Homo Hop returns after five-year hiatus

U of W Rainbow Lounge’s fundraiser dance last held before COVID-19

The University of Winnipeg Students’ Association’s (UWSA) 2SLGBTQIA+ themed dance, the Homo Hop, returned for Valentine’s Day after a five year hiatus initially triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The dance, titled “Star-Crossed Queers: The Return of the Homo Hop,” was organized by UWSA’s Rainbow Lounge, and took place on Saturday, Feb. 10 at the Winnipeg Art Gallery-Qaumajuq (WAG-Qaumajuq). It featured DJ Corvo, a cash bar and snacks from Wow Catering. Students and non-students over 18 years old were welcome.

James Webster, co-ordinator of the Rainbow Lounge, said the Homo Hop gives 2SLGBTQIA+ people a chance to “maybe have that prom experience that they didn’t have in high school.”

Webster said at many proms, 2SLGBTQIA+ people are “expected to wear dress that [they’re] not super comfortable with,” such as a dress when they would rather wear a suit, or vice versa.

Webster said for a lot of young 2SLGBTQIA+ people, Valentine’s Day can “feel kind of lonely.”

“All the ads you see, all the things you see about Valentine’s Day, they focus on heteronormative relationships and so it can be kind of hard to relate to that as a queer person,” he said.

“We wanted to make Homo Hop this really inclusive place where you don’t have to have a partner on Valentine’s Day and you don’t have to be this heteronormative ideal of a relationship.”

The last Homo Hop took place in 2019, the twenty-sixth year the event had occurred, but a combination of COVID-19 and Rainbow Lounge’s co-ordinator position being vacant in early 2023 had until now prevented it from hosting the event again.

Clark Gonzales, a U of W mathematics student, attended  the Homo Hop this year. He said although he had not attended the dance prior to the pandemic, he had seen photos and heard older students talk about their memories of the dance.

Given this long history, Gonzales said it is “very important that we continue this event to make sure that every single new student coming in is once again welcomed into the student body and feels safe.”

This year, attendees were encouraged to wear formal attire as part of the prom theme.

The Homo Hop has been held at a range of locations from U of W to Club 200, but Webster said Rainbow Lounge chose the WAG-Qaumajuq to avoid a club atmosphere and because they wanted “somewhere a little bit fancier.”

“I went to my prom and it was held at the RBC Convention Center and that just made it feel really official and really classy and it made it feel really special and I kind of wanted to replicate that feeling,” he said.

Gonzales said some students may “have grown up in very different” circumstances than others and it was good for them to get a chance to experience a prom atmosphere they may have missed out on in high school.

Proceeds from the dance will go to support the Rainbow Lounge and will be used for future events and supplies, such as snacks and safer sex materials.

“I like that the proceeds are going to the Rainbow Lounge because I have been to the Rainbow Lounge a lot and I see exactly what the resources are going towards,” Gonzales said.