University of Georgia Connect Conference 2017

University conference paves way for widespread education on queer identity in the southeast.

On January 28 the University of Georgia LGBT Resource Center  held the third annual Connect Conference, a symposium made up of panels, workshops, and a lunch lecture by Grace Nichols, social justice educator and organizer.

The conference lasted from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. with the purpose as defined by source material from the event, “[to] explore the intricacies of issues intersectionality and issues that affect LGBT individuals.” This conference was critical to the LGBTRC in opening doors for education of all people, queer or otherwise, in the southeast.

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Photo: the Rev. Kim Sorrels hosting “Queering Spirituality: Moving from Acceptance to Celebration” panel

Each one-hour event was themed as one of the following:

  • Mind-academia/education
  • Body-health and wellness, especially sexual health
  • Heart-exploring identities and intersectionality
  • Soul-intersections of faith/spirituality and LGBT identities

In one panel Rev. Kim Sorrels spoke on queer identities and religion. “[The church] is not resonating with people. God calls our name, maybe before we know our names ourselves. We are called into this role not in spite of our queerness, but maybe because of it.”

He went on to discuss the role of religious caucus groups in the AIDS crisis of the ’90s. Especially for HIV+ men, mixing religion with shared experiences “was so helpful that they started living again.”

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Photo: Grace Nichols’ speech during the Connect Conference lunch break

During lunch Grace Nichols spoke on intersectional identities and allyship in troubling times, citing specifically the sociopolitical climate since President Trump’s election. “It is our duty to love and protect one another. We have nothing to lose but our charms. How are we responding to the injustices of the world?”

Their small stature required a large stool to be seen over the podium, but did not take away from the power of their speech.  “Even if something doesn’t directly impact you, it will eventually.”

The conference closed with caucus discussions focused around race and sexual orientation before final remarks were given.

Soon the employees of the LGBTRC will be reviewing commentary sheets from attendees to make next year’s conference more applicable and inclusionary for their rapidly-growing audience.

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