During a UT Queer Chorus rehearsal, rhetoric and writing sophomore Cole Ourso wears a yellow skirt and laughs at a recalled memory. Ourso wore the same yellow skirt almost two years ago to an event where music business senior Joey Ovalle was playing with his band. Now, Ovalle and Ourso are engaged and working alongside each other for this year’s spring choral concert.
The choral group is made up of around 11 regular members who identify as a number of genders. Ovalle, the group’s director, organizes Bohemian Rhapsody sheet music while the altos and sopranos fawn over the ring. This is one of the last rehearsals leading up to the group’s spring concert on Friday evening. With two practices a week, the members get together and sing personal arrangements of classics by artists such as Katy Perry and Queen.
Ourso, who was new to UT and excited to meet people within the queer community, decided to check out BloQ Party. The event, which takes place every fall, hosts an array of queer organizations on campus and is put on by Queer People of Color & Allies. At the same event, Ovalle was on stage performing with his band, The Manifest Electric. Ourso noticed his musical talent but couldn’t work up the courage to approach him. A week later, Oursosaid fate intervened after seeing Ovalle again at a queer meet-up group called Hangout.
“I remember seeing this tiny blonde person inching toward me,” Ovalle said. “There was just something there — I don’t know what it was. I just needed to get to know this person. Somehow I was suave enough to get Cole’s number.”
The couple has been able to grow together through their work with UT Queer Chorus. Ourso stresses that gender isn’t something as easily defined as society perceives it to be.
“Coming to UT, I realized that genders outside of the binary were a thing,” Ourso said. “There’s a whole spectrum. It’s not just the line. It’s a triangle or a sphere.”
Both Ovalle and Ourso want to become teachers. Ovalle will be pursuing a master’s in musicology in the fall and Ourso, who still has a year and a half left before graduation, wants to get a doctorate in education or rhetoric.
Ourso thinks it is important to incorporate discussion of social justice into everyday conversation. During the performance Friday, members of the ensemble will speak in between songs about topics ranging from asexuality to pronoun use.
“We’re both really into and focus on issues of marginalization and oppression,” Ourso said. “We try to talk about these things in Queer Chorus. For people that don’t know much, we just like bringing them up so they know these issues exist.”
Tori Randall, a sophomore transfer student, was looking for a performance outlet within the queer community when she found out about UT Queer Chorus.
“For me, it was about finding a way to be involved within the queer community that was comfortable while raising awareness,” Randall said. “There are other facets to the queer community other than the lobbying, activism side of things. With the discussion of queer musicians in the media right now, it’s even more important that we show we do a variety of different things within the queer community.”
Randall said she was excited for her move from Arlington to Austin because it meant more diversity. Despite the more welcoming atmosphere, she still needed a place that felt inclusive and with Ourso, Ovalle and the chorus, she found that.
“[Ourso] and [Ovalle] were some of the very first people I met at UT,” Randall said. “They’ve both been amazingly welcoming and kind. With them, I found a group of people who are all really knowledgeable about social issues and gender stuff. It’s really nice to have that safe space where everyone understands what you’re saying and what you are going through. They are really great. When they’re together you just know they belong together.”