories despite only taking place once before the pandemic shut down large gatherings, according to SAGA president Codey Carr (senior). Carr said students can expect to have fun, let loose and be queer.
The first Queer Formal was held in Fall 2019, a year after SAGA’s founding. Like much of the club’s programming, Carr said the formal is intended to be a space for queer people to come together, decompress from classes and homework and just have a good time.
“We wanted to have a celebration that directly focused [on] and uplifted queer students because parties are fun, you know, but queering parties is even funner [sic],” Carr said.
Held in the Tiger Cooler, the 2019 Queer Formal witnessed a fantastic turnout, according to Carr. Despite its hiatus during the height of the pandemic, Carr said the revival of Queer Formal has been a topic of conversation since Fall 2021 and now, after rebuilding their e-board, SAGA is finally ready to facilitate the formal’s return.
Bringing back Queer Formal marks not only an opportunity for the queer community on campus to unite and celebrate but also an expansion of SAGA’s programming, according to Carr.
“SAGA’s been really consistent in our ability to hold smaller events, more intimate events, especially those that we’ve done in the Lavender Lounge. But at the same time, that can only reach so many people,” Carr said. “We thought that hosting a Queer Formal would be a really great way to get the entire campus involved with what we want to do as an organization.”
On a personal note, Carr said bringing back Queer Formal is partly a way to thank some of the first friends he made when he arrived at Occidental during the pandemic — the seniors who organized Queer Formal in 2019.
“All of the seniors that organized Queer Formal back in 2019 are all folks that I really looked up to at Oxy,” Carr said. “[Reviving] it was a way to honor and respect the work that they did with SAGA.”
For Grayson Emilio Whitaker-Castañeda (first year), SAGA e-board member, the return of Queer Formal is a chance to dress up and be around his people.
“I personally really like dressing up,” Whitaker-Castañeda said. “Dressing up to me is such a big part of self-expression, which is a part of queer identity.”
SAGA club member Ella Val (sophomore), said she is excited to see the formal return and that she can’t wait to attend.
“I feel like it’s just gonna be a way to let Oxy and other people of the school know that we’re here. We’re here and we’re better than ever,” Val said. “I feel like we’re gonna really have fun, and it’s just gonna be a great time. Everyone’s gonna slay.”
According to Carr, the planning process for this year’s formal has been extensive and is still ongoing. The Queer Formal planning committee — which consists of Carr, Whitaker-Castañeda, and three others — faced numerous decisions, from venue location to food selection to the formal’s theme itself. Carr said that they eventually settled on hosting the event at Hot Shot Muffler, a multipurpose studio space just one mile from campus.
“I think [we] realize that if we want to have a truly celebratory event, it should be off campus. It should give people an opportunity to let loose if they’ve been holing themselves up because of midterms,” Carr said.
However, the committee has run into some challenges regarding the capacity of the venue, according to Carr. Because it is only SAGA’s second time hosting a Queer Formal and the first time hosting it since the pandemic, Carr said he and the other committee members expected there to be a much smaller turnout. But much to the committee’s surprise and delight, all 80 RSVPs were filled within the first few days after SAGA sent out the email announcing the event. Carr said they are currently 10 RSVPs over their limit and that people are still reaching out to express their desire to attend.
“I’m meeting with SLICE to figure out what we’re doing about that,” Carr said. “We want to accommodate as many people as we can.”
While determining how to expand the guest list without disrespecting the surrounding community or creating a COVID-19 hotspot, Carr said he and the other committee members are also in the process of finding a new catering company for the event. The original catering company, Feed the People LA, recently fell through, but Carr said they are still hoping to source from a local, queer-owned company.
When it came to the theme of the formal itself, Carr said the committee workshopped it for three months before settling on a tagline inspired by the recent rainstorms: April Showers Bring Gay Flowers.
The venue will reflect this theme, according to Carr, with a floral background, photo booth and spring-themed decorations. Whitaker-Castañeda added that people are encouraged to bring their spring energy to their outfits.
“I know I am personally planning on going with a floral patterned shirt,” Whitaker-Castañeda said.
In the future, Carr said that he hopes to see SAGA continue to host Queer Formal and for the formal to expand.
“But also at the same time, I don’t have too many visions for a future Queer Formal because I think the awesome part about it is that students, the first years, are gonna get to interpret it however they see fit,” Carr said.
Contact Claire O’Callahan at firstname.lastname@example.org.