Second Year Statewide Conference on LGBT Issues In Education Coming Up

SOGI Now Offers Credits for Continuing Ed At March 9 Gathering

by Crystal A. Proxmire

Last year's Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Initiative Conference at Oakland University was such a hit that organizers are stepping it up for 2013, including offering Continuing Education Credits for education and counseling professionals.

This year's conference takes place on March 9 at the Oakland Center on OU's campus. It's an all-day event that includes continental breakfast and hot lunch. Tickets are $100 for general admission and $25 for students.

Tim Larrabee helped organize the conference as part of OU's commitment to diversity. The school set a priority for including sexual orientation and gender identity issues as part of their overall outreach to students in the School of Education.

"My charge was to make sure sexual orientation issues are infused through the school of education," Larrabee said. "What grew out of that was a taskforce of volunteers from every department to see what we could do. From that we created Michigan's first statewide conference on LGBT issues in education. We left it Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI), instead of making it LGBT. Sexual orientation and gender identity are labels we all live with. What we understood, is this is a human problem no matter where you lie on those spectrums, because everyone is impacted by perceptions."

Last year 150 people attended. This year more are expected because the event takes place on a Saturday and credits are being offered.

"This year's keynote is Debra Chasnoff of Ground Spark Films. She and her company produce gender and sexuality based films about youth. One of her most recent films is "Straightlaced--How Gender's Got Us All Tied Up." It looks at how we all are confined by gender stereotypes. Stereotypes constrict everybody," Larrabee said. He also recommends previous films of Chasnoff's including "It's Elementary--Talking, About Gay Issues in School," where she documented attitudes of youth in 1996, and the follow-up documentary "It's STILL Elementary," filmed in 2007.

David Garcia, executive director of Affirmations Community Center will be emceeing the conference, and Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh will also be on hand to share a few words.

There are multiple sessions, including "Using Research for Messaging and Moving Toward Justice," by Emily Dievendorf, policy director of Equality Michigan, "Students with Transgender Identities," by Antonia Caretto, PhD; "Strategies to Enhance Conditions for Learning for LGBT Students," by Jeffrey Poirier of the American Institutes for Research and Dustin Miller of Dublin City Schools; and "Social Justice Issues: Helping All Students Reach Their Potential," by Larry Thomas of Oakland schools and R.J. Webber of Novi schools.

And of course there will be several other options for sessions throughout the day, including a networking hour after lunch and a general roundtable session where all facilitators will be available for questions. The day will conclude with a performance by Riot Youth, a group from Ann Arbor's Neutral Zone teen center. The youth dramatize real-world situations that teens in Michigan schools experience. "They performed last year and the feedback was this was really impactful. It's that immediate real-life, real-world connection they make that you can't do in a workshop," Larrabee said.

To learn more about the SOGI Conference visit their website at http://www.oakland.edu/sogi.
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