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Indiana University hosted the 17th annual Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally College Conference (MBLGTACC), which took place February 13th-15th, 2009 on the Bloomington campus. The conference’s ongoing mission is to engage students, faculty, and staff of the regional Midwest in issues relevant to the BLGTA community. The 2009 conference theme was “Living Out Loud: Examining Our Past to Enhance Our Future,” and its aim was to reflect upon the triumphs and shortcomings of the past in order to create a better future for the BLGTAQ community and society as a whole. In addition, the conference encourages activism and networking among Midwest community members in order to promote diversity, equality and social justice, while empowering LGBTAQ individuals to live out loud. With an attendance of more than 1600 people, the conference was a huge success.

The conference offered over one hundred workshops, which covered topics ranging from Queer histories and identities to activism, advocacy and career self-efficacy for LGBT community members. Workshop presenters included both graduate and undergraduate students and faculty members from universities across the Midwest, as well as former GLAAD president Neil Giuliano, Laramie Inside Out 3 filmmaker Beverly Seckinger, and Terrance Dean4, author of Hiding in Hip-Hop: On the Down Low in the Entertainment Industry-From Music to Hollywood. According to Hursey, the workshops were well-attended. Some of the most popular sessions included “32 Flavors and Then Some: Performing Queer Identities in Popular and Independent Music” and “ISM: Racism, Sexism, and Homophobia-Recognizing and Understanding the Connections.”

Important contributors to the conference’s success were well-known keynote speakers for the event, all of whom were welcomed by crowds of students and faculty in the IU auditorium. Kand McQueen, IU graduate and professor in the College of Education at Indiana State University in Terre Haute spoke about intersexuality, deconstructing the gender binary paradigm, and provided a brief history of hate crimes against gender variant people in the U.S. LZ Granderson, columnist for ESPN The Magazine and a contributing journalist for ESPN’s Sports Center, addressed Queer visibility in athletic communities and the politics of being an out man of color. Filmmaker Rose Troche, who is best known for her 1994 film Go Fish, spoke about lesbian visibility and her work as a writer and director for the HBO series The L Word. The evening entertainment was outstanding and included performances by stand-up comedians Julie Goldman, Marga Gomez and Vidur Kapur, and the “dragapella beautyshop quartet” The Kinsey Sicks. Other popular events included free tours of the Kinsey Institute, documentary film screenings, IU Theater and Drama Department’s performance of Stop Kiss, and the IU Women’s Student Association’s V-Day benefit production of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues.

The 2009 conference was organized entirely by students, and was spearheaded by co-chairs Solomon Hursey, Program Coordinator at IU’s GLBT Student Support Services (GLBTSSS) and Julia Napolitano, who volunteers regularly at GLBTSSS. In addition, there were thirteen volunteers on the planning committee and approximately thirty-five last-minute volunteers who helped with ushering, crowd control and distributing registration packets. Funding for the conference totaled $120,000, approximately 85% of which was drawn from registration fees. The majority of the remaining amount was donated by GLAAD, IBM, OUT Media12, Ernst & Young, IU GLBT Alumni Association, IU Student Legal Services, IU GLBTSSS Office Endowment Fund and IU Dean of Students Office, though many other organizations contributed. Many local business owners who were unable to make financial contributions supported the conference by displaying conference stickers in storefront windows, welcoming conference attendees and increasing visibility for Bloomington’s LGBT community.