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Mace and Crown | May 20, 2018

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Belles and Beaus of the Ball

ODU Out Celebrates Gender Diversity with the Gender Bender Ball

ODU Out hosted Old Dominion’s first Gender Bender Ball on Feb. 9. Held within the Student Recreation Center from 8 p.m. to 12 a.m., students were encouraged to dress in drag, gender-bending attire or other clothing that expressed who they are. The Gender Bender Ball was an event meant to encourage, embrace and inspire diversity of all kinds while also challenging students’ perception of gender.

Gender Bender Ball event coordinator Shannon Sauerwald was extremely excited about the event. As she explained the events leading up to Saturday, Sauerwald shared why the ball seemed like the perfect event to host. “I was first trying to find something that had never been done on this campus that would not only be fun, but inspire awareness about diversity.  What better way to do just that but encourage others to experience the other side–or at least to think about it,” she said.

Sauerwald also had hopes that this event would show the ODU students that diversity is within all sectors of life, including ones that are often overlooked, like gender.

She said, “The hope is for students to step outside of their comfort zone and try to bend their gender while creating a safe space for people to be comfortable with who they are. I hope students come away with a sense that we should embrace diversity not run from it–after all it is what makes us all unique.”

Although multiple campus events were scheduled for Saturday evening, many students attended the ball, each dressed in clothing that was unique to each individual. ODU Out managed to transform the indoor soccer field into a decorated banquet hall complete with a make-up booth, food, music, live performances and contests.

ODU junior Lauren Sharpe enjoyed the event, expressing hope for more events similar to the ball. “I think it’s just important to be able to express yourself, whether you’re female or male, express yourself however you want. I’m supporting that,” she said.

ODU Out is a student alliance founded in 1989 that offers a variety of programs in hopes that they can encourage cultural awareness and diversity on campus. Since then, ODU Out has been working to establish a community of individuals concerned with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues. ODU Out strives to educate the university community of those issues while also protecting and advancing gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights on campus. ODU Out also offers a variety of programs in hopes of encouraging cultural awareness and diversity within ODU’s campus life.

The Gender Bender Ball was an event that celebrated all ODU students. The ball’s purpose was to present gender in a different light thus providing awareness of gender issues, and for Sauerwald, this is what was most important.

“Students need [to know] that it is ok to embrace who they are and should never feel ashamed about it, but rather celebrate it,” she said.

For more upcoming events sponsored by ODU Out, visit