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Out/Loud Queer and Trans Women’s Performance Fest celebrates UO’s LGBTQIA community

On Thursday, the ASUO Women’s Center will host the Out/Loud Queer and Trans Women’s Performance Fest, an event intended to showcase the culture and art of the LGBTQIA community at the University of Oregon. The festival will feature Portland-based hip-hop duo Neka & Kahlo and spoken-word poet Andrea Gibson.

Fatima Pervaiz, director of the Women’s Center, wants the event to instill hope in groups of students that need support. “We want to show [LGBTQIA] students … that there is a group of people on this campus that love them, support them and would love to honor them,” she said. “We’re going to do what we can to support that community.”

The featured artists embody these goals. Neka & Kahlo are an interracial lesbian couple and musical collaborators. Their music, which combines smooth R&B with psychedelic beats, explores issues of identity, love and belonging. Since releasing their 2014 debut EP, “Thirdwave,” the pair have continued to entertain crowds and festivals in Oregon and beyond. Their subject matter and identity make them an exciting guest at Out/Loud, which plans to fill the Great Room in the EMU to capacity.

UO has consistently ranked high on lists of the best schools for LGBTQ students. As of March 1, ranked UO 28th on a list of the 50 most LGBTQ-friendly schools. Among the factors that contributed to this ranking is that the university installed more than 100 gender-inclusive bathrooms during the summer of 2016.

But recent budget cuts triggered controversy and protests outside Johnson Hall in April for cutting positions inside the University’s LGBT Education and Support Services program. For the next five to seven months, there will be no professional staff involved with LGBTQ services. Pervaiz said Out/Loud is the Women’s Center’s way of supporting students in light of these cuts.

Out/Loud also invites discussion of mental health issues and solutions. “[Mental health awareness month] is in perfect alignment with what we are doing,” Pervaiz said. “The LGBTQIA community is at greater risk for substance abuse issues and suicide, based on various factors [like bullying].”

Andrea Gibson, Out/Loud’s second featured artist, directly addresses these issues through their spoken word poetry. Gibson, who uses non-gendered pronouns, details their relationship with their girlfriend, their white privilege, classism and sexual violence through poetry. Their most famous poem, “Maybe I Need You,” has more than 700,000 views on YouTube.

Gibson works to instill positivity at their concerts, asking audience members to fill out post-it notes with small moments or memories that make them happy. Each of these notes is attached to a poster that reads “things that don’t suck.”

Out/Loud was formerly an opportunity to give students a stage for their own work. In 2016, members of the Sexual Wellness Advocacy Team performed skits about consent in queer and trans relationships. But that structure required up to six hours of event time and made it difficult to schedule, plan and prepare. The difficulties around contracts with featured performers and maintaining an interested audience over such a long duration made the event’s organizers switch to a two-hour format, without performances from students.

Pervaiz said the change will allow audiences to enjoy and learn from the featured artists without being exhausted. By highlighting moments of joy in the lives of Out/Loud’s attendees, the Women’s Center hopes to support LGBTQIA+ people and people of color in light of what Pervaiz calls a “hostile socio-political climate” in the U.S.

“There are students whose entire families and ethnicities have been attempted to be banned from coming into the country, so we need moments of joy,” she said. “With Out/Loud, we’re going to celebrate each other and all of our intersecting identities.”

Out/Loud will take place in the EMU’s Great Room on Thursday from 6-8 p.m. Attendance is free.

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Dana Alston

Dana Alston

Dana Alston is an Associate Arts & Culture Editor from San Jose, CA. He writes about film, music, and television. Paul Thomas Anderson is his one true god.

You can follow his meme-endorsed social media ramblings @AlstonDalston on Twitter or Letterboxd, or shoot him some eloquent hate mail at [email protected]