When you think of Allies, you may only picture fun, lighthearted events such as glitzy drag shows featuring sassy drag queens in super high heels. But while Allies most definitely does have that fun, silly side to it that allows people who may be struggling with their gender identity to let loose, there is also another, more serious side that focuses on the spread of certain diseases throughout the LGBTQ community.
Allies is a club on campus that aims to promote gay-straight alliances as well as create a safe, welcoming environment for students of all orientations to come together to celebrate diversity.
They recently finished up hosting free, confidential HIV and syphilis testing for the FSC community, which was provided by the Florida Health Department.
Allies has been providing this testing for several years now.
“This testing is very important because it allows students to take charge of their own health,” said senior Marisa Halper, president of Allies. “College aged students take these matters far too lightly and act as if this disease couldn’t possibly reach them.”
This testing is important to Allies specifically because HIV has significant prevalence rates in the LGBTQ community.
“Allies wants all people to feel safe to explore their sexuality if that’s what they choose to do and in order to do that, everyone needs to be aware of the risks,” Halper said.
This year, over 60 students and faculty members took advantage of this free testing. While they have had high numbers in the past, last year less than ten people got tested.
“I think part of the reason for the increase in participation is because the Allies leadership team stressed the importance of getting tested and made students more aware of the prevalence of the infection in Florida,” Halper said. “Once students realized that HIV is right in their backyard, it encouraged them to get tested.”
But while testing and raising awareness about diseases such as HIV is a big part of what Allies aims to do, they also like to have a little fun as well.
They are currently preparing for one of their biggest events of the year: The annual drag show and gender bender ball.
The drag show is a fundraiser for their philanthropy, the Zebra Coalition. Students pay an entrance fee to participate as either a drag king or queen, and the winner receives 25 percent of the profits to be donated to the charity of their choice.
“It truly is an all-around philanthropic event because three different philanthropies may benefit from it,” Halper said. “The gender bender ball ties in very well with the drag show because they both poke fun at the gender expectations that society creates. One of Allies main purposes is to create awareness about the LGBTQ community and this event will really make people more aware and allow more acceptance of people who choose not to conform to “traditional” gender roles.”
This event will take place Nov. 12 from 7-10 p.m. in Thrift. Given its past popularity among students, Allies is anticipating over 500 students to attend.
So if you want to participate, don your flashiest outfit, strike your fiercest pose and channel your inner diva! Or, of course, you may take the opposite route and dress up as a total bro. Winners must really wow the judges with their personality, talent, costume and humor. Remember, this event is all about making fun of the gender norms created by society. So don’t hold back!