logo for the 2015 Midwest Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, and Ally College Conference

MLBCTACC is a mouthful of an acronym, but it is also a life changing experience!

I’ve done a lot in my journey toward being the best social justice activist I can be and I strive to make the world a better place for everyone, regardless of their identity. This past weekend, this journey took me once again with Full Spectrum: Winona State University’s Gender & Sexuality Alliance as we ventured to Normal, Illinois for yet another year at The Midwest Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, and Ally College Conference (MBLGTACC).

This year, the conference was titled “Narrating a New Normal.” Throughout the weekend attendees went to a variety of workshops, keynote speakers and networking events to expand their knowledge, professional circles and viewpoints on many issues surrounding the LGBTQIA community from intersectionalities (referring to social categorizations such as race, class, and gender that overlap for an individual or group and can lead to interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage) to acceptance in the dominant culture. There was also a discussion about how to navigate the workplace as a LGBTQIA person or as someone who stands in solidarity with the LGBTQIA community. If you are interested in learning more about the LGBTQIA community and their issues, It’s Pronounced Metrosexual is an excellent resource that is fun and engaging without being preachy.

The weekend started on Friday evening with a welcome and keynote speaker who was none other than Laverne Cox, a black transgender woman, whom you probably recognize from her role on the Netflix Original series, Orange is the New Black. She spoke about her experiences growing up and how they shaped the women she is today. Being able to see a person who continues to inspire me so much in my work speak was a life-changing experience.

Other speakers I got to see throughout the weekend included the self-identified “deliciously disabled” Andrew Morrison-Gurza, a Disability Awareness Consultant who works to highlight the lived experiences of people with disabilities to show that it is a universal experience that we should all embrace, and J Mase III, a black/trans/queer spoken word poet and educator, as well as many other people who work toward improving the world for all people no matter their differences. Each brought something to the conference and lent their expertise and stories to help those of us in attendance better understand intersectionality and the lives that are different from our own.

Trying to summarize everything I learned this past weekend is near impossible. So I’ve decided to pull together some of the main points:

  • You can’t talk about one marginalized group without talking about the others. Intersectionalities are important to address, because only together do they give you a picture of a person’s identity and therefore a picture of the lived experiences of those individuals.
  • To those who like to refer to themselves as “allies” – know that you can’t just be present at the protest. “Ally” isn’t a label you hang around yourself; it’s a verb, as in “I am being an ally”. Being an ally means actually working towards equality for all people, and it’s is something that you have to constantly be doing as you stand in solidarity with minority groups.
  • Education is the key to change – and we should always be open to that education.
  • It’s okay to make mistakes. As social justice advocates, we aren’t always going to know everything and we are definitely going to make mistakes. The way to deal with those mistakes is to be open to being corrected!

These points merely scratch the surface of what my second MBLGTACC taught me and the experiences and memories it left me with. I can’t even begin to describe how incredible it feels to learn so much and be surrounded by people who genuinely want the world to be a better place. Imagine if everyone took the time to get active and take a stance against structural and social inequalities in our society – the positive impact it would have would be absolutely incredible.

If you would like to hear more about my experiences at MBLGTACC or get involved with Full Spectrum, please contact me! My email is GBowling09@winona.edu.