Gayz Craze returned to campus for another year Monday to promote education and community for LGBTQ students and their allies.
Organizations, performance groups, faith groups and students gathered on Palmer Field, creating a showcase of resources, support and acceptance for the LGBTQ community on campus. The event, which had a theme of “M Go Pride,” included free food, music and volunteers ready to direct and inform students.
LSA junior Michael Bourke, organizer of this year’s Gayz Craze, said both incoming and returning students can enjoy and benefit from both University and student-run resources, and one of the goals of Gayz Craze is to introduce students to these opportunities.
“We want this to be a gateway to them to show that this University is inclusive and provides resources to students that need them. It’s sort of a Festifall targeted toward LGBTQ resources.”
In its 17th year, Gayz Craze drew a variety of performance groups including EnCore, Sinaboro, Amazin’ Blue, Dance 2XS, funKtion and Michigan Sahana.
LSA senior Michelle Jendry, a volunteer for the event, has attended Gayz Craze since her freshman year, and said the sense of community around this Welcome Week event is unlike any other within the LGBTQ community.
“This is such a great event, especially for a lot of the younger people here at the University who are coming from a place that may not be very supportive. I was one of those people, and it was an amazing experience to be able to see how large this community is,” Jendry said. “I feel really connected to the people here, and for the people who may just be becoming comfortable with themselves, to see all of the student organizations be accepting of them is really great.”
Junichi Shimaoka, coordinator of liaison services at the University’s Counseling and Psychological Services, was a representative at the “Do Something” display put on at the event by CAPS. Shimaoka said Gayz Craze is an opportunity for CAPS to spread hope to new and returning students, emphasizing that 24 percent of students have had thoughts of suicide in the last two months, and that this number is larger within LGBTQ communities.
“We all know someone who has been touched by suicide,” Shimaoka said. “We want to try to reduce the stigma and create more of a sense of hope. Students within the LGBTQ community are very open to talking about mental issues and trying to promote a positive message.”
Summer LaPointe, an LSA freshman, said she saw Gayz Craze as an opportunity to get to know the LGBTQ community on campus.
“I’m pansexual, so an event like this is really exciting for me,” LaPointe said. “I am really glad that this is happening. Back home, my parents are really strict, so I wouldn’t have been able to go to an event like this before.”
Similarly, LSA sophomore Alex Ingraham said he volunteered at the event to reach out to students who might not be aware of campus possibilities.
“In my high school, we wouldn’t have something like this, so I think it’s something that’s important to be promoted and to bring this kind of education to students,” he said.
This year, organizers added a wider range of organizations, including groups that wanted to express their support of members of the LGBTQ community, such as the Society for Women Engineers, Blood Drive United, Beta Theta Pi, Ross Out For Business, Forward on Climate, CAPS, the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center, K-grams, the Secular Student Alliance, Lord of Light Lutheran Church, Advocates for Mental Health and Students for Choice. SAPAC and CAPS both had large displays centering on self-esteem.
“It’s a big tradition now. The thing we did this year is we decided to bring in more organizations. Instead of just having a few LGBTQ organizations, we’re opening it up to a lot more organizations, making it an event that is inclusive to everyone as it should be. We have a longer lineup of performances, more entertainment,” Bourke said. “Personally, I went last year and met all of my best friends there.”
Correction appended: A previous version of this article incorrectly said this was the seventh year running for the Gayz Craze event.