HenaginOpinionGood morning Cobbers. I hope everyone had a fantastic weekend and that your studies are going strong. While I’m sure everyone’s weekends were full of studying, hanging out and other festivities, mine was filled with driving, navigating, and getting to know Kansas City. Why, you might ask? Well for the first time ever I went to MBLGTACC, also known as the Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Trans Ally College Conference, and it was awesome. The conference itself has been around since 1993 and has the goal of promoting health, leadership, empowerment and activism among those youths who fall anywhere in the LGBTQIA community.

The whole conference was fantastic. I saw Rob Smith, an Iraq war veteran who was among 13 activists that were arrested outside of the White House protesting “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” There were tons of noted speakers in the LGBTQIA community there including Katie Wirsing, whom we have had on our own campus, and Andrea Gibson, both of whom are fantastic spoken word artists.

My favorite and probably the most striking thing about the conference though was the sense of community and togetherness. There were over a thousand students who came together to speak up and tell each other they were not alone. They could give the Cobber community a run for their money.

They had an exhibitor fair that had groups fighting for the same causes, but also companies, universities, and other places with job opportunities that were welcoming and seeking out individuals in the LGBTQIA community. Which, for most people, was a different way of finding a job. Fun Fact: It is still legal in 29 states to get fired if you are gay.

While a lot of the conference made jokes, or kept light the fact that they felt alone, I think the biggest plus of the conference was proving that fact wrong. One of the presenters made the comment, that while in the midwest especially, you may feel like the only LGBTGIA person in the room, but chances are you’re probably not which is important to keep in mind. Another presenter made the comment about being “too good”. “‘Don’t rock the boat,’ they tell you, but I think that’s stupid, in fact we should be overturning the boat because we don’t have what we should.” He made the point that while it is difficult to be the one to speak up, it is necessary to fight for what’s right, and what’s right is being treated equally. No one should have to fear hate speech at your place of work or fear for your job or social life because of how you prefer your partners, or what gender you identify with.

I left the conference feeling empowered and also educated because it is reaffirming to know that you are not alone. While that is something I could shout at you, it is not something you can just overcome; it has to be believed, and I think the conference did a good job of reaching out to people as well as helping students find friends from all over the midwest that they can connect with to share experiences and feelings with, as well as reminisce over the few days in Kansas City. While most of this article has focused on LGBTQIA community, it goes for everyone. Fighting for yourself is hard to do, but the more you try, the easier it gets.

 

Katelyn Henagin

Katelyn Henagin graduated from Pierz-Healy High School in 2010, and grew up in both Pierz and Worthington, Minnesota. She is graduating in 2014 with a Philosophy Major and a minor in Psychology. If you feel like talking to Katelyn, striking up a conversation about Harry Potter is always a good choice.

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