Kansas LGBTQ leadership conference hopes to invoke resiliency in student body

(Archive photo by Hannah Hunsinger | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State will host the Kansas LGBTQ leadership conference on Friday, Oct. 15, at the Morris Family Multicultural Student Center. According to the K-State LGBTQ Resource Center website, the event aims to focus on the lived experiences and aspirations of the Kansas LGBTQ community.

“We want to empower people to have a voice and inspire resiliency through leadership,” Brandon Haddock, student services coordinator of the LGBT Resource Center, said.

The event will run all day, featuring two keynote speakers and several concurrent breakout sessions.

One speaker, Tori Gleason, is a K-State alumna. According to Gleason’s LinkedIn page, she is a student at the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita and a future researcher on health outcomes in trans and non-binary populations.

“Tori is a great leader and an amazing person,” Haddock said. “She transitioned after graduating from KSU. She found herself being a leader because of her passion and was able to develop networks that are making a huge difference.”

Gleason’s Linkedin page indicates she works for healthcare organizations to provide better access to quality healthcare.

The conference theme is “Centering Queer Voices, Working for Our IDEAL.” The theme highlights that LGBTQ voices need to be at the center of addressing LGBTQ issues.

“Oftentimes, when we talk about LGBT rights and experiences, it defaults to a conversation about what allies can do and what others can do for us,” Rachel Levitt, teaching assistant professor in the gender, women and sexuality studies department, said. “That felt like a problem because then it wasn’t centered around LGBT people’s needs, it becomes centered around other people’s need for education and discomfort.”

Levitt said the theme IDEAL is an acronym for inclusion, diversity, empowerment, authenticity and leadership.

“We cannot have LGBT leadership without all these things,” Levitt said. “But also, it is not just an acronym that spells out ideals. The idea of ideals is this sort of romantic celebratory notion that our world can be better.”

To remedy the concept, members of the center said they hope the conference empowers people to recognize the leader in themselves and their collective power.

“Initially, this is about leadership,” Haddock said. “It is about how individuals or organizations have been leaders in creating an affirming environment. Having a sense of leadership is important, especially when people band together.”

Adam Carr, program administrator for diversity and multicultural student affairs, said he is proud that LGBTQ and allied students have the opportunity to use their voices.

“It is amazing when students have the ability to freely express their issues and be a part of coming up with solutions,” Carr said.

Carr said when people use their voices through activism and education, it builds community through conversation.

Haddock said the conference will bring people together to have those conversations.

“An individual may have a lot of passion and initiative, but they may not know how to go about doing something or the connections they need,” Haddock said, “Through this conference, people can lead by example, inspire others and work together.”

According to the resource center announcement, activating leadership among young LGBTQ people and cultivating support networks are two of the conference’s goals.

The conference theme is centered around the submitted proposals.

According to the center’s website, proposals can be “individual scholarly/academic presentations or papers, organized panels comprised of 3-5 presenters to address different facets of a shared topic, roundtables, workshops or how-tos [and] issue-driven community conversations aimed at fostering dialogue among the community in attendance.”

The accepted proposals will be presented in small groups categorized by topic. Possible topics are listed on the resource center’s website and can be submitted here.

According to the conference proposal page, everyone is welcome to submit a proposal centering on queer voices and promoting IDEAL. Haddock said proposal submissions are flexible and unique depending on the person submitting.

“Some people may not know how to necessarily write down their proposals, so this will give them options,” Haddock said.

“This is a conference that is about trying to find the problems, work together for solutions while also celebrating the people and the strategies that are already implemented,” Levitt said. “This will tell LGBT students that they are welcome on a college campus and that adults are here to listen to their issues and support them.”

Levitt said the goal is to have a conference that embraces the complexity of queer lives. This will help discover underlying issues that still need addressing, even after much has been achieved. Haddock said they tell their students they need to know their history to move forward.

“If we continue to see what we fought for and achieved, then we can continue to fight for more,” Haddock said.

Haddock said marriage equality is an example of the community’s progress that still needs work.

“Marriage equality was so important to so many people, and yes, it is legal, but the thing is, people can still get fired and discriminated because of it,” Haddock said. “We have achieved so much, but we have a long way to go. That is why leadership and conversation is important.”

Haddock said they have already received several proposals, and many people are already registered to attend. The deadline for proposals is 11:59 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 20. Questions about proposal submissions and conference registration should be sent to lgbt@ksu.edu.