HRC at the 2009 Midwest BLGTA College Conference at Indiana University
February 24, 2009
Youth & Campus Outreach Coordinator Aaron Teskey writes with his thoughts about attending the recent Midwest BLGTA College Conference 2009 at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN.
Let me just start out by saying that I grew up in the Midwest and still get quite excited whenever anyone mentions Minnesota, ridiculous snow storms, or pop. However, when I heard that I’d be representing HRC at the MBLGTACC I wasn’t sure what to expect. I wasn’t out or involved with queer stuff when I lived in MN and I just couldn’t conceptualize 1,500 Midwestern queers and allies coming together – in a relatively small town like Bloomington no less. I was in for quite a surprise. Not only was the sheer size and scope of the conference impressive, but it was incredibly empowering to talk to and just be around so many students – from community colleges to massive state universities – who are activists on their campuses. I couldn’t help feeling hopeful for the future while surrounded by 1,500 queers and allies who care deeply about LGBT issues and want to make their campuses, communities and country a better place. I touched down in Indianapolis, IN on Friday and managed to only get minimally lost on my drive to Bloomington (I drove right past my hotel…twice). After dropping my bags at the hotel, I headed to IU to catch the opening keynote speaker, Kand McQueen. I was running a bit late and missed the welcome from the IU Provost and Dean of Students, but was able to hear most of Kand’s talk about the gender binary and intersexuality. Having relatively recently graduated from college, I felt like I was back in my Gender, Sex, and Sexuality class (albeit surrounded by a lot more people) discussing Cheryl Chase and Anne Fausto-Sterling. I loved it. On Saturday, I was up at 6:15 am and at the IU Memorial Union to table by 8 am. I thought the morning would be slow, but I had hardly even started unpacking my boxes of HRC publications and resources when students began coming by my table. I literally had no time to buy a bottle of water or use the (gender neutral!) bathroom all morning/afternoon because there was a constant stream of students – it was great! The Youth & Campus Outreach Program recently launched our free GenEQ Newsletter(with campus resources, news and events) and many students were eager to sign up. As a former intern myself, I also really enjoyed talking to students about HRC’s excellent internship program. I was so caught up in talking that I forgot to take a picture to accompany this blog post, so a photo of the fabulous GenEQ News sign up box I made will have to suffice. You can’t see it in the photo, but it was full of sign up postcards!
Throughout the entire weekend it was great to see all the connections being made between students/groups from different schools. By sharing their unique experiences and insight, students will make an incredible difference on campuses across the country and beyond. Whether through workshops about Facebook activism or chatting in-between speakers/entertainment, students swapped a lot of tips and ideas in just a short weekend. Although many of the students I talked to hadn’t heard about our LGBT Campus Group Directory (and interactive map), they were all excited about continuing to network with other groups and share ideas, advice and campus activism victories (and struggles). In addition to encouraging students to share their insight with each other, we’ve started to collect students’ stories to create a collective knowledge base related to campus activism. After another great keynote speaker and more queer entertainment, Saturday culminated in a dance. Although I only caught the last 15 minutes (and sadly missed when they played Lady GaGa), everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves. I have to give props to everyone who helped put this amazing conference together, and especially the co-chairs Julia Napolitano and Solomon Hursey, for not just making it empowering and productive, but also ensuring plenty of fun and entertainment as well. As I find myself saying a lot, activism doesn’t have to mean no fun and games! Wow, what an incredible weekend! I can’t wait for MBLGTACC 2010 in Madison! PS, I heard some talk about potentially changing the name of the conference. I just want to put it out there that I’m a big fan of calling it the Alphabet Soup Conference – it’s certainly easier to say!