SAGA attends Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally conference

Fourteen of Concordia’s Straight and Gay Alliance students attended a conference in Missouri this past weekend to discuss progressive issues such as the definition of gender and sexual fluidity.

The Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally College Conference, founded in 1993, was hosted in Kansas City, Mo. this year.

According to the conference website, the conference aims to “promote leadership, activism, networking, diversity, health, and empowerment among Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Allied students, staff, and faculty around the United States and Canada. It is the largest and oldest regional LGBTQ college conference in North America.”

Senior Jeff Miller was one of the students in attendance.

“This conference aims to be an open space,” Miller said. “It teaches you how to become yourself and have difficult conversations with other people.”

Miller feels that Concordia has many advocates of the LGBTQ community but feels especially comfortable at a conference like this because he is entirely surrounded by allies.

Senior Katelyn Henagin attended for similar reasons as Miller.

One event she attended was a caucus that served as a place for honest conversations about issues in the LGBTQ community between students of different schools. Students talked about their college’s existing LGBTQ programs and what they would like to see done on their campuses in the future to promote more acceptance of individuality.

One conversation at the convention regarded gender and sexuality fluidity.

“People grew up with the idea that gender and sexuality is black and white, and it’s not,” Henagin said. “The black and white ideas are falling.”

Junior Melissa Kurtz attended the conference and is passionate about fluid gender and sexuality identity.

“It’s really important to note that both gender and sexuality are on a fluid spectrum. There’s really no easy way to describe it. For example, I know of a woman who identified as straight who is now in a relationship with another woman.”

To Kurtz, gender identity and sexuality can change on a daily basis.

“I think of my sexuality as fluid because I can be attracted to people of any gender, sexuality or sex. The same goes for my gender identity as fluid. Some days I feel very feminine, where other days I’m somewhere in the middle, and there’s other days where I feel very masculine. For me, this is expressed by wearing dresses and lipstick when I’m feeling feminine, and (if I’m in a space where I’m comfortable, like MBLGTACC), on days I’m feeling masculine, I’ll wear my binder and suspenders with sneakers, or something. And there are plenty of days where I’m just in the middle somewhere.”

According to Miller, some people do not fully identify as male or female even if they were born with a specific gender. Some prefer to be referred to as ‘they or them’ instead of ‘he or she’ because they feel these pronouns better represent their identity.

Kurtz prefers gender-neutral pronouns. “I really don’t like being called “she” on days that I’m feeling masculine.”

Miller is encouraged to see college students talking about gender and sexuality fluidity and wants to continue discussion with his peers, both in and out of the LGBTQ community.

According to Henagin, gender and sexuality are hard to define, and sometimes definitions are not inclusive.

“Like any group of people, no one is completely defined,” she said. “There’s still disagreement in the LGBTQ community (about definitions).”

Kurtz attended the caucus at the conference as well and is ready to bring new ideas back to Concordia.

“I joined up with folks to talk about gender issues. I think Concordia could really learn a lot about gender. Concordia is fairly good at accepting gay and lesbian folks but isn’t quite as educated when it comes to gender related issues.”

Kurtz would like to have a “Gender Week” in the future to discuss gender issues and educate Concordia students about the changing definitions regarding gender and sexuality fluidity.

“It’d be great to see Concordia being more knowledgeable about neutral pronouns and how to use them. I’ve had to do a lot of explaining to people about what they are, why I use them, etc. I don’t mind educating people, but it’d be nice if this was all common knowledge.”

Conferences like MBLGTACC are essential, Miller believes.

“These conversations need to keep happening,” he said. “Sometimes these conferences are the only place where people feel safe and welcome. Education is important.”

Karen Besonen

Karen Besonen is a senior Multimedia Journalism major, originally from Apple Valley, Minnesota. She is an enthusiast of music, along with keeping a personal blog and following the action on Capital Hill. She has a passion for traveling and philanthropic work, and with her degree, she hopes to work for a Christian nonprofit that fights the trafficking and exploitation of children.

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