Big Gay Weekend Prompts Awareness of LGBTQ Community on Campus

Jess Blank

Last weekend, Colgate held its fourth annual Big Gay Weekend, which comprised a series of events and workshops focused on awareness and discussion of issues involving the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) community on campus.

The opening event was a keynote speech by Perry Moore, a gay rights activist who was executive producer of the Chronicles of Narnia and author of the book Hero, about the first gay superhero. Students from several other colleges, including Syracuse University, Hamilton College and SUNY Morrisville, traveled to Colgate to hear Moore speak on Saturday evening. Many members of the Hamilton community came as well. However, there was a poor turnout from Colgate students.

“It was nice to have the variety of opinion, having so many students from different schools, but not a lot of Colgate students came. It’s unfortunate because that was the goal of the weekend, seeking improvement within the community,” sophomore Ben Pollok, president of Advocates, a student group focused on LGBTQ issues, said.

The weekend also consisted of seven workshops, each discussing specific issues on campus. One of the more popular workshops was called “Gender Identity,” during which a local transexual woman from Hamilton came to speak about personal issues that she encountered during her transition from the male to female sex. Another workshop, called “Gay is Not the New Black,” addressed the problem of treating issues of homosexuality similarly to those of race and the resulting detrimental effects.

Assistant Director for Student Life and Academic LGBTQ Initiatives Emily Blake attended this workshop and commented on the crowd.

“There was a decent turnout and a lot of students from SUNY Morrisville came, which was great to build up the networking with other schools and form better allies,” Blake said. “The speaker really loved talking with the Colgate students, though, and he said it was the best group of students that he has ever worked with, which was great!”

Another popular workshop, titled “Drag 101,” gave students tips about going in drag for the Drag Ball that night.

The ball was held at Donovan’s Pub, where students celebrated and dressed in the opposite gender’s clothing while lip syncing to popular songs. Drag performers were hired from Syracuse, but students also performed and competed for the best performance.

“I loved seeing the students and what they chose to wear when representing the opposite gender. There were a lot of great stage performances and it was fun to see what creative things people came up with. It was also great to see students having a good time and connecting with each other,” Blake said.

First-year Catherine Polk had a similar reaction to the evening’s events.

“Somehow, I ended up performing, and singing “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-a-Laot,” Polk said. “I’m not much of a dancer. Actually, I don’t dance at all, so that was completely different for me. I pulled random people from the crowd to dance with me. It was a lot of fun. I can’t wait ’til next year!”

Winners of the drag competition were sophomores Benae Beamon and Ana Almeyda-Cohen, who performed “I Can’t Believe It” by T-Pain and Lil’ Wayne.

“I didn’t think so many people would be performing at the drag ball,” Beamon said.

Sophomore Eugene Riordan agreed that it was a great time.

“It was a weekend where you could celebrate the joys of being queer, no matter what you were,” Riordan said. “It was a way for everyone to be out and about campus in a group of their friends not worrying about what anyone thought. I thought this weekend went really well, and it made me really happy to be able to help set up and plan some of it.”

Riordan also noted that he learned a lot from the experience.

“I’ve gotten so many comments on how great my legs looked in heels, though I don’t think my feet will ever let me dress in drag again. There was a lot to do and learn, but I think what was most important is that it brought the entire queer community and their supporters together,” Riordan said.