Times they are a-changing!

(Lee Forest reflects on her experience at the Creating Change Conference):

If I had to pick one highlight from my attendance at the Creating Change conference, then it would have to be when President Barack Obama thanked me for my social justice efforts.

Now that I have your attention, I’ll admit that he didn’t exactly thank me individually or in person. Nonetheless, I was sincerely moved when the president addressed us Creating Change 2013 attendees via this video.

Creating Change is the nation’s only annual conference designed to bring together students, advocates, and educators alike to share promising practices, network and collaborate with each other, and renew our resolve and enthusiasm for creating greater GLBT equity and inclusion. I especially appreciate attending because it is the only conference where I can connect with other professionals who direct campus LGBT resource centers.

The insights I gain through attending Creating Change remain a benefit to not only me but also to my students. Most of us higher education professionals have experienced getting so caught up in day-to-day operations and “putting out fires” that we risk losing fresh perspectives on our work. Fortunately, Creating Change provides just the challenges I need to shake up the status quo within me, unveil my preconceived notions and assumptions, and encourage me to seek innovative ways to support our GLBTA students.

Allow me give an example. A little while back, I contacted the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment to obtain data regarding the percentage of students who identified as GLBT in the Campus Climate Survey (pdf). The numbers were telling: 9% of students identified as GLBT or questioning, and the largest percentage of those identified as bisexual. Although that fact struck me as interesting, I needed time with other directors of LGBT centers to brainstorm ways to apply this data to benefit students.

Through discussions with other directors at Creating Change, I gained a deeper understanding of just how pervasive bisexual invisibility really is and how to combat it. Many institutions that have departments for GLBTA students focus their efforts on students who are gay, lesbian, and, most recently, transgender and queer students of color.  At Creating Change, however, the question was asked of where is the bisexual-specific programming? Yes, the Pride Center has offered several programs that focused on bisexuality, but it dawned on me at Creating Change that BSU, like too many other colleges and universities, lack an ongoing program exclusively devoted to bisexual issues.

Upon my return to campus, I immediately developed the new +1 program with my students–a monthly discussion group focusing solely on issues related to bisexuality and pansexuality.  The program has already been very well-received by students and it directly meets a prevalent need among GLBTA students.

As with all of our programs, all are welcome regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Join us!

Lee Forest is the Director of the GLBTA Pride Center and author of this post.

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