Proud Larry’s is bringing LGBTQ nightlife to the Square on Thursday with Code Pink, a student-run LGBTQ dance night that gives queer people the chance to DJ, dance and drag.
“Code Pink: Thrift Store Scores” is sponsored by the LGBTQ organization OutOxford and the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies. Code Pink’s mission is to celebrate diversity and provide a safe space for members of the LGBTQ community and other attendees.
Jonathan Adams, an attendee of the Code Pink events, said he knows the significance of having an LGBTQ space on the Square. Just a block away, Adams recalls being called a homophobic slur by a car full of men.
“It’s really the only dance night on the Square for the (LGBTQ) community. Because it’s all we have, it feels like a family reunion,” Adams said.
The intimate feeling of a family reunion is part of what sets queer nightlife in Oxford apart. Blake Summers, a dancer heavily involved with Code Pink’s themes, decorations and tone, said the LGBTQ nightlife in Oxford is different from that in bigger cities.
“It creates a space where the LGBTQ community can feel comfortable,” Summers said. “It isn’t every day that some (people in Oxford) feel safe enough to dance with a person they actually want to dance with.”
At these events, different doesn’t mean less. In fact, it means more intimate and less sexualized.
“Our events help bring perspective,” Summers said. “It’s important for everyone to walk away with a good experience, gay or not. The introduction to gay culture must be positive, especially in Mississippi.”
Senior Hannah Smith first experienced this culture in a St. Louis neighborhood called the Grove, which is known for being LGBTQ-friendly. According to Pew Research, these neighborhoods are few and far between, with as few as 12 percent of LGBTQ Americans currently living in one.
“We have tailgating and SEC football. You don’t expect to walk into Funky’s and see drag queens,” Smith said.
Smith also said exposure to this nightlife has the possibility to change the perceptions of the queer community and its unique nightlife.
“There were gay people out in the crowd laughing it up, but there was also couples and groups of girls out dancing and having fun,” Smith said. “When you looked around, there wasn’t one person there who looked disgusted. It was like just going to see a show any other night.”
Aside from Code Pink being different from a typical night on the Square, it also adds an element of complexity to nightlife, as the themes and messages are purposeful and political. Summers said he often uses the nightlife as a device to introduce heavier topics “ninja-style.”
“I understand that a well-attended event is a platform,” Summers said “I’m presented with a microphone and stage; I have a responsibility, at that point, to use my voice.”
Proud Larry’s regularly hosts shows Thursday nights, but employee Austin Smith said the crowds at Code Pink events rival those of the regularly scheduled band shows. The Code Pink events have been so popular that the bar is planning to collaborate and plan more events geared toward this community.
“The Code Pink events we host have been growing exponentially. The first one we hosted probably had 30-50 people, but through their promotion, each one has brought in more and more people.”
This turnout helps promote both Code Pink’s purpose and the LGBTQ community in Oxford.
“I want men and women in their 80s to know that it is happening. I hope it brings hope to those who feel outcasted or afraid. I hope it makes people more proud or more brave,” Summers said.
Code Pink aims to create an intimate environment inside of a bar that’s not afraid to face large-scale issues facing the world, such as politics and materialism, with themes such as “Thrift Store Scores.”
“For one night, I want people to denounce the cost of what they wear. I want people to make fun of themselves,” Summers said. “I want people to feel like red carpet stars in their hand-me-down moo moos.”