I’ve been so busy running from event to event to event this month that I haven’t had a chance to blog my thoughts from the NELGBTC Conference until now, 10-11 days later. NELGBTC is a queer student activism conference that moves around annually from campus to campus. I was invited by the SUNY Stony Brook TNG group and presented two sessions there. Far as I can tell in my digging and research NELGBTC is the successor to what was called the NELGSAC/NELGSU Conference back in 1985, which I attended as a newly minted queer student activist at Brown University. (NELGSU had reformed as NELGBSA by 1992 and the mantle of national student queer organizing umbrella organization had been taken up by NELGBTC by about 1997, far as I can tell from searching Internet archives.)
When I got to college in 1985 I knew I was bisexual but didn’t know what that “meant” as far as answering the question “who am I?” I was trying to figure a lot of stuff out (as usual at that age) about sexuality, including what it “meant” to be a sexually active woman (even heterosexually) in a society that was pretty condemnatory about that (I was still technically a virgin at that point, btw) and how to deal with stuff like the fact I wasn’t comfortable being/presenting as a typical cisgendered female–especially when the (bullshit) messages I was getting from society were that if I wanted to explore sexuality then adopting cisgender female attire and “looks” was how one was supposed to signal sexual availability. The “problem” of course wasn’t me, it was society, and the fact I hadn’t yet found “my people,” i.e. other folks whose identities and sexualities were outside the heterosexual cis norm.
I found those people at my first LGSA (Lesbian Gay Student Alliance) meeting, even though at the time there was no “B” in the name and I still wasn’t totally sure if as a bisexual I was welcome in that space. Well, first it was me who wasn’t sure I was committed to entering that space. I had seen the posters advertising a meeting and I had tried to “casually” pass by the meeting room to “just get a look” before committing to going in. But at the time of the meeting…the room was empty. How weird, I thought. I went back to the bulletin board to check the time and place. I wandered around trying to pretend I had another reason to be in that building. I buzzed past the room again. Still empty. My anxiety about this whole thing was starting to spike and I thought forget this, I’ll just go back to my room.
I stepped outside the building and there were a bunch of people unloading grocery bags of snacks and soda from the back of a car. They took one look at me and said, “Oh are you here for the LGSA meeting? Can you help carry this?”
Well, apparently “my people” recognized ME and knew I belonged. So my very first act of queer student activism was to help set up the snacks and drinks for a meeting that I had not been totally sure I was going to attend. (I was soon taught about “gay standard time,” LOL.)
I stayed the whole meeting and was active in the LGSA for the next 4 years–and that first year was when Brown happened to host the NELGSU conference.
Here’s an indicator how much of an outsider I still felt, though…
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