Red Ribbon Ball brings LGBTQ community together for dancing, fundraising

(Photo by Hannah Hunsinger | Collegian Media Group)

People of all ages came together at Bockers II Catering & Events for the Red Ribbon Ball and Revue for fellowship, dancing and a drag show on Friday.

A red ribbon symbolizes the fight against HIV and AIDS. The month of December is also World AIDS Month.

The event, which used to be split into the ball and the drag show, served as both a fundraiser for Positive Connections, which is an organization based out of Topeka that provides HIV and AIDS testing in Manhattan, and a venue where people in the LGBTQ community could come together in a space that is comfortable and fun.

“It’s just a time for people to hang out, have a good time,” said Rachel Hunt, junior in biology and the president of the Sexuality and Gender Alliance. “It’s kind of like an adult prom I guess you would say.”

The event was open for everyone but focused on the LGBTQ community.

“We focus on the LGBT community because [AIDS and HIV] has affected the LGBT community disproportionately and so it’s just kind of a community-building event, but it’s also for everybody,” Hunt said.

Eighteen-year-old LGBTQ high school students could also attend the Red Ribbon Ball who may not have felt comfortable at their own high school’s prom.

“We did invite the Gay-Straight Alliances from Manhattan, Junction City and Wamego as a place, especially for LGBT youth, to dress the way they want in a prom-like experience and be with the partner of their choice and not get flak from other students,” said Kevin Stilley, volunteer community advisor for SAGA and the LGBT Resource Center at K-State and the secretary-treasurer for the Junction City Teddy Bears.

“Most proms in this area are now allowing that,” Stilley said. “Just because it’s allowed, doesn’t mean they’re comfortable doing it.”

The night also featured a drag show, which included drag queens and drag kings who volunteered their time to take donations from the crowd during their performances. All of the donations and proceeds from admission went to Positive Connections.

The host of the drag portion of the evening, Ty Woo, whose non-stage name is Tyler Woods, believes drag plays a vital role in the LGBTQ community.

“Drag queens have always been a huge component of fundraising for the LGBT community from the very beginning,” Woods said. “Drag queens started the gay rights movement.

“The best fundraisers we can have and the most vocal and visual presence we can have is through drag because we’re so out there and we stick out in a crowd,” Woods continued. “A lot of the students really get behind our personas and have a lot of fun with that. We like to make a lot of noise.”

While Woods played a large role in the fundraising aspect of the event, Woods also believes the ball and revue serve as an opportunity to reach out to LGBTQ youth.

“It’s a great opportunity to meet the LGBT youth because they do allow 18 [years old] and up high schoolers to come to this,” Woods said. “But it’s also a great opportunity to see my friends, my colleagues, that also do drag to be a part of this.”

The evening was one meant for fellowship and fun. From drag shows to tables filled with both food and LGBTQ-inspired accessories, the venue was indeed a set up for a ball. But for some, there was also a serious aspect to the evening, one steeped in remembrance and appreciation.

“A lot of people didn’t care back in the ‘80s,” said Sam Fox, graduate student in biology and president of Out in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

“They kind of erased what was going on,: Fox said. “They called it [AIDS] the ‘gay disease,’ ‘gay cancer.’ And it wasn’t. It was just something that science hadn’t figured out yet. But it was killing everyone and, you know, a lot of politics kind of turned their back, so this means a lot because these people fought for what we have now.”

The Red Ribbon Ball and Revue was cosponsored by the K-State Sexuality and Gender Alliance, LGBT Resource Center, K-State LGBTQ* Faculty and Staff Association, Junction City Teddy Bears, Flint Hills Human Rights Project and Bockers II Catering. The event space was donated by Bockers II Catering.