UNO to host 2018 LGBT conference


Cassie Wade

Thirteen University of Nebraska at Omaha students loaded up in minivans and traveled to Chicago for the 2017 Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally College Conference (MBLGTACC) held Feb. 17 – 19.

MBLTGACC is the largest LGBT college conference in the nation, according to Jessi Hitchins, Director of UNO’s Gender and Sexuality Resource Center.

“I would actually go as far as to say I think it’s the most radical LGBT college conference that there is,” Hitchins said. “I think even the professional organization doesn’t hold a candle to this conference.”

The trip was funded by Queer and Trans Services (QTS) through student government. Students not associated with QTS had to pay for the trip themselves.

While attending MBLTGACC, students had the opportunity to listen to speakers who’ve gone through similar experiences and fought to make positive changes, including Jennicet Gutiérrez who spoke out about the deportation of Trans Latina women at an Obama press conference.

“She did this, and this was at the big time when marriage equality came out, and she was silenced by the Obama administration,” Hitchins said. “This is someone who not even in our current political climate but was pushing against the Obama administration to really do better towards Trans folks.”

Besides hearing speakers who have gone through similar experiences, Hitchins said MBLGTACC also enables students to connect with more than 2,300 others who share their identity.

“To be around people physically that identify the way that you do, is so powerful,” Hitchins said. “It allows people to be their full authentic self without apology where they might have to be in
the closet the rest of the whole entire year whereas this weekend is really about living their life full and authentically.”

MBLGTACC is held specifically for students living in the Midwest, which Hitchins said leads to participating students having more common experiences. “It’s not from large, metropolitan areas; it is from smaller communities across the Midwest, so people understand that experience as well,” Hitchins said. “There’s a lot of intersections in that regard.”

The MBLTGACC 2018 conference will be held at UNO. Hitchins said the theme will be All Roads Lead to Intersectionality.

“Really addressing disability, race, religion, gender, sexuality, age, weight, all those things that go into our identities that we need to think about intersectionaly, not just that one thing at a particular moment,” Hitchins said.

Hitchins said UNO plans to be more mindful of accessibility when hosting the conference.

“The accessibility at the 2017 conference was not strong,” Hitchins said. “There was a lot of
people within the conference who had mental health needs as well as accessibility needs, mobility needs. We need to be conscience of those things.”

Speakers and programs will be held during UNO’s conference in order to make sure accessibility
needs are properly addressed.

Three UNO student co-chairs, Matthew Dooley, Irene Zaiter and Peyton Wells will work on different components of the 2018 conference to ensure its success.

Wells is a second-year student and secondary education major with an emphasis in English language arts. Wells is specifically working on the support and sponsorship component for the 2018 conference and is the chair of off campus accommodations.

Wells said UNO had to bid for the chance to host the 2018 conference at the conference held at Purdue in 2016. To Wells, the fact that UNO won the bid is a sign “UNO is stepping up its game in inclusion and diversity.”

“By hosting this conference, I think it sends a very loud message to UNO students and everyone in the Omaha community,” Wells said. “We not only are ready for this conference to be here, but that we’re excited and accepting of the folks we’re going to bring in.”