When Quinn Taylor decided to take a semester off during their third year at the University to work on their art, they never expected it would include becoming an activist wizard who uses ridiculousness and positivity to protest religious demonstrations on campus.
As Taylor sat in a bright orange chair that was too low to the ground for the length of their legs, they recalled how strange their experience as the “BG Wizard” has been.
“My initial plan was just, ‘Oh, when Bible Bob shows up, I’ll be there, and I’ll be in a wizard costume. And I’ll just flail around and shout nonsense and weird made-up spells and just kind of brighten people’s days a little bit, and then I’ll go home,’” Taylor said while fiddling their black necktie between their yellow nail-polished fingers.
But when Taylor went home, #BGWizard had taken over social media. Twitter user @ceiling_dweller used the hashtag to reassure those walking past shouting demonstrators “where there's a wizard, there's a way.”
With several passersby also sharing videos of the Wizard on Snapchat, their image began to receive more attention. People started to recognize them outside of their wizard garb.
“I got recognized at McDonald’s last night where somebody was just like, ‘Excuse me? Are you the Wizard?’” Taylor said.
Although, it is no surprise people identified Taylor beneath the guise of the BG Wizard. When in costume, their distinct fuschia hair splays out around their blue gauge earrings and beneath their blue cone-shaped hat, and their 6-foot-3 stature is not easily disguised by the length of their red cloak or the height of their rollerblades.
While Taylor is not used to the local fame, they have not let that stop them from protesting at multiple demonstrations by religious zealots they call “Bible thumpers.” These groups, such as Created Equal and The Campus Ministry U.S.A., preach from free speech zones on campus against topics such as reproductive and LGBTQ rights.
Taylor’s mission as the BG Wizard is to turn the aggressive atmosphere of these demonstrations into a more accepting one.
“As a person who identifies as both queer and trans, it feels important to me to speak out against hate like that … I would like to send that message not only to them that they’re not welcome to spread their hate here but also spreading a message to BG students that they are loved, and they are not what these people think of them,” Taylor said.
It is their support of students who might feel attacked by demonstrators’ messages that has earned Taylor the support of friends.
Taylor said they send pictures of them dressed as the Wizard to their devout Christian mother who “supports my endeavors 100 percent.” In regard to the so-called Bible thumpers, Taylor quoted her as saying, “This is not the God I love; this is just people pandering.”
Taylor had a similar view of what the demonstrators believe.
“You can walk around all day promoting this false idea of a wrathful, hateful god-figure — and you can believe in that all you want — but I’ll continue to believe in Bowling Green and the people in it,” they said.
And the people of Bowling Green, including Taylor’s roommate and graphic design senior Morgan Gale, believe in the BG Wizard too.
Gale has described herself as Taylor’s “social media hype man” and has supported them by making flyers to pass out during demonstrations, interviewing them on her YouTube channel and posting about them online.
Taylor’s friend and digital arts sophomore David Hancock said he supports them because the Wizard wants to “just make people happy while taking away from the opposition’s point as much as possible, as peaceful as possible, with as much fun involved.”
The Wizard and their mission reflect how Taylor is as a friend, Gale said.
“Quinn’s always been really supportive of me … They really build me up. They’re also possibly the most ridiculous person I’ve ever met; they’re always able to escalate a situation into something completely absurd,” Gale laughed. “(The Wizard and Quinn) are basically the same person, I think.”
Hancock shared a similar sentiment as one of Taylor’s friends.
“To hear them give that sort of rousing speech at the end of the first day … with the whole, ‘You guys are all loved and cool and super special, and I appreciate all of you.’ That’s Quinn,” he said.
The support the Wizard gives to the crowd at a demonstration seems to have inspired more students to join the spectacle. Several other students dressed in costumes with the same intention of distracting everyone from religious fanatics.
This made demonstrations a great place for making new friends because “all of the coolest people show up to make it goofy,” Gale said.
The distractions created by this “army of gays,” as Gale calls them, during their protests included a fake wedding between participants dressed as dinosaurs. Taylor officiated this pseudo-ceremony, and as an ordained Unitarian minister — which they achieved in order to have a “legally binding gender-neutral honorific rather than being referred to as mister in legal documents,” they said — they plan to do so for real at friends’ weddings in the future.
“The Wizard does weddings,” Gale said with a laugh. She plans to have Taylor officiate her wedding when the time comes.
While the Wizard united dinosaurs in love to protest the message of religious zealots on campus, students united at demonstrations to show each other they are loved, which is a “cathartic experience because for a brief moment we’re united through a common goal, which is to just to remind each other that we’re not what people will make us out to be,” Taylor said.
While Taylor never expected their work as the Wizard to have such an impact, they said they would like to see it grow into something bigger than themself. As for the Bible thumpers, Taylor looks forward to a day when students stop listening to the condemnatory messages they have been shouting.
“I want it to no longer be ‘Oh, there’s a bunch of homophobes just raging around campus, and they’re saying a bunch of hateful stuff’ to ‘Did you hear the Wizard’s out today?’” Taylor said. “Because then suddenly the pedestal is knocked out from under them; they don’t have a voice because nobody’s there to listen to them. (Students are) there just for a fun show and to take pictures with somebody dressed as a wizard.”