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GSEC hosts 7th annual LGBTQ+ conference

Stephanie Schmieding

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LGBTQ+ Conference

Community members attend GSEC's annual LGBTQ+ conference at the Bell Memorial Union auditorium, which was decorated for the event. Photo credit: Stephanie Schmieding

At first glance LGBTQ+ looks as if it’s only an acronym. However, the Gender & Sexuality Equity Center aimed to humanize the multidimensional elements of its identity with its seventh annual conference, which had as its theme “We Are More Than Just an Acronym.”

Eliza Dyer, LGBTQ+ program coordinator and event organizer, reflected on the turnout of 160 people, which was significantly more than previous years. As compared to conferences in the past, this event focused more on health and well-being.

“There were discussions that aimed to destigmatize the prevalent issues of mental health in the LGBTQ+ population, a workshop on accessing healthcare as a trans person and an overall theme of living out authentic and fulfilling lives,” Dyer said.

Sally Tran, a gender-queer filmmaker and keynote speaker of the event, turned heads with her speech on “Resilience as Resistance.” She opened her remarks with the story of her battle with depression and how her gender identity has shaped the person she is today.

A variety of breakout sessions followed Tran’s speech, in which other speakers discussed their personal struggles and involved the audience. Students had the option to attend two of five breakout sessions:

· Alphabet Soup – This session sought to break down stereotypes about individuals. Speaker Matti Cottrell discussed the tolls and triumphs of his mental health, while involving students and faculty in an interactive workshop.

· Queer Talk for Allies – Ian Ruddell, outreach and education coordinator for the Stonewall Alliance, provided a workshop for students to expand their understanding of the LGBTQ+ community.

· Lust in an Age of Latex – Tina Mahle, from the sex-toy retailer Good Vibrations, led this breakout session as a way for students to discover their own personal, safer sex style. Mahle explained many misconceptions of safe sex and helped students and faculty explore creative ideas to enhance their sex lives.

· Healthcare Revolution! – This workshop led by Liza Thantranon gave attendees an idea of the barriers that transgender individuals face, specifically in dealing with health care services.

· Telling Our Stories – This workshop, led by Sarena Kirk, was focused around the idea of telling stories and how individual stories can be a political act or a form of activism.

Following the breakout sessions, dessert was served, and all attendees gathered in the BMU auditorium for a culminating event: Being Authentically You! Krystle Tonga and Melody Souphilavong epitomized the message of the event by reminding attendees that their identities and experiences are not confined to the letters of the queer community.

“The focus of this conference was to humanize the acronym by sharing stories and empowering ourselves to care for our well being as individuals and as a community,” Dyer said.

Stephanie Schmieding can be reached at [email protected] or @stephbottt on Twitter

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GSEC hosts 7th annual LGBTQ+ conference