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Virginia Rendler

Attending MBLGTACC

by Virginia Rendler | Feb 21, 2017

This past weekend I attended the Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally College Conference, or MBLGTACC. Catchy name, right? It took place on Navy Pier in downtown Chicago, and included about 2,000 college students from all across the Midwest that were passionate about LGBT+ rights.

Spending time in this space was pretty amazing. The amount of solidarity and intersectionality made it feel safe and open. It’s hard to describe the feeling of walking down Navy Pier, somewhere I have been many times, and knowing that the majority of the people were a part of the queer community. There was no place for intolerance at this conference, everyone was open to everyone else’s identity. I’ve never been in a space so full of people that shared a community and ideals about human rights but were so different in identity and individuality.

The conference opened with a keynote by Patricia Cullors, a founder of Black Lives Matter, who reminded us that the resistance has always been queer. Queer black women started Black Lives Matter, and queer liberation is black liberation. There were many workshops for queer people of color, and this solidarity is crucial to building a strong community that builds each other up.

I identify as bisexual, and this conference afforded me many opportunities to meet people who identified the same way I did, and to learn about the history. On Saturday, the second workshop I attended was called Bi Our Own Voices, and discussed oral histories of the bisexual movement. It made me realize that a lot of myths about the bisexual community exist, and erasure is really common. Many oral histories of LGBT+ movements do not include even one bisexual person. The B in LGBT does not just mean ‘and’. There is an entire history that accompanies it and this conference made me realize that I am proud to be a part of that, which is more than just a letter in an acronym.

The most poignant workshop I went to was on conversion therapy. Samuel Brinton is a survivor of conversion therapy, a nuclear physicist who advises the president, the leader of the Kink and BDSM 101 workshop, and an activist for ending conversion therapy. So, I guess that’s relatable? He led a workshop on #50Bills50states, a movement he started to pass a bill in each state to make conversion therapy illegal. It is estimated that 1 in 3 LGBT+ people have gone through conversion therapy to some degree. As an 11-year-old child, Pavlovian training techniques were used on Brinton to ‘turn him straight.’ This form of torture is still legal in 45 states. Visit www.50bills50states.org to find out if your state is participating in these human rights abuses, or email hello@50bills50states.org to find out how to submit a bill in your state. Sam Brinton, and this entire conference, reminded me that activism is better than empathy.

We can feel bad for people until the cows come home, we can say that we’re in solidarity with a struggle, but it is not until we actually stand up and do something that we can truly make a difference. 

VirginiaRendler
Virginia Rendler ’20 is a Peace Studies major, and is hoping to double major in English, as well as double minor in Spanish and Visual Art. She loves animals and is a Leo. 

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