Big Gay Welcome at BGSU looks a little different this year

The Big Welcome Event was held on Zoom.

The Big Welcome Event was held on Zoom.

Amantha Garpiel and Amantha Garpiel

BGSU prides itself on the diversity and inclusion of its campus. The Big Gay Welcome, an annual event hosted by LGBTQ+ Programs and BGSU Firelands Student Engagement, Diversity and Inclusion, allows LGBTQ+ students and allies to meet each other and learn about different campus resources available to them.

The Big Gay Welcome held on Wednesday looks different from previous events. Traditionally, the event is held on campus and in person, but due to COVID-19, the event moved to Zoom.

In the past, BGW was held during the fall to welcome new and returning allies and members of the BGSU LGBTQ+ community to campus. Due to the pandemic, the event was postponed to the spring and renamed Big Gay Welcome … Back. 

“It really felt important to do like a welcome back, especially when folks are a little bit disconnected right now,” Assistant Director for Diversity and Belonging at BGSU Gray Strain said.

The virtual BGWB event is the university’s way of reaching out to LGBTQ+ students and allies, both new and returning, to offer resources and support during the pandemic. Hosting the event on zoom can be seen as beneficial for certain members of the community.

“The Q (in LGBTQ+) is most often queer, but it can also be questioning … So to know that there are people that are questioning their identity or are going through that process of discovery and want to be in community with other people, but maybe can’t physically show up or aren’t ready for that step, and that’s totally fine … But when we hold it virtually, truly anyone can be there and be in community without outing themselves or taking a step they aren’t comfortable taking yet or that they aren’t ready for,” Strain said.

Student participants and guest performers of the event perform readings, monologues and songs. Coordinators of the event also brought in speakers from different campus offices, like Dean of Students Chris Bullins and Kelly Wills, one of the counselors from the university Counseling Center, to discuss ways BGSU is available to help students with both school and personal challenges.

Senior Lena Nighswander said having the event on Zoom made it easier to attend.

“I’ve always seen them advertised the past three years I’ve gone to BGSU, but I could never actually fit it into my schedule. Since it was on Zoom this year, it was a lot easier for me to make it to,” Lena said.

Nighswander supports the move to a virtual meeting for BGWB.

Having the event is crucial to LGBTQ+ students and allies on campus, especially during the current pandemic, she said. She pointed out the importance of attending to hear from guest speakers about different services/organizations on campus and ways for individuals to take better care of themselves, both mentally and physically.

Similar to BGWB, the university’s LGBTQ+ programs, Deciding Student Program and Marvin Center for Student Leadership are hosting the LGBTQ+ Possibility Models series. The event spans three days with a different panel of graduates each day.

  • Tuesday Feb. 9: Higher education 

  • Thursday March 4: Mental and behavioral healthcare

  • Wednesday April 7: Non-profit sector

The goal of the LGBTQ+ Possibility Models series is to help current LGBTQ+ students gain insight into navigating the professional world as members of the LGBTQ+ community.