Cause for Celebration

Photo Credit: Janet Rogers, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications

UMKC hosts the largest LGBT college conference: MBLGTACC

Start to finish, University of Missouri-Kansas City students were pleased with the Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally College Conference they hosted.

Also known as MBLGTACC or “Mumbletalk,” the conference is in its 22nd year and is the nation’s largest LGBTQIA college conference, bringing about 2,000 students from all over the country — including Hawaii. The conference had 90 workshops to choose from, with topics including safe sex, creating change on campus and ally-community building, and offered nationally known speakers.

“It was exactly the weekend we envisioned when we first started planning two years ago” said UMKC senior Roze Brooks, the chair of MBLGTACC. “There was an enormous sense of community and empowerment in a fun, celebratory environment.”

The opening night of the conference, held at the Kansas City Convention Center, was kicked off by the Heartland Men’s Chorus, Kansas City’s gay men’s chorus, performing their musical documentary “When I Knew.”

Country music star Chely Wright, who was born in Kansas City and grew up in nearby Wellsville, Kan., was the keynote Friday and discussed coming out as a lesbian.

“I felt I didn’t fit in initially in any community, hiding my gayness in the world of country music, and coming out as a Christian in the LGBTQIA world,” said Wright, who spoke on stage in a conversation with UMKC Student Involvement Director Angela Cottrell. Wright, now married to a woman, also performed music she wrote.

Transgender advocate Janet Mock spoke to a packed room Saturday night. Just days, Mock appeared on a pair of interviews on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Live” to promote her new book “Redefining Realness.” Following the first interview, a media firestorm erupted after Morgan dwelled long on Mock’s transition story as well as the show’s onscreen description of Mock as a former boy and man. Social media posts and newspaper editorials criticized the lack of respect.

“Trans women are women no matter what,” Mock told the MBLGTACC audience, drawing a standing ovation.

Designer and “Fashion Star” winner Kara Laricks, another Kansas City area native, drew a crowd when she closed the conference Sunday. She designs androgynous clothing for men and women.

Current events, as well as scheduled activity, drove some of the conference buzz. A front-page story in Sunday’s Kansas City Star about raising transgender children was a major element. It was headlined, “’I am a girl’: Transgender children face a society slow to accept them.” Conference attendees considered the piece balanced and enlightened.

And later that day, University of Missouri football defensive end Michael Sam, a likely NFL draft pick, came out as gay. If selected, Sam will be the first openly gay NFL football player. Sam has received a lot of positive support from not only the LGBT community but his college teammates and MU.

“One of the takeaways from the conference is how far we’ve come,” said Jonathan Pryor, co-adviser of MBLGTACC and coordinator of UMKC LGBTQIA Programs & Services. “Chancellor Morton received a standing ovation for his speech, showing UMKC’s administrative support. When this conference started 22 years ago, college and university administrations weren’t so supportive. Now about 80 percent of the conference goers’ colleges registered their support by paying for their conference or by helping them get here.”

This was the first time MBLGTACC has been hosted by UMKC, which has been globally recognized for welcoming LGBTQIA students, faculty and staff. Korean television and The New York Times have noted UMKC’s policy for inclusivity of student identities and building design. Newsweek named UMKC No. 5 in its Gay-Friendly College Rankings. Alumni and friends of UMKC have been generous and donated money for Pride scholarships for LGBTQIA students.

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