Big Gay Weekend

Today is the first day of an event that will likely become an annual tradition here at Colgate. Colgate University’s first annual Big Gay Weekend will be held this weekend, with visitors from over a dozen colleges coming to campus for a variety of events, including free showings of Brokeback Mountain, nine informative workshops and a keynote address by Tony-winning actor B.D. Wong.

The idea for Big Gay Weekend was conceived by senior Will Birnie. Last spring, Birnie came out while studying abroad in London. Upon returning to Colgate in the fall of 2005, he felt that Colgate’s small openly gay community made it difficult to readjust to campus life. “When I began to feel very frustrated by the lack of a large gay community at the school, I came up with the idea of importing gay students from other schools for one weekend,” Birnie said.

Almost immediately after getting the idea for a large-scale consortium, Birnie received an email about ALANA’s Wish Program. He wrote to the program with his ideas for Big Gay Weekend, and though this particular idea was too large scale for ALANA’s program, his email was forwarded to Monica Nixon, Director of the ALANA Cultural Center. Nixon felt the idea had potential, and said that Colgate would support it if Birnie would help organize the program.

In addition to Colgate’s organized LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning) groups, which include Advocates, the Rainbow Alliance and the LGBTQ Initiative, “everyone on campus has been really supportive…from President Chopp to the BAC to the Dean of First Year Students,” Birnie said.

The majority of the organizational tasks have been in the hands of Birnie, junior LGBTQ interns Connolly Butterfield and Ian Maron-Kolitch as well as senior Tara McDevitt, junior Sarah Poulette, sophomores Amanda Harper, Steve Hayden and Joe Madres, and Assistant Director of CLSI James DeVita.

In addition to providing a weekend’s worth of events, there is a larger mission of Big Gay Weekend. Since 2003, the number of students at Colgate who identify as LGBTQ has nearly quintupled and now comprise approximately seven percent of the student body. However, despite this relatively high percentage, only about 50 students are open about their LGBTQ identity. “This, along with both isolated and institutionalized acts of homophobia and heterosexism and the geographic location of our school make the four years at Colgate very difficult for most LGBTQ students,” senior Richard LeBeau said. “The goal of this weekend is to raise awareness about the LGBTQ community on campus, making it a safer, more positive, more fun and more open environment.”

As stated in the Big Gay Weekend Mission Statement, the purpose of the event is to “connect Colgate’s LGBTQ and LGBTQ-supportive students to those at other schools in upstate New York to allow for more collaboration, create more social options for upstate New York LGBTQ students, [and] make Colgate an amazing place to be LGBTQ for at least one weekend by creating an event so big that people all over the university will get involved.”

As for the events, it all begins this evening at Creative Arts House with a one-man show by Peterson Tescano. Tescano’s performance, entitled “Homo No-Mo Halfway House,” will chronicle his experience at the Homo No-Mo Halfway House, a Christian residential program that attempts to “save men from the ‘evil snares of homosexuality’ through bizarre rules, a masculine resuscitation regime and brain numbing reconditioning.” Harper, a Big Gay Weekend committee chair, commented that “although it has a serious topic, it is supposed to be very funny and entertaining.”

Following Tescano’s performance will be a free showing in Love Auditorium of Brokeback Mountain, as well as an LGBTQ open mic night at the Barge Canal Coffee Co. Also tonight will be the opening reception and Maroon Party, a circuit party held at the Green Room at the Colgate Inn.

The majority of Big Gay Weekend events will be held tomorrow, beginning with a series of workshops. There are three tracks of workshops being offered, each with three workshops that attendees can choose from. Workshop Track One includes “Networking Through Upstate” in Lawrence Hall’s Ho Lecture Room. This workshop will allow current and future leaders of LGBTQ groups to unite in a strong network and share ideas. Also during Workshop Track One is “Safe Zone: Train the Trainers Part 1,” which will provide resources to LGBTQ leaders to aid them in future Safe Zone training sessions on their college campuses. Finally, “Career Services” will be offered in Lathrop Hall. This workshop will provide advice to LGBTQ students in the job search process. It will answer questions such as “When should you be loud and proud, and when should you not?” and “How do you incorporate work you have done on behalf of LGBTQ issues onto your resume?”

Workshop Track Two begins at 1 p.m. and includes the workshop “What Works, What Doesn’t” in the Ho Lecture Room. This workshop will be a discussion between LGBTQ leaders from different campuses sharing thoughts on what has worked on their campuses and what has not. There will also be a continuation of the first Safe Zone training program in a workshop entitled “Safe Zone: Train the Trainers, Part Two” at the ALANA Cultural Center. Track Two also includes the workshop “A Talk with the Chairman of the Log Cabin Republicans,” in which Tim Schoeffler, Chairman of the Log Cabin Republicans, will cover the political aspect of LGBTQ issues and make predictions for the future of LGBTQ individuals in upcoming elections and American politics. The Log Cabin Republicans are a grassroots national organization of gay and lesbian Republicans.

The workshop series concludes with Workshop Track Three, which includes another “Career Services” presentation, this time also discussing LGBTQ issues in the context of graduate school applications. The second workshop is entitled “LGBTQ Students in Athletics.” This program will discuss the relation of LGBTQ issues and intercollegiate athletics. Lastly, there will be a “Coming Out Panel” held at Lathrop Hall. This will be a panel discussion with members of the mental health community, and will cover the issues and consequences of coming out in our current American society.

“It is really important that students who are not LGBTQ come to [this workshop], because it will provide insight into how to be a good ally to someone who is coming out of the closet,” Birnie said.

Following the series of workshops will be Big Gay Weekend’s Keynote Address, given by Tony-winning actor B.D. Wong. Wong is known for his roles in Father of the Bride, Jurassic Park, And the Band Played On, HBO’s Oz and NBC’s Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. He will be speaking on multiple minority statuses; Wong is an openly gay Asian-American.

At 8 p.m. tomorrow night, students can choose between another free showing of Brokeback Mountain and an improvisation performance by Colgate’s comedy troupe Charred Goosebeak at Creative Arts House. Following these events is the culmination of Big Gay Weekend, Colgate’s Second Annual Drag Ball: Some Like It Hot. The drag ball will be held at the Palace Theater at 10pm, and the theme is Old Hollywood.

“We’ve hired Drag Kings and Drag Queens, and there will be food; it’s basically going to be amazing,” Harper said.

All students are encouraged to get involved at Colgate’s first annual Big Gay Weekend. “What we have designed is a weekend that will entertain and inform Colgate and non-Colgate students both gay and straight and guarantees an amazing time,” senior Richard LeBeau said.

Visit for more information and a full schedule of events.