BY COLIN MACDOUGALL
Over winter break, Washtenaw Community College’s Outspace Club attended the annual Midwestern Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, and Ally College Conference held at Purdue University. This conference was created in 1993 and is hosted by Midwestern colleges and universities; it includes workshops, activities, speakers and entertainment on issues that affect the LGBT community.
“It’s huge,” expressed one of Outspace’s club leaders Chris Wheeler, a 23 year-old IT major from Ypsilanti. “I was impressed with the sheer number of students that showed up,” said Christina Shannon, a social work student from Ann Arbor.
“It’s for everyone on the spectrum,” Wheeler said. This conference was Wheeler’s second time attending. He also went with WCC last year to the event in Normal, Illinois at Illinois State University. Wheeler identifies as transgender, so he attended several transgender workshops at the conference.
“I went to see if I could lend a helping hand to anybody who was in the workshops who need help keeping (the transgender) conversations going at their schools,” Wheeler said.
For 26-year-old graphic design student Melissa Reinward from Ypsilanti, this was her third time attending the conference. She went last year, but also a few years back when it was at Michigan State University.
“The biggest thing that left an impression on me was a class on imposter syndrome,” Reinward said.
Reinward deals with this problem and this class helped her in handling it.
“We talked about how we feel incompetent to do things sometimes even though we are fairly decent at them… It was really good to have wording (for that syndrome),” she said.
“Overall it was a pretty good experience. The diversity of the panels for each session was fairly amazing. It was good to meet others in the community, and even better way to get to know people that you go to school with,” Shannon said.
Zachary Baker, WCC alumni and Writing Center tutor also attended the conference.
“We, as a club, want to express our thanks to the college, especially Student Development and Activities, for generously supporting our trip,” he said.
WCC’s Health and Human Service instructor Kristy Norris was in attendance for the conference, since the club advisers were not able to make it.
“One of the most impactful events that I went to while I was there was a feature presentation by Sam Brinton. He talked about his experiences with conversion therapy,” Norris said.
Norris was not aware of how much conversion therapy is still practiced today. Conversion therapy is a type of therapy that “praying the gay out” is used as a treatment. Norris summarized that Brinton spoke of his advocacy to end conversion therapy as an option for treatment for those whose children identify as LGBT.
At the end of March, Outspace is going to Jackson College to give a presentation about their conference experiences to inspire their Gay-Straight Alliance to become more active and attend a national conference in the future, Baker said.
“We embrace the responsibility we have to share the knowledge and skills we gained to strengthen our campus and encourage other campuses,” he said.