In the age of rainbow profile pics and Notes app apologies, it’s hard not to feel sobered by the banality of corporate activism and gay reparations. Alpha Omega Tampon, on the other hand, still manages to find the humor in all the decorum. Founded by some of UCLA’s own students back in 2021, Alpha Omega Tampon brands itself as a “satirical sorority for the girls, gays, and theys”.
Except, AOT isn’t exactly a sorority. They’re only a sorority by title; in reality, AOT operates as a social club under SOLE. This branding choice is, of course, all part of the joke, they tell me. The satire in their branding is grounded in the desire to connect a small coterie of, as they put it, the “chronically online”.
It’s why, if you’ve already heard of AOT before reading this article, you probably know them from their Tiktok account. For those unfamiliar, a quick look through their Tiktok reveals the quirky, gay-femcel-that-only-listens-to-Fiona-Apple type humor that they’ve made a name out of, ranging from jokes about the bizarre happenings of campus life to pure shitposting about Divergent lore, all of them just a bit fruity.
AOT’s Director of Events Joel Sitanggang (he/him) explains to me that these inside jokes function to unify a certain sector of a community that has historically been the butt of the joke. “The thing about jokes is that you have to be a part of the crowd, so it’s more of I guess people who use humor as a coping mechanism. We understand that life can be taken at face value most of the time. Some things should be serious, but not everything should be serious,” Joel tells me. Social media intern Layla Knowles (she/they) adds, “The humor of it is knowing that not everyone will understand the humor of it. I think that’s what we try to tap into, these inside jokes that we’ve created for ourselves that aren’t deliberately exclusive but that just kind of make us feel like we have more of a place for ourselves on campus.”
It was this desire for queer companionship that led to the conception of AOT in the first place for co-founder and executive director Riley Masterson (she/her/they). She tells me that, upon ironically rushing during the fall of 2021 with fellow co-founder and current Recruitment Director Marissa Li (she/her), her disillusionment with the dystopian and often performative progressivism of sororities served as the impetus for the founding of AOT. Secretary Kiara Costarelli (she/her) echoed a similar sentiment, explaining that sororities carry a level of privilege that not a lot of queer students can enjoy. “Specific fraternities on campus have reputations on campus for doing terrible things, especially to women, and then these sororities know this and still continue to do events with them,” she tells me.
With post-COVID isolation only adding fuel to the fire, it felt like a community for the “girls, gays, and theys” just didn’t exist. Riley explains, “UCLA is a huge school and a lot of times people can have really rough first quarters or first years and can’t find a community that they really can be a part of and spend time with.” Once having found a partner in Marissa and fellow co-founder Ria Bose (she/her), who is AOT’s current Director of Finance, AOT were finally able to hit the ground running.
Now in their second year, AOT has already expanded to different college campuses, from UC Berkeley to NYU. They credit this growth to the universal need for queer students to identify with informal social communities such as AOT. Joel tells me, “I think it harkens back to the lack of available social groups for us. We are all within the same level of community and so that’s what binds us together. That’s why we bring the social aspect and I feel like that’s what’s missing in a lot of areas.” Layla also highlights the role that social media has played in AOT’s growth. She explains, “In general, if you were rejected from a sorority or you just felt like there wasn’t a space for you, you kind of just either kept to your own devices or you went online. They go to the Internet a lot and I think AOT is a great place for that. They’re going to find this Instagram that caters to their sense of humor and that’s how they find their own circle.”
As AOT continues to expand across different campuses in the country, UCLA’s own chapter continues to maintain its run of social events. They tell me about a recent outing where they were divided into Harry Styles fans and haters. Besides Harry Styles-centric socials, they have also hosted tote bag painting sessions and Halloween parties for members. Throughout all of these events the focus has remained the same: to cultivate a microcosm of queer students looking for some light fun.
Of course, AOT believes there’s more work to be done. They confess a shared frustration with UCLA’s current support systems for queer students. In particular, they believe that UCLA’s LGBTQ Resource Center still has room for improvement. Layla explains, “It feels like UCLA is doing the bare minimum of what queer representation is. It’s just very sterile, very corporate.” While the LGBTQ Resource center does provide ample opportunities for queer students to thrive academically, it is harder to say whether they provide enough informal guidance as well. After all, the Resource Center is run by campus administration and not independent students. Kiara also notes how campus administration has failed to uphold inclusive practices in the past, especially in regards to Greek clubs. While UCLA doesn’t actively discriminate against the queer community, it can certainly seem like they prioritize a more privileged sector of the student body, leaving queer students flailing at the deep end.
AOT, however, thinks things don’t have to be so bleak. As Joel aptly puts it, “One of the major amazing aspects or facets of the queer community is our flamboyantness.” It’s easy to think that queer activism must always maintain some level of diplomacy given the grave circumstances the community has faced in the past, but that really isn’t the case. Putting the queer community in the spotlight can mean platforming voices that have historically been censored over the years, but it can also mean embracing the community for the outlandish, motley crew of oddballs that it is. And with all the quirkiness and eccentricity it’s got to offer, AOT seems to be doing just that.