LGBTQ+ Leadership Conference centers queer voices on campus

The LGBT Resource Center located in Holton Hall is an on-campus space in Holton Hall that offers support and other services to students of the LGBTQ community and its allies. (Archive photo by Kaylie McLaughlin | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State’s LGBT Resource Center and the Division of Intercultural Learning and Academic Success hosted a virtual LGBTQ leadership conference on Oct. 8. The conference’s goal was to activate leadership among LGBTQ+ young people and cultivate networks of support, according to the leadership conference webpage. The theme of the conference was “Centering Queer Voices, Working for Our IDEAL.

According to RJ Salmen, sophomore in personal finance, a diverse committee worked together over the summer and formulated the IDEAL acronym, which stands for Inclusion — Diversity Empowerment Authenticity Leadership.

“We felt those different objectives and values cored to what we were looking for in different speakers,” Salmen said. “This was a 30-to-45 minute discussion we had going from what we wanted the conference to look like to creatively coming up with actual concepts and titles. This was a good conversation to have, and we had a diverse group of individuals. It was very well-represented, and the conversation was well thought out.”

Thomas X. Sarmiento, associate professor in the Department of English, said the day-long conference showcased the entire IDEAL acronym.

“I think the attention to diversity in terms of race, geographics, gender identity and expression in the kinds of presentations throughout the day really helped emphasize the diversity within the LGBTQ+ community,” Sarmiento said.

Sarmiento said the conference presenters — along with the breakout sessions —presented the theme well.

“My sense is that having all presenters identify as part of the LGBTQ+ spectrum achieved part of that mission of centering queer voices,” Sarmiento said. “In terms of the actual content and what the different keynotes and breakout sessions presented, it was all centered on queer youth in particular.”

The keynote speaker was Tori Gleason, a transgender female who advocates for quality healthcare access. Working on her Master of Public Health at the University of Kansas School of Medicine Wichita campus, Gleason’s clinical focus is on transgender and gender-expansive patient populations according to the biography on the conference’s schedule.

Michael Larson, graduate student in drama therapy, said the committee chose Gleason to help present IDEALS. He said she gave a beneficial talk.

“Her talk was very impactful and very helpful for people to understand what she is working for and all the work she has done to help the trans community,” Larson said.

The conference also provided a look into a variety of aspects of being queer, Larson said. The different sessions attendees could go to include: Queer in STEM, being queer in religious organizations, queer healthcare, queer liberation in Kansas, safe spaces for queer youth and LGBTQ+ research.

“We catered to a great amount of people,” Larson said. “I think this is a reason the conference was so successful because we understand people have busy schedules. So, people were able to hop on and join us in many different sessions.”

Sarmiento said that the variety of sessions and speakers aimed to give students the needed knowledge and resources to take the initiative and become leaders.

“The organizing committee was comprised of faculty, staff and students,” Sarmiento said. “I think students took the lead on being moderators and introducing presenters throughout, so that was great to see our own KSU students doing that work.”

Sarmiento said the conference was well-attended, with around 30-to-50 active participants in sessions throughout the day, and he said he appreciated the wide range of attendees.

One thing I appreciated was the geographic range,” Sarmiento said. “So, we are in Northeast Kansas. But having presenters from Garden City and Fort Hays, the reach across the state, and the contrast between more rural communities versus college town communities was helpful.”

Sarmiento, who monitored the comments, said he saw students from all over Kansas engage in the conference and learn about resources.

“I definitely saw pulling resources together and that support of being able to share similar experiences in different locations,” Sarmiento said.

Sarmiento said that the last session on legal protections taught students that starting a gay-straight alliance is within their legal rights.

To learn about these resources, listen to speakers and join breakout rooms, Sarmiento said all are welcome to attend the next conference tentatively scheduled for April 22, 2022.

“Little Apple pride is scheduled for April 23, 2022, so we are hoping this can be a complimentary event to gather the momentum,” Sarmiento said.

More information about April’s potential conference is available on the LGBT Resource Center’s contact page.