More than 30 years ago, students first started the Gender-Sexuality Alliance (GSA) to acknowledge gay students and faculty as equal members of the Andover community. Although the group was initially titled Gay-Straight Alliance, the name evolved over time to include the wide range of gender identities and expression embodied by Andover community members.
GSA’s role on campus is to help create a community that supports students in their gender and sexuality identity development and at times call out oppressive practices or thinking, according to Corrie Martin, Instructor in English. On Friday, October 29, GSA presented Andover’s first-ever GSA ball.
From 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., many attendees danced and listened to music, some wearing suits, dresses, or halloween costumes. The Mural Room was decorated with banners and streamers, providing a colorful backdrop to the film photographs that were taken. A few members of Blue Strut, Andover’s audition-based jazz dance group, participated in the event and presented a short performance of “Womanizer”. Karsten Rynearson ’22, a co-head of GSA, elaborated on what inspired the first GSA ball on campus.
“I am really happy how this turned out. After the student-faculty mixer at [the Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archeology] in the fall, we really enjoyed seeing the outfits that people put together for that so we thought, ‘Oh, we should throw a formal event,’ and the idea was born. I am so glad that it came together this way, seeing the community gather. These moments of joy, especially going into a difficult week of the term feels really nice. I am really happy to do this and see everyone here. It feels really good to know that all the organization has paid off,” said Rynearson.
Highlighting queer identity, history, and culture, GSA Weekend hosted many other celebratory events in addition to Friday’s ball. On Friday, there was an Addison Gallery of American Art tour which looked at works by Lew Thomas, Donna-Lee Phillips, and Hal Fischer. GSA also hosted an art and writing workshop on Saturday, with a Brace Fellow presentation concluding GSA weekend on Monday.
Many student attendees felt the ball was a success. Ella Kowal ’25, who decided to attend the event after receiving an email from GSA, believed the event to be supportive of everyone’s identity and promote individuality.
“I thought it was great. Everyone seemed really free to express their most authentic selves. Plus, the music was good too… I would definitely participate in this type of event again, especially because you get to dress up in a way that makes you feel great,” said Kowal.
Although no specific dress code was required, the PAnet news notice mentioned the dresscode to be “snazzy” and open to interpretation. Attendee Serafina Shin-von Nordenflycht ’25 enjoyed seeing other attendees’ outfits and appreciated the dress code’s open-endedness.
“I liked it. I think it is really amazing how they could do this, even at [Paresky Commons]. For GSA weekend, there are rainbow cupcakes and [Samuel Phillips Hall] is dressed up and it is all super amazing. So, I am loving it… [The Mural Room] is not super hype which I kind of like. The last few dances I’ve been to have had many mosh pits, but this seems more chill. It has some awesome music, so I’m happy… Everyone looks amazing here,” said Shin-von Nordenflycht.
Corrie Martin, a coordinator of the CAMD Scholars Programs, helped organize Friday’s ball. Martin expressed hope for the LGBTQ+ community despite historic discrimination, highlighting the group’s resilience and resistance.
“The wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, hateful rhetoric, and increase of physical and even deadly violence against our community happening nationally cannot repress our dignity and humanity. Throughout history, our community has survived and thrived, we speak out, fight, and yes, we continue to have parties,” wrote Martin in an email to The Phillipian.
Martin continued, “Andover’s GSA is one of the most active groups on campus and we invite everyone to join us! GSA Weekend is more like a kickoff of a year of celebratory events. Stay tuned for films, workshops, talks, dances, conferences, dances, and more!”