Big Gay Weekend Shines Spotlight on Rights Issues

Author Augusten Burroughs, who is most noted for writing his 2002 memoir Running with Scissors that was later turned into a film featuring Alec Baldwin, was the keynote speaker during Colgate’s fifth annual Big Gay Weekend, held between Friday, April 9 and Sunday, April 11.

Burroughs continued a trend of high-profile keynote speakers for Big Gay Weekend that has included Tony Award winning actor B.D. Wong and former NFL player Esera Tuaolo.

The Burroughs talk on Friday kick-started a weekend that featured educational workshops, a giant sleepover and moviethon and the Saturday evening Drag Ball.

Burroughs, who met with students beforehand at a Merrill House dinner, spoke about his experiences growing up and living as a homosexual. His talk was well-received and the most well-attended event of the weekend.

“I thought it was an interesting talk,” Big Gay Weekend co-organizer sophomore Dena Robinson said. “He’s an eclectic man, and he’s very unique. I could identify with certain parts of his talk and not all of it, but I think it was very entertaining. Different people took different things way from it.”

Fellow co-organizer sophomore Catherine Polk also mentioned Burroughs’ generosity towards one of the attendees.

“My favorite moment of the weekend was when a young woman approached me with such excitement about Augusten Burroughs,” Polk said via e-mail. “There were literally tears in her eyes. It made my day. Augusten was so lovely to take a picture with her and get her e-mail address so they could e-mail back and forth.”

Burroughs mentioned that his sexuality was just another part of him, something Polk also took note of.

“I did have the great fortune of having dinner with Mr. Burroughs before and I was amazed! His indifference to his sexuality was refreshing and new,” Polk said.

Burroughs’ Friday talk was followed by the Spoken Word at the Barge, which acted as a free space for people to express themselves on stage, sometimes with music. The following day was highlighted by a four-cycle education workshop that lasted from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Big Gay Weekend participants had multiple learning opportunities, such as how to be a better ally and a questioning identity Q and A. The most-talked about workshop though was a moot court trial held by Outlaw, a group of Syracuse University law students and professor Casey Sprock. The fictional trial, held at Golden Auditorium, was about a doctor refusing hormone treatments to transgender woman citing moral and religious beliefs. Robinson called Outlaw her favorite moment of the weekend, and Polk expressed similar sentiments as well.

If there was one downside to an otherwise successful and educational Big Gay Weekend, it was the lack of attendance at certain events.

“It was actually pretty hard to get people in attendance,” Polk said. “I was overjoyed to have so many people come to the lecture and Drag Ball, but I was a little disappointed with the turnout for the rest of the events and workshops. I wish there were more people not only for the educational value, but to see how amazing everything was. Everyone worked so hard to put everything together; it was a little disappointing for there to be very few people to witness it.”

Both Polk and Robinson agreed, however, that Big Gay Weekend was a success.

“I think we did the best that we could…it was amazing,” Polk said. “Even with the turnout we had, it was amazing. Everyone that came was so excited and provided such memorable experiences. It was fantastic and a lot of fun, and overall a great learning experience.”

Contact Paul Kasabian at [email protected]