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LGBT Leadership Conference marks progress on campus

Although on the surface, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Leadership Conference, hosted by the Gay Straight Alliance on Saturday, was just a “leadership conference,” it truly symbolized a marked progression toward inclusiveness throughout the campus.

The leadership conference consisted of 75 attendees, including students and faculty from TCU and seven additional Texas schools, and focused on suicide and crisis prevention as a response to the slew of gay teen suicides in October 2010, Jamal King, GSA president, said.

Attendees participated in various workshops, such as learning about professional skills that emphasis inclusiveness, hosted by the Trevor Project, or learning about faith in “Pride in the Truth.”

The conference marked a stark contrast to a 2008 study conducted by a social work major Skye Newkirk and her mentor Tracy Dietz, associate professor of social work, which concluded the campus lacked support for the LGBT community.

The researchers asserted that the lack of campus support was the true source of LGBT students’ fears and discomforts.

Although resources are still lacking, King said, he hopes this conference will become both a resource and a symbol of progress for students.

“The main purpose is to make sure we have resources for everyone. We are here, and we are here to help with suicide and crisis prevention,” he said.

The conference, which the GSA plans to make an annual event, was a considerable achievement for the LGBT community, who has suffered many disappointments before.

In 2009, students signed petitions and asked for an LGBT resource center with books and study spaces, which the university said would be “considered” but was ultimately hindered.

Also in 2009, LGBT housing, called “the DiversCity Q community” was proposed. However, due to controversy over the idea of “living learning communities” in general, the proposal was nixed.

Now in 2011, the LGBT community still lacks a LGBT director in the office of Inclusiveness and Intercultural Services, a position that is common at other universities, such as Texas A&M and SMU.

Moreover, they still desire 8212; and deserve 8212; a resource center, so they can educate themselves and others.

The GSA still hopes to become a more vocal and visible part of the campus and raise awareness with straight students, King said.

But the best thing for the LGBT community to do is focus on the future 8212; now is what I believe to be their time, the most vital time for gay rights, both on campus and in America.

The same week a YouTube video of a 10-year-old girl playing Lady Gaga’s gay-rights hit “Born This Way” received 19 million hits, eight universities in Texas teamed up to create a successful and educational LGBT leadership conference. If that’s not progress, I simply do not know what it is.

Emily Atteberry is freshman political science and journalism double major from Olathe, Kan.

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