Students may have done a double take as they walked past Mr. George’s Green on March 18, noticing a drag queen dancing and taking photos with students.
No, it was not their imagination. It was Momma-Ashley Rose, a local drag queen helping out at an Allies event on campus.
Allies is a gay-straight alliance on campus that aims to be a safe place for people of all orientations to come in search of support and camaraderie. The members describe the group as an organization to celebrate diversity.
It is not a new group on campus by any means, being made an official student organization in Fall 2010. However they are currently hoping to regain steam at Florida Southern College.
The event on the green was the first effort to get the organization’s name out.
Students and faculty alike came together on Mr. George’s Green for pizza, music, dancing and conversation to begin creating their bonds with the group.
Allies Co-president Clifford Ellis felt that the event was a huge success. He said that the expectations for the event were not extremely high due to it being the week after spring break, but the turnout of students and faculty certainly impressed him.
As for Momma, a self proclaimed “drag queen by day, pastor by night,” her purpose was to help grab attention, and that she did.
“People need to know that Allies is here, and I knew that putting a drag queen on campus would do that,” Ellis said.
Allies advisor Dr. Drew Dalton said that while the hope was to draw attention, it was not to cause controversy.
“Having symbolic things at an event to draw attention is a perfectly natural thing,” Dalton said. “It would be like having Mocsie at a basketball game.”
Momma’s involvement was also an outreach to get the community involved, which Dalton said has always been a goal for the group.
“We have partnered with a local Lakeland LGBTQ [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning] community that mostly functions with high school students,” Dalton said. “We used to actually have our meetings in conjunction with them. We have always wanted to have ties, not merely with the FSC LGBTQ community, but with the larger Polk County LGBTQ community.”
Having been a friend of Ellis’s for years, Momma-Ashley Rose was more than happy to support the event and the cause. She prides herself on doing community fundraisers with a similar goal to that of Allies’ to raise awareness and build bridges between the LGBT and straight communities.
“I’m excited that there will be more of a presence. It will help building some bridges and it’s exciting to see the straight and the gay community sort of come together. It’s a good thing,” Rose said.
Allies has already begun gaining support from faculty and students this year.
FSC student Richard Angle attended the event on George’s Green and quickly became a supporter.
“This is a conservative Christian school, so it might be a little harder for people to accept themselves and be out in front of people,” Angle said. “So this organization is a nice way to show that we care and we are concerned about the stuff that they’re concerned with.”
Also in attendance at the event was Dr. Marcie Pospichal, student support Title IX officer for Just Ask at FSC. Just Ask is a program that aims to do everything in its power to create a safe environment and ensure that no one’s educational experience is harmed by sexual discrimination or harassment.
Pospichal is a strong supporter of Allies, and as a member of Just Ask, it should come as no surprise.
“I think that one of the things that Allies and Just Ask have in common is that we want to obliterate any ignorance or wrong-mindedness about what it means to be uniquely a sexual or gender identified person,” Pospichal said. “Education and sensitivity goes a long way in reducing critical forms of sexual discrimination. The Allies will play a vital role and I’m excited that they’re getting revved up and gaining some new steam.”
Although Dalton will not be the advisor for Allies next semester, he hopes to see it grow and expand student awareness of the LGBTQ community while providing a safe place for students to express themselves.
Ellis said that the organization hopes to host more events, on a larger scale in the future, including a possible drag show on campus next semester.
Ellis said that having Rose on campus was sort of a way of testing to see how the student body would respond to her, and so far it has been positive and well-received.
In addition to the hopes of a drag show, Ellis is hoping to succeed in bringing HIV/AIDS testing back on campus, as well as holding events for Spirit Week and National Coming Out Day amongst a “multitude” of other things to educate the student body.
To get involved with Allies, students can attend meetings every Tuesday, from 5-6 p.m. in Edge Hall, room 301, time and location subject to change.