Finding Community Through Big Gay Hudson Valley
Regional website helps connect LGBTQ+ residents socially, culturally, and politically.
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Big Gay Hudson Valley founders Stephan Hengst (left) and Patrick Decker (right)(Facebook/BGHV)
At Big Gay Hudson Valley (BGHV), co-founders Stephan Hengst and Patrick Decker know that a community’s success is the sum of its parts. Launched in 2008, Hengst and Decker created BGHV to keep the LGBTQ+ community in New York’s Mid-Hudson Valley connected to a wide variety of gay-owned, -friendly, and -sensible businesses, events, resources, and happenings.
In doing so, BGHV not only showcases programming of interest to the LGBTQ+ community but also spotlights the efforts of local grassroots organizations doing important work throughout the region.
In its 13th year, BGHV is going strong, hosting events, sharing resources, and plugging programming throughout Westchester, Putnam, Orange, Ulster, Dutchess, Columbia, and Greene Counties. Examiner+ recently connected with Hengst to hear about all that’s big and gay in the Hudson Valley.
A poster promoting one of BGHV’s many events throughout the year.
Examiner+: What was the motivation for Big Gay Hudson Valley?
Stephan Hengst: We spent a lot of time as two gay people that live here in the Hudson Valley wishing that there was more to do and more ways to share information with friends. We typically found that when we were looking at our social schedules, there were conflicting events happening on a Friday or Saturday night, and it always felt like everyone was trying to do everything at the same time. As a result, no one was being particularly successful in getting a good crowd, getting good attendance, or making an event financially viable because the events were always conflicting with one another.
E+: How did you get started?
Hengst: We thought maybe there was an opportunity here to create a website where we share what everyone's doing, and so we started Big Gay Hudson Valley in 2008. At that time, there were events happening, but there wasn't as robust of a [LGBTQ+] community because the centers in the Hudson Valley were just starting to organize.
E+: How did things evolve?
Hengst: A really big issue that emerged was marriage equality. We quickly went from becoming a very simple website that would publish updates about what was going on to a website that also became a bit of a rallying cry around marriage equality.
We used the website to galvanize the community, get people together, and encourage people to make their opinions known in hopes that it would change the opinions of some of our elected officials. We realized that there was quite an active and engaged community that wanted to help make equality happen. Things grew over time from just being a community organizer to a community galvanizer. We were able to mobilize people and get a lot of feedback to our [elected officials].
E+: What’s on the agenda these days?
Hengst: Nowadays, we spend a lot of time focused on the fact that there are no gay bars in this area. There are very few gathering places…
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