By Jacob Martinez
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) activists hosted the 13th annual LGBTQA College Leadership Conference on Nov. 6 at Montclair State University to discuss the future of the movement for the fight beyond marriage equality.
Over 200 attendees participated in the annual event cosponsored by William Paterson University, New Jersey City University, Rutgers University, Princeton University, Ramapo College and Rider University.
Those who attended learned how to cope with anxiety and how to communicate with deaf or mute members of the LGBT community through sign language. The breakout session, “GaySL: A Crash Course in Gay American Sign Language,” lead by Hayden Kristal, a University of Missouri student, introduced signs for LGBT terms.
Diverse lectures and presentations from students from MSU as well as activists, such as Mark Travis Rivera, a WPU alumni who conducts workshops around the U.S. that introduce LGBT concepts and issues, were also delivered at the event.
As individuals filled the seats in the university’s student center, the mood amongst the crowd grew friendly and supportive, with many anxious for the conference to begin. Brittany Line, 19, a sophomore communications major at WPU was excited to connect with other LGBT students from outside of New Jersey.
“It’s awesome that we can come here and share our perspectives and ideas,” she said.
Between event sessions, attendees enjoyed food and refreshments and exchanged contact information, as a means to provide personal and professional support. From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., free Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) testing was available, where students and attendees could learn their status confidentially.
Brian Edwards, coordinator of the LGBT Center at MSU, believes one of the purposes of this event is to create a safe environment for LGBT community members to network and continue towards social equality in their communities and schools.
Four in ten LGBT youth say the community in which they live is not accepting of LGBT people, according to the Human Rights Campaign website. This proves true as each year, the LGTBQA College Leadership Conference faces a myriad of challenges. Each year, it’s difficult to find volunteers for the event as well as gather a large audience. However, of them all, funding remains the biggest obstacle. With no collective data available to identify active members of the LGBT community at WPU, funding for events such as the LGBT conference prove difficult to attain.
Despite many difficulties, collegiate student organizations and school officials work together for the social acceptance of LGBT students attending all institutions of higher education. For more information on the collegiate LGBT community, visit the Campus Pride Index website at campusprideindex.org.