This weekend Columbia hosted the second annual IvyQ conference, a weekend long conference between LGBTQ students and organizations from all eight Ivy League institutions. Each day was jam packed with guest speakers and workshops, while the nights kept attendees busy with “Speed-Friending”, a drag contest, a Lady-Gaga-infused dance (not unlike First Friday), and queer bingo.
Workshops were “tracked” into seven different categories: international, health, queer studies, education/campus life, identity, activism, and sponsors track. With names like “Gender Free Orgasm”, “Religion and Sexuality”, and “From Oscar Wilde to the National Portrait Gallery: Queer Art, Past Present and Future” there was something for everyone.
Unfortunately for many Columbia students (including this reporter) it was difficult to attend many of the events because Thursday and Friday’s classes and jobs were not suspended for the occasion. While visiting students most likely also had ridiculous amounts of work to do this weekend, they at least had the luxury of leaving such troubles behind by spending a weekend away from their respective campuses.
While the conference was both extremely important and enjoyable, it is definitely still working out some of its kinks. A common complaint was that the various workshops and events were focused more on gay male issues than the other letters included in that notoriously long LGBTQAI etc. etc. acronym. Yet the mere existence of such an event, especially one as large as 2011’s IvyQ was, is a huge step forward for the entire community – a fact highlighted by presence of eminent speakers. The keynote address was delivered by Amanda Simpson, the first-ever openly transgender woman in any administration, and the closing remarks by beloved Yale History and American Studies Professor George Chauncey.
Chauncey took conference attendees through a brief history of LGBTQ issues. He made the particularly poignant remark that even as little ten years ago such high-profile companies as J.P Morgan and Goldman Sachs would not have dared sponsor an event like IvyQ, and that many of those companies were still firing or refusing to hire people based on their sexual identity. Although such discrimination in the workplace still exists, it was reassuring to know that these companies not only sponsored IvyQ but also were also there to recruit LGBTQ Ivy League students to their companies.
IvyQ may be a new conference, but it is one worth attending. This Bwogger recommends you take a weekend off next year to attend the conference, wherever it may be. No matter how you identify you will most assuredly learn something new and who knows, you might even win a drag contest!