U-M to host country's largest LGBTQA college conference

By Benjamin Jenkins

This February, the University of Michigan will host the Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally College Conference, the country's largest conference of this nature, featuring over 90 diverse workshops as well as nationally known keynote speakers and entertainers. This is the first year that MBLGTACC will be hosted by a Michigan university.

The conference, expected to draw over 1,800 students from 211 colleges, was first conceived in 1991 in Des Moines, Iowa, and debuted at Iowa State two years later. Nineteen years later, universities across the Midwest bid on the opportunity to host MBLGTACC. In 2009, the University of Michigan placed a bid and won the 2011 conference.

The university chose to bid specifically on MBLGTACC 2011 because this year it's the 40th anniversary of U-M's Spectrum Center, the country's first LGBTQ student service and resource office.

One of the expected keynotes, according to senior assistant director of the Spectrum Center Gabe Javier, is Mara Keisling, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. In addition, Mandy Carter, a pioneering black lesbian advocate and activist, and Pedro Julia Serrano, communications manager of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, are also expected to speak.

But, Javier says, "the big draw is the conference itself, an opportunity for students across the midwest to connect with other students. We're hosting (students from) huge campuses like Michigan State and Ohio State, but also smaller campuses. It's an opportunity for those smaller campuses to meet other LGBTQ college students."

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