Question: Define Queer and Questioning. A) Two words that sum up your high school experience, B) What you wish every attractive individual was, or C) A fun and educational trivia night each Thursday night at the Lookout hosted By Corinne Denopolis.
While A and B may apply to you, the correct answer is C. Wrapping up Mar 29t, the AIDS Committee of Ottawa’s Queer and Questioning Trivia Night combines sexual health education, gay trivia and pop culture into a playful interactive feast for hungry minds.
“It’s basically a full gambit of questions that gay people would definitely respond to,” says Adam Graham, ACO’s Gay Men’s Prevention Coordinator. “There are several goals. One is to educate; the other is to have a lot of fun in recognition that queer people are very dynamic, and we have a very dynamic history. It’s also about sexual heath, it’s about people learning about their risk and being comfortable with their own risks that they take and what sort of situations they get into sexually.”
The innovative concept was demonstrated to the gay men’s health conference in Toronto in January.
Here’s how it works: Questions are broken down into categories such as picture, multiple choice, music, short answer and video. It’s all presented on a projection-style screen, with transitioning hostess Denopolis on the mic, ensuring the focus is on the audience and education.
“When you put fun, facts and me together,” says Denopolis, “it ends up being a fun and entertaining show.
Having Denopolis host, rather than a drag queen, has helped keep the focus on the audience’s experience and awareness. “Anyone could do a drag show, but what makes this special is that the focus is on the audience, their reactions to the questions that they are being asked,” says Denopolis. “We’re asking them to take in a lot so we try to do it in a humorous fashion.”
While there’s not much humour to be found in the category Sexually Transmitted Infections, the crowd tests positive for ultimate enjoyment each week.
“It’s fun and informative,” says Lisa Thomas, 24. “I remember when Icon used to have drag shows there would be so many people coming out. Ottawa doesn’t really have that anymore, so this is the next best thing.”
Thomas and her girlfriend Shelley Babij, 22, ended up taking home the grand prize Feb 22. Prizes include cash, Lookout bar tabs and donated gift certificates from local queer businesses like Venus Envy. Participants are also encouraged to make charitable donations towards the ACO, something Swizzles employee Michael Burtch says is a great benefit for our community (Swizzles initially hosted the event until their recent fire).
“I like the fact that you can make charitable donations, but I think the biggest disservice is that, since it’s called Queer & Questioning, that people have the perception that it’s a very gay oriented quiz show or event. But I think it’s much more universal than that.”
Burtch was proved right as the audience frequently enjoys the participation of straight women and even straight men. Of course, there’s lots of queer content, too, including Canadian gay history and local queer history.
Nicholas Little, the men’s outreach coordinator at ACO, encourages people to come to the bar earlier than usual and take in the quiz. He’s impressed with how the quiz can transmit important information painlessly while people are enjoying themselves.
“A room full of people, at a bar, with a drink in their hands — and they’re talking about Chlamydia, so I would say that there is education going on but at the same time people are having a good time.
“You don’t have to get up from your chair; we’re not demanding anything from you and the prizes are pretty good. You can learn a little bit, have some fun with your friends and maybe walk out with some prizes.”