The upcoming Lehigh Valley LGBTQIA Intercollegiate Conference in Lehigh’s University Center will have something for everyone, says one of its student organizers. In addition to a keynote talk by Kye Allums, former basketball player at George Washington University and the first Division I openly transgender athlete, sessions will focus on growth, empowerment and effective listening.
“I think all Lehigh students can benefit from the conference,” says Jimil Ataman, a senior history and anthropology major. “It's a wonderful opportunity to learn, listen to some interesting speakers, and perhaps most importantly, to support equality on our campus. I'm hoping that it will help us all become more aware, better allies, and better advocates for an equitable community.”
The conference will be held from 8:30 to 5:30 p.m. Saturday, March 29 at Lehigh. It is the third year for this event, which has grown significantly. More than 100 registrants from 12 colleges and universities and the local community are expected, according to Kim Ketterer, coordinator in LGBTQIA Services, who began working with a small group of students and administrators last fall to design an engaging and informative agenda.
“From the outset,” she said, “our focus was in making the process collaborative. The theme of finding a voice emerged, and we built the conference around strategies to accomplish that, and sharing stories to empower one another.”
Ketterer expects that the talk by Allums, founder and director of the I Am Enough organization, will be an extraordinarily powerful component. Allums employs artistic projects, identity discussions and self-love encouragement to empower and inspire. His keynote address, which is scheduled for 1:15 p.m. on March 29 in Lamberton Hall, is open to the public; registration for the conference is not required to attend the keynote.
Trish Boyles, director of LGBTQIA Services at Lehigh, says she is pleased that the conference and related resources are being made available to students.
“National LGBTQ conferences are great experiences, but are often far away, difficult, and expensive for college students to attend,” Boyles said. “Lehigh's conference offers students in the greater Lehigh Valley region an affordable conference opportunity.”
Junior accounting major Eryne Boyle said the conference will be useful to students who want to learn and engage, particularly since issues surrounding sexuality and gender frequently “go undiscussed, even during conversations that attempt to address diversity.”
The conference, Boyle added, will provide insight into issues LGBTQIA individuals frequently face.
“Trans* and gender nonconforming individuals struggle with which bathroom to use and are often addressed by the wrong gender pronoun on campus,” Boyle said. “LGBTQ students who are entering a corporate environment have another slew of issues that cause them anxiety as well. So there are a lot of seemingly small issues that LGBTQ individuals have to deal with on a daily basis. This conference will offer exposure to these issues and more, and will ultimately provide insight into how to be supportive of the LGBTQIA community.” Amplifying your voice
The “Finding Your Voice” theme will be amplified through dialogue on gender and sexuality issues, effective strategies, social media and communication, empowerment and education. The event will feature approximately 20 sessions led by students, faculty, staff and community members, including sessions on finding and maintaining an LGBTQIA-friendly work environment, marriage equality, and trans youth policy and advocacy training.
“In addition, the caliber of sessions and presenters at this year's conference is very high, which will create a terrific learning experience for our students and offer a great deal to staff, faculty, and community members that attend,” said Boyles.
In the week leading up to the conference, LGBTQIA Services is hosting several events, including a photo exhibit. On Wednesday March 26, the Pennsylvania Diversity Network Photo Project , “800 Couples Facing Inequality,” will be on display in Lamberton Hall from 11 a.m. through 5 p.m.; the exhibit will be followed by an artist’s talk in Lamberton at 7 p.m. The photo project features 360 local same-sex couples, and was curated to raise awareness of the challenges faced by LGBT people in an effort to gain legal recognition of their relationships.
In addition, Lehigh’s Spectrum group will host its 10th Annual Illusions Drag Show will begin at 9:30 p.m. Thursday, March 27, and the LGBTQIA faculty, staff, student and alumni mixer will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, March 28. Both events will take place in Lamberton.
Co-sponsors of the conference include the LVAIC Multicultural Group, Moravian College’s Center for Intercultural Advancement and Inclusion, LBGTQ/Gender and Sexuality programs of Lafayette College, Muhlenberg College, Northampton Community College; and Lehigh University’s Office of Multicultural Affairs, Women’s Center, Student Affairs, Student Auxiliary Services and Student Activities departments.
*Trans* is used as an umbrella term for all trans* individuals to be included in the conversation.
Story by Linda Harbrecht and Karl Brisseaux
Posted on Friday, March 21, 2014