Students selected to attend LGBT conference in Iowa

Reporter and Reporter

Iowa State University hosted the annual Midwest Bisexual Gay Lesbian Transgender Ally College Conference Feb. 10-12 in Ames, Iowa. Twenty-six University students attended among 1,700 other students from around the nation on behalf of the LGBT community.

The conference draws students from mainly the Midwest area to come together and talk about gender and equality said Tobias Spears, assistant director of the LGBT Resource Center in the office of multicultural affairs.

H.U.E., Qpoc and Vision, two prominent LGBT organizations at the University, were awarded 26 scholarships to fund the students’ trip to Iowa.

The LGBT community at the University far exceeds the 26 person limit, and students who wanted to attend had to go through a competitive application process to show how they would bring what they learned back to the University. 

“I’m an R.A. and focused on things from the conference I could bring back to my floor, the building and then eventually expand to campus,” said sophomore Chelsea VanAssche.

Once the 26 were selected, Spears and Megan MacDonald, the adviser for the organization Women Who Love Women at the University, served as the directors for the trip and students. Each day consisted of various workshops, presentations and keynote speakers, all of whom were very much representative of the students who attended, said Spears.

“One of the most memorable parts was talking to other advisers from other schools there and finding out some had brought only one or two students and we had brought 26,” Spears said. “It just showed that not only does BG have a great community, but we also do things for that community by coming to conferences like this.”

The conference focused on making sure to include workshops or presentations that persons of every gender, race, orientation or disability could relate to.

“There’s this constant issue with bisexuality where people tend to claim it doesn’t exist and they’re just confused,” said freshman Daniel Rivera. “My favorite part was the bi/pansexual/fluid identity caucus because I was able to be in a room full of people that may have the same types of problems or questions that relate to me.”

The University students who participated noted the diversity of the schools in attendance. Florida Gulf State University was in attendance; their LGBTQ organization is the second largest on campus, and the school has already banned Chick-Fil-a from its campus, said sophomore Maddison Prether. There were a few Christian affiliated schools there as well, which Prether said were more underground organizations that had to provide their own funding for the conference.

There’s been an increase in awareness this year, and more people are comfortable coming to the meetings and being out in general, said junior Amy Finkenbine.

Finkenbine was elected as one of two Ohio representatives to be on the conference’s oversight committee, which plans the next two upcoming conferences. She said next year’s conference will be held at Michigan State University.

The University’s large turnout of students may be a reflection of the growing LGBT community and network of similar organizations on campus.

“There’s a thriving community here at BG and so many ways for students to get involved,” Spears said.  “The conference was just one of the ways the inclusiveness and community aspect could be seen.”