Activists Discuss LGBT Issues
The main objective of the conference was for all affiliates of the organization to meet and discuss the current political LGBTQA movement in the state of Pennsylvania,. Goodman and fellow board directors invited speakers and activists of an older LGBTQA movement to speak with us. The first of the major speakers was Tammy Simpson, the mother of Brandon Bitner, a 14-year-old teen who had committed suicide last year after enduring school bullying. Her speech moved the attendees of the conference and instilled in us a reason why we do political activism on our campuses and in the state. Afterwards, all delegates participated in a workshop with Alison Gill, a transgender activist and public policy manager at the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), to review best practices for advocating on safe school policies.
The entire day was spent working one-on-one with fellow student activists on issues that concerned LGBTQA youth. It was a thrilling experience to speak with fellow LGBTQA students and learn about their respective campus organizations. A good number of delegates expressed the difficulties and challenges that they face on their campuses: apathy from student community, harassment, loneliness, lack of cooperation from administration, lack of resources for LGBTQA and lack of support. Delegates and representatives also shared their success stories about reaching out to community members and for some, having finally started their own LGBTQA campus organizations, which were non-existent recently.
UPenn has its own queer resource center on campus. After a dinner and talk with Mara Keisling, the founding executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, all delegates and regional chairs of the organization convened at the queer resource center for deliberations on political LGBTQA issues. The following day, we returned to the resource center for more caucuses. While Garcia attended the caucus concerning gender-neutral housing and bathrooms, I attended a caucus about queers in the athletic community. Two UPenn students of Penn Athletes Tackling Homophobia (PATH) led the discussion. After a final meeting led by Goodman, the conference closed with a speech by Mark Segal, an early radical pioneer of American gay journalism. After recounting his years as a gay activist for the past several decades, he explained that he did not fathom that he would live to see the day when youth would come together like we did. Goodman and Segal summed it best: “We are the movement.” Despite the hardships to create positive change for queer students, youth in Pennsylvania are fighting together in solidarity.