Between a 1,723-person student body and a smattering of campus wide parties held every weekend, the Bowdoin social scene has its limits for many. Last Saturday, however, these limits were pushed by a queer-friendly party. Held at a College House on campus, the party aimed to welcome LGBTIQ students from across Maine colleges into an alternative environment.
"At any NESCAC school, this is going to be the issue," said one female, who was granted anonymity to protect her identity.
In a search for a more all-encompassing social scene, a group of LGBTIQ students have made efforts to expand and redefine what is largely heteronormative party culture existing not only at Bowdoin, but also at Bates and Colby.
Though there exists a variety of formal campus organizations focused on queer issues, support and community, LGBTIQ students at Bowdoin lament the lack of more informal social opportunities on campus.
"Despite formal groups, there are not many outlets for non-straight students to express, or experiment with, their sexuality," said Branden Asemah '12. "The Bowdoin social scene doesn't really allow for that to happen as much as we would like to think it does."
"You just can't argue with how supportive the administration and the campus community is of LGBTIQ students, but the overwhelming support does not make up for the student experience of that community," he added.
Seeking to promote an arena for what the female student identified as "a celebration of sexual diversity," a small group of students has started to organize a regular series of informal parties for the queer communities of Bowdoin, Colby and Bates.
"It's nice to have a queer event that isn't just a sterile meeting," she said.
The first multi-school party, the brainchild of Asemah, was held this past October. Though non-heteronormative parties are not new to the Bowdoin social scene, most have been small gatherings, and this was one of the first opportunities for students from other schools to get involved.
Asemah contacted queer resource centers at Bates, Colby and the University of Maine at Orono, where he was able to connect with students and propose his idea.
The result was a success, encompassing what Asemah estimated to be "about 100 to 150 students" congregating in the College House.
"It was a really unique group of people, bringing together students from all the classes, all walks of the campus, as well as other schools," said the female.
Creating a specifically non-heteronormative space was a priority to Asemah.
"It was like a social house party with more space to truly express who you are," he said. "We wanted to have a space for non-straight students to do what straight students at Bowdoin do at parties, to allow people to go out and have a good time without having to face serious or heavy issues."
Asemah has continued to work with peer institutions to organize more parties.
"We had one last weekend, and hopefully there will be another at Colby or Bates soon. The movement has definitely grown since the fall, and more schools are looking to host parties," he said.
According to the female student, the parties offer a vehicle to "widen the social scene in general, push out connections."
Both she and Asemah expressed the hope that having sexually diverse parties could eventually spill into the mainstream social scene on the Bowdoin campus, in turn allowing people to become more comfortable expressing their sexuality outside of LGBTIQ-oriented parties.
"While it is very important to have that specifically non-heteronormative space, it would be awesome if mainstream parties became less heternormative," she said.
"By my senior year, I hope to walk into a social house party and not feel like there is not an opportunity for me to have a good time because I am not straight," said Asemah. "It would be great if you could go to a party, see two guys making out, and not look twice."
"It's so easy to complain about the social scene here," he said. "But it's another thing to work to change it."