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Queer Student Union’s annual Drag Bingo event returns virtually

The event, which is one of the main fundraising events for the club, had to be canceled last year after the University moved classes online

The Queer Student Union ran its annual Drag Bingo event virtually Friday evening. The event, which is one of the main fundraising events for the club, had to be canceled last year after the University moved classes online in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Drag Bingo is a QSU classic at U.Va., and it’s something we are so excited to do this year,” said Matt Lunsford, QSU vice president of community engagement and second-year Engineering student.

The Queer Student Union is a student-run organization of more than 44 years. According to its website, QSU offers students who are “transgender, genderqueer, lesbian, bisexual, gay, straight or queer in any other way” a safe and supportive community. As the group has evolved over the last several decades, members have also started to engage in activism on Grounds and provide education on LGBTQ+ issues to the University community.

The event featured two professional drag queens Chicki Parm and Sweet Pickles, neither of whom are University students. The drag queens hosted the bingo portion of the event, calling out numbers and making jokes with the audience. Between rounds of bingo, the drag queens shared videos of their performances over Zoom.

“This year was an amazing experience despite it being virtual, and I am so grateful for QSU for continuing the tradition and putting it on and the drag queens for hosting,” said fourth-year College student Ja’Mel Reed.

Clubs like the Queer Student Union have had to largely move online since last March, though the University’s loosened restrictions now allow for outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people — up from the University’s limit of six at the beginning of the semester.

More than 20 people attended the virtual event. Participants were able to watch the drag performances and play multiple rounds of bingo with the potential to win various $20 gift cards, including to restaurants like Grit Coffee and the Pie Chest, as well as Visa gift cards. Participants also had the chance to join a Zoom dance contest.

“For me, Drag Bingo is a great time each year to have fun with other queer people and allies at U.Va.,” Reed siad. “It’s been a tradition to go with my friends since first year and we’ve been able to attend the fun event throughout each of our four years.”

Attendees were encouraged to donate money to the QSU and the two performing drag queens. The money donated towards the club will go towards helping the club put on events for its members and the Charlottesville community in the future.

“Drag bingo is one of QSU's main fundraising events so being able to have it this year will give us funding to continue to host events next year,” said Mae Hovland, QSU vice president of education and third-year Architecture student.

Hovland said that it was exciting to be hosting the event again, even if it was over Zoom. 

“We have tried to keep holding events, although it is sometimes difficult to get many people to attend since Zoom meetings are obviously less exciting and many people are understandably experiencing Zoom fatigue,” Hovland said.

During the pandemic, the Queer Student Union launched a mentorship program where members are matched with a house parent who will serve as a mentor and friend. The program is intended to build connections between members of the Queer and Trans communities at the University.

The houses are made up of one or two “parents” and five to ten “children.” Each house has been engaging in virtual and in-person, COVID-safe activities. 

“As COVID restrictions are eased, we hope to see the House Program expand to include more group activities, including inter-house competitions," Hovland said.