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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The view from change

< midterm break, seven Carleton students representing a range of class years, genders and sexual orientations had the unique opportunity to attend Creating Change, the national LGBTQ Equality Conference organized by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

We attended a wide variety of workshops ranging from topics of “Kink, Race & Class” to “Trans Activism on Your Campus” to “LGBTQ Housing Discrimination” to “Pinkwashing in Palestine” to “Immigration and LGBTQ Discrimination.” These workshops taught us many things, as did the overall climate of the conference. In fact, the most important lessons that we learned, specifically those related to creating change at Carleton, were from the conference’s climate itself.

At the conference, we encountered an overall feeling of progressive inclusivity. The conference was certainly pushing boundaries, but it was also not pushing us away. In fact, despite charged topics and often bold practices, we came away with a feeling of belonging to a larger community of LGBTQA activists. As such, we think that the conference’s practices set an important example for queer leaders and allies at Carleton, and the Carleton community more generally.

The first of these initiatives concerns a part of language we often disregard: pronouns. Although many people have never experienced being addressed with pronouns they are uncomfortable with, a key part of Creating Change’s atmosphere was acknowledging these feelings and taking proactive steps against such situations. Not assuming the gender identity (i.e. whether one wants to be identified as a man/woman/genderqueer person) of participants was a consistent theme across the conference. From nametags to introductions at workshops, self-identifying one’s preferred pronoun was an expectation at Creating Change. Often, when people at Carleton ask for pronouns, the question may be considered unnecessary, met with suspicion or simply perceived as strange. But at Creating Change, the acknowledgment was that gender identity is too important to be guessed at. We challenge Carleton community members to follow this example.

Second, Creating Change made no effort to mask the historical racism and classism, both explicit and implicit, within the gay rights movement. Instead, not only were there countless workshops addressing issues of white privilege, racism and classism in the movement, these issues pervaded workshops on issues not directly or obviously related. Within a workshop on starting an anti-violence project, workshop coordinators challenged participants to consider how their identities would affect their work. Within a workshop on queer femininity, participants discussed how their race interacted with how they performed their gender. 

Conference participants were also aware that simply being at the conference gave them a special privilege. Each attendee at the conference was encouraged to remain aware of this fact and not to lose sight of the voices that were represented throughout the weekend.

Finally, though the conference was organized by a movement that has often ignored our fellow transgender activists, we came away from the conference feeling like Creating Change had made a concerted effort for transgender programming, workshops and safe spaces. In one concrete example of this inclusivity, bathrooms were uniformly gender-neutral at the Conference. Indeed, increasing the number of gender-neutral bathrooms is one area in which we can envision productive efforts for future change at Carleton.    

We came back from the conference energized and excited about our work. Creating Change was an opportunity to discover new ways that we can implement change at the campus level, and even just in person-to-person interactions, all strengthened by the knowledge of this national movement behind us.

Beth Budnick ‘11, Nona Schamus ‘14, Claire Bosworth ‘11, Mikenna Everett ‘14,  Kendall Bills ‘13, Jonathan Figueroa ‘12 and Mitchell Campbell ‘14 attended Creating Change.

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