Existence As Resilience: The Third Annual LGBT+ Connect Conference

by Samantha Ward

Amid everything going on in the political sphere, there are still safe spaces standing strong for the LGBT+ community, and one of them is the annual Connect Conference here in Athens. Hosted by the UGA LGBT Resource Center on January 28, this all-day event gave LGBT+ people and allies the chance to come together at the Tate Grand Ballroom and build community while “exploring the intricacies of intersectionality and issues that affect LGBT individuals.”

Only their third year hosting this event, the LGBT Resource Center reported the following day that over 215 people registered for the event, and you could certainly tell when students, professors, and others from across the state gathered in the Tate Grand Ballroom for the welcome, lunch keynote speaker, and closing.

Despite the large gathering, attendees experienced a more intimate setting for workshops with each ranging from 25 to 50. These workshops covered a wide variety of topics and fell under the four tracks of mind, body, heart, and soul. While some participants chose to stick with one track, everyone was encouraged to mix and match workshops as they saw fit.

Rebekah Hutchins, a post-baccalaureate student with a degree in genetics, referring to the workshop “It Takes More Than Two to Tango,” said, “There was one about non-monogamy and polyamorous relationships. I’m not in a polyamorous relationship, but I got a lot of information about non-monogamous relationships. . . and they talked about different types of relationships, what those look likes, and guidelines that you make for them. It was really interesting.” She also liked the emphasis on communication in any type of relationship.  

Other workshops included “Queering Spirituality: Moving From Acceptance to Celebration,” a talk from Rev. Kim Sorrells about queer theology and themes connecting the two communities, “Making A Mosaic Out of Your Life,” a workshop hosted by the UGA LIFE lab promoting intergenerational consciousness in the LGBTQ community through meaningful connections, and “The Rainbow Hijab,” a talk by Amina Abdul-Jalil about what it means to be a Black, Queer, Muslim women today.  

At midday, Grace Nichols, a “rising performance artist, poet, musician, actor, dancer and activist. They identify as a queer, genderqueer, transracial adoptee living with disabilities,” gave the lunch keynote presentation on their personal experience living with these identities, using art as a means of resistance, and the importance of acknowledging the levels of privilege and oppression within each sector of identity.   

Before ending the day, attendees had the chance to attend one of six caucuses centered around gender identity, sexual orientation, and race which fostered a safe space for open-ended discussions about topics learned that day, shared struggles, personal narratives related to identity, and other subjects.
Some attendees are already looking ahead to next year’s conference. Hutchins said in the future she would like to see “more in-community talk because I know the LGBT community does have their own issues within the community and if we could address those and have discussions centered around those (intersectionality), that would be great,” but regardless, she highly recommends attending to anyone who is interested, members of the LGBT+ community and allies alike, as she says it is always a wonderful event for networking with others and expanding knowledge on various issues and topics within the community.   

Samantha Ward is a second-year journalism and women’s studies student and an online writer for Infusion Magazine

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