Gala brings awareness, raises funds for LGBTQ equality rights

Students and community members gather to celebrate equality in Virginia

Nuoya Zhou

Photo by Nuoya Zhou, ’18.
The Equality Gala.
Photo by Nuoya Zhou, ’18.
The Equality Gala.

Washington and Lee’s sixth annual Equality Gala kicked off in Early Fielding on March 18 to raise awareness of the LGBTQ community’s equality rights in Virginia.

It was also a fundraising event for the Equality Virginia organization, which is an advocacy group that believes in “a truly inclusive Commonwealth where everyone is valued, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Jessica Wilt, ‘18, appreciated the purpose of the event.

“I’m glad people are able to be just themselves [in here],” Wilt said. “I think that’s really important on a campus like this.”

Since last fall, Coordinator of LGBTQ Counseling Services Rallie Snowden has worked closely with Director of Student Activities Kelsey Goodwin and students on planning the annual event.

Rockbridge County High School students and community members were invited. Students from universities in surrounding cities, such as the University of Virginia and Southern Virginia University, were invited as well.

“This is very unlike Fancy Dress,” Snowden said. “It is not made just for the students. Lot’s of staff members and other students from surrounding Virginia universities [also came].”

M.K. Moran, ‘19, designed the t-shirt to fundraise. Earlier that night, students helped to decorate the ballroom, which was filled with silver and white balloons.

An information desk on Project Horizon was set up near the evemt registration, as agents from the organization joined the event for the first time.

“Project Horizon serves the victims of domestic violence or sexual assault,” Executive Director Judy Casteele said. “What we want folks to know is that [it applies to] anyone.”

Casteele said she wanted more people to know about the organization through this event and hopes people know that it is a “safe place” to come for help.

Snowden also talked about how people usually neglect abusive LGBT relationships.

“Sometimes, because people are more focused on heterosexual violence, from men towards women, they don’t know what an abusive relationship looks like between two women,” Snowden said.

The ballroom was filled with hundreds of people by the time the Drag Queen show started at 9 p.m. The crowd divided into two lines and formed a runway for the show. Two drag queens performed lip-singing and dancing numbers, often interacting with the audience and inviting them to dance.

Kylee Sapp, ‘18, compared the show to a Sunday Drag Brunch she attended in Roanoke last summer.

“Here, they dance with you,” Sapp said. “In Roanoke, they don’t.”

Chris McCrackin, ‘20, was there for a friend who participated in the Drag Queen competition.

“I was surprised of how much energy and how much they got the crowed involved,” McCrackin said.