“There’s just something electric in the air right now,” said Mikki Lambert, the co-chair of the BMORE PROUD Leadership Summit.
On Saturday, Feb. 12, a group of McDaniel Students attended the summit at Johns Hopkins University to learn more about LGBTQIA, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Transsexual, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, Allies, and the challenges that many members will face in the future.
The day began with a greeting from the committee who explained the purpose of BMORE PROUD: “to promote personal and professional growth of [the Baltimore-Metro LGBTQIA community] through leadership development, academic scholarship, educational programming and social networking opportunities.”
The BMORE PROUD event had two speakers, a panel, a resource fair, and three breakout sessions, where students could pick from several topic options, one of which was led by Masha Makhlyagina, a senior at McDaniel College.
“Masha led a very powerful and passionate breakout session that stirred up intense debate in the crowd,” said Melanie Darling, a junior.
During her session, titled, “No Right Way to be Gay,” Masha Makhlyagina spoke about her dislike of the seemingly mandatory labels of the LGBTQIA community. She argued that it would be more beneficial to allow people, if they wish, to remove the labels in order to bring the community closer together.
“I liked that [BMORE PROUD] supported the non-heterosexual community and their allies, but I think that they failed to do so because of the labeling,” said Britt Burr, a senior.
The keynote speaker was Stacey Ann Chin, a gay woman who was born in Jamaica, and from her experiences there was inspired to write, speak, and advocate for LGBT rights. A world famous poet, Chin spoke of her secret experiences, her injuries, and of women’s rights. One of the most vivid images she painted was a poem that cries to people to stop correctional rape of women. Correctional rape is meant to “clean” someone of being gay.
The panel of people, who identified themselves as gay, transsexual, and lesbian, spoke about their experiences in the real world. The discussion focused on what difficulties they’ve run into, advice on how to handle such problems, and their work experiences, including whether or not they tell people about their identification,. The transsexual man even spoke of an event where he was discriminated against while applying for a job.
The closing keynote speaker, Staff Sergeant Eric Alva, spoke about his experience in the Iraq War. Not only was he the first American injured in the Iraq War, but he is gay, and at the time, was serving under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
“Nobody owns your happiness,” Alva said.