A Gay Old Time

Elisa Benson

I love that the LGBTQ groups are taking over campus this weekend and I hope that for all of our sake – as sexual minorities, impressionable students, educators, or stakeholders of a progressive institution – that the influence is not temporary.

Like every small, private (expensive) college, Colgate has responded to a homogenous population by incorporating discussions of diversity into first-year orientation, gym course credits and, increasingly, the classroom. I applaud our school’s efforts and more specifically those made by the handful of individuals, both students and staff, who have tirelessly committed to leading this charge. I believe that on the quest for “the right direction,” steps are almost always made before leaps.

But there’s a danger in approaching Diversity with a capital D in that it starts to feel less like a real problem and more like an abstract theoretical concern, kinda like when you repeat the same common word so many times that it stops sounding recognizable. Diversity overkill can be counterproductive: it can increase sensitivity to the point where people hesitate to confront issues at all, for fear of using the wrong terminology or saying the wrong thing.

And that’s why I love that Big Gay Weekend sounds a lot like a big gay party.The linguistic similarities between the title and Colgate’s infamous Spring Party immediately associate the former with a free-spirited, let loose vibe. I can’t wait to see a gayed-out ‘gate because the event organizers have made the entire thing sound fun. B.D. Wong, drag queens, and a barbeque on the quad – that’s more gay exuberance than an episode of Project Runway.

Of course, this is not simply some kind of recess-gone-gay. Saturday is packed with provocative roundtables, which you can catch right before the drag ball. More importantly, the weekend aims to “Make Colgate an amazing place to be LGBTQ for at least one weekend.” It aims to pick up where the diversity boot camp of other initiatives left off.

The timing, then, is fortunate. Big Gay Weekend occurs not long after the Colgate 13 admitted that short-sighted and homophobic language cost them a member. Since October they’ve worked to educate themselves and promote tolerance within their organization, but unfortunately not every group or individual or structure on campus can claim the same mature – and self-incriminating – response. As event organizer Richard LeBeau ’06 explained to me in an email, acts of homophobia and heterosexism are both isolated and institutionalized on campus. He said last year’s campus-wide Sexual Climate Survey found that seven percent of Colgate students do not openly identify as LGBTQ; that translates to almost 200 hundred students.

But we have progressed. I doubt something like this would have happened when I was a first-year. Colgate’s LGBTQ population has nearly quintupled since 2003, increasing from ten students to fifty. With big numbers come more visibility, and not just because there’s more people to chalk the quad. By embracing LGBTQ culture in a format that won’t require a ten page paper, we can work toward eliminating Big Gay Weekend altogether – ’cause on an ideal campus, every weekend would be a gay old time.