On Feb. 20, hundreds of students from colleges across the Baltimore metro area participated in the first annual BMore Proud LGBTQIA Leadership Summit, located at Towson University. The theme of this year’s summit was community, and the energy generated by so many people with common goals was contagious as participants were able to connect, learn, network, and share their experiences.
“When you’re in a room with over a hundred people who think like you, on any issue, it’s incredibly inspiring,” said junior Laura Manos-Hey.
The event featured keynote speakers, breakout sessions, food sponsored by Chipotle, and an organizational fair. Sample breakout session topics included “Transcending Gender,” “Ins of Coming Out,” “Racism in the Gay Community,” and “After the L Word: Lesbian and Bisexual Women on Television.” Members of McDaniel’s gay-straight alliance, Allies, hosted sessions about LGBT dating and support for straight allies.
“It was intimidating to lead a discussion in front of more people than I see weekly at Allies meetings. I was thankful that two of my friends led the discussion with me. We discussed how dating as a person who is LGBT is different than a heterosexual dating experience because it forces the dating individuals to face challenges like tokenism and harassment,” said sophomore Masha Makhlyagina. “It was difficult to hear some of the harsher experiences the breakout session attendees had in their personal lives. However, overall, it was an empowering experience and I feel that those who went learned more about different perspectives on the issues.”
The event culminated in a drag show competition, featuring professional drag queens and students from Towson University and Johns Hopkins University.
“It was important to attend with my fellow Allies members in order to continue building a sense of community, this time from the activist perspective,” said Manos-Hey.
Advocacy was a large part of the emphasis as well. McDaniel Allies plans to take what was learned at BMore Proud and apply it to its activities this semester. For example, Allies Week will raise awareness of LGBT misconceptions and issues and will culminate in a day of silence. There are plans to try to create an LGBT studies course and to ask supportive faculty and staff members to establish “Safe Zones” in their offices, marked by a pink triangle symbol.
“Sometimes just talking to people and opening up dialogue is enough to further the cause of gay rights,” said freshman Dani Allen. “You don’t always have to plan a big event or rally. Just changing one person’s mind can make a difference.”