Though Andrew Extein PZ ’07 left Claremont five years ago, he was back once again last weekend to DJ the Queer Resource Center’s (QRC) annual Middle School Dance, held in Edmunds Ballroom on Sept. 29. For Extein, this wasn’t just 5C party business as usual—this was the dance he himself had created as a student. During his return to campus, Extein sat down with TSL to discuss his inspiration for starting the Middle School Dance and his thoughts about how the dance and the LGBTQ atmosphere at Pomona College have evolved since then.
TSL: Why did you originally decide to create the Middle School Dance?
Andrew Extein: I think I threw a kind of unofficial Middle School Dance when my little brother came and visited, since he was in middle school. And I think the people at Pomona sort of shared this love for a certain era, a certain nostalgia, and I thought that would be a fun thing to do.
TSL: What were your impressions of Saturday’s dance?
AE: Ultimately I decided that if I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it my way. In a way, I guess it’s more like a Smiley 90s situation. I tried to play songs that [the students] would know, and then some songs that they would be a little less familiar with that show where I came from.
So I was really surprised at what songs they were responding to. The first big song that people were really jamming to was “Boom Boom Boom Boom” by the Vengaboys. That was sort of like a throwaway song to me, and they were literally jumping up and down, and I was like, “How the fuck do they know this song?” The party ended with Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road,” which is a pretty bold song, even for me. The stragglers at the end were writhing on the floor.
We got a lot of requests, and that was kind of funny, to hear what people wanted. The first request was for “Apple Bottom Jeans.” At the very end, this kid comes up to me and asks, “Can you play ‘I Believe I Can Fly’ by R. Kelly?” We were like, “That’s the only good request we’ve gotten all night!”
I think people ended up having a good time. It’s a party in the style of middle school, not your middle school.
TSL: Can you talk about your experience with the QRC?
AE: It definitely played a big role during my freshman and senior years. My freshman year, I applied to work there, and I didn’t get in. Originally, I was really upset. But then someone dropped out, and I got in. It was upstairs above Walker Lounge, this tiny little room that was referred to as “the closet.” Then by the time I was a senior, they had this huge space at Pomona, and it’s just amazing, what that meant—how much has changed for queer youth in the last decade.
It’s interesting to see what has changed about the culture at Pomona. I was noticing that at the dance there were a lot more queer couple-y things going on, which happened a bit while I was there, but it seems like there are more out people at the Claremont Colleges now.
TSL: Since you graduated, what have you been doing?
AE: Well, I studied art in college, so I didn’t really know what to do. Then I ended up interning at the ACLU and that made me realize that I wanted to get my master’s in social work. So I did that, and in my first year I was doing psychotherapy with people with HIV/AIDS … The next year I worked with HIV-positive young black men, and did therapy with transgender adolescents. So I definitely have been involved in the queer community. Right now, I’ve started a private practice, working under a therapist who is also an expert on kink communities, which is kind of interesting. I’m definitely always going to be doing something involving sexuality.
TSL: If you could give one message to the students of Pomona, what would it be?
AE: Pomona already teaches you to ask lots of questions, not take no for an answer, to really bring up crazy and weird things. I think that Pomona is one of the safest places to do stuff like that. People should ask questions, speak up and learn from each other.
TSL: Wrap up the Middle School Dance in three words.
AE: Gay. Poppin’. And … awkward.
TSL: How can it be poppin’ and awkward at the same time?
AE: You guys just need to pop with your awkwardness.