About 350 University of Maryland community members gathered for the first annual Big Queer Photo on McKeldin Mall Thursday to support LGBTQ+ communities on campus.

This university’s LGBTQ+ Equity Center hosted the inaugural event to celebrate the center’s 25th anniversary and bring LGBTQ+ students, faculty and staff together, according to Kristopher Oliveira, the center’s director.

The event was open to the entire campus community, including LGBTQ+ members and allies, according to Oliveira.

“The idea is that we’ll have this big photo that’s going to last in perpetuity and we’ll continue to take this photo year after year,” Oliveira said. “It’s super important that our faculty, staff and our students see themselves represented through the people who are on campus.”

Industrial organizational psychology graduate student Taylor Apolonio said they were excited to be in the photo.

“It’s fun to be a part of something that is just kicking off,” Apolonio said.

Apolonio — who also works in admissions for the business school — said they appreciate the equity center hosting a celebratory event for LGBQT+ community members.

“UMD is usually pretty good at creating intentional spaces for different types of people, which is great,” Apolonio said.

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But they said celebratory events for the LGBTQ+ community are sometimes lacking, which is why Big Queer Photo is a step in the right direction.

Attendees enjoyed cake and beverages and signed the Big Queer Photo banner at the event. The equity center also had t-shirts for registered participants and a feedback survey.

It was important to make this event annual rather than a one-time photo to ensure the LGBTQ+ community would be continuously represented, Oliveira said.

Oliveira organized a similar event at the first university he worked at. He’s hopeful participation in Big Queer Photo will increase next year and is eager to see how the photo changes over time, Oliveira said.

“What I hope for us is that this becomes a part of our archive and seeing how the community grows,” Oliveira said.

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Meg Jordan also attended Thursday’s event and said events like Big Queer Photo are crucial to make this university’s LGBTQ+ community feel represented.

Jordan, who is the research coordinator at the Maryland Center for Health Equity at this university’s public health school, went to the event hoping to meet more LGBTQ+ people from their school, they said.

The event lets incoming and current students know they have a safe space at this university, Jordan said.

Sophomore Drew Okaye heard about Big Queer Photo from a friend and thought it was a good way to connect with the LGBTQ+ community.

“This is a really cool community-building thing that I think is really important,” the psychology and theater major said.