As part of OUTtober, Bowdoin Queer Straight Alliance (BQSA) sent 13 students to Bates College’s first Maine Youth Summit and Queer/ Trans Conference last Saturday. Open to both college students and community members such as LGBTQIA+ youth, parents and college faculty and staff, the conference allowed Bowdoin students to immerse themselves in a large, diverse group of queer and trans people.
“Being off campus and hearing about and experiencing the queer experiences of people, both at Bates and outside of the academic setting, was really refreshing,” said conference attendee Noah Dubay ’19, communications director for BQSA.
In addition to taking place outside an academic setting, the conference allowed attendees to meet others in the queer community beyond the Bowdoin student body and faculty.
“The Bowdoin queer community is small, which is inherent in being in a small community, and any time our students can be within a larger community it’s very validating and empowering,” said Kate Stern, associate dean of students for diversity and inclusion and co-director of the Center for Sexuality, Women and Gender.
Keynote speeches were delivered by Yara Adhelday, Bates College Class of 2019 and Sean Dorsey, a dancer, writer and choreographer who is recognized as the first acclaimed transgender modern dance choreographer in the U.S.
Dorsey’s speech included exercises promoting self-love such as the repetition of a body-positive mantra. Dubay found Dorsey’s address to be particularly impactful.
“The specific experiences I heard about were probably what stuck with me the most … [such as] Sean Dorsey’s life and his path to becoming a dancer and his experiences being trans and in college,” Dubay said.
“It was really re-energizing to sit in a room surrounded by other queer people who were just taking this really radical approach of self-love as a means of changing the world,” said Daisy Wislar ’18 of her experience attending the keynote address and accompanying exercises.
Dubay was also impacted by Adhelday’s address. “[When they] spoke about emotions and trauma in the body, generational, pain and discomfort, and how that relates to queerness and how that can lead to productive work. That was really touching.”
Upon registering for the conference, attendees were able to choose between different workshops addressing a variety of issues affecting groups of the queer community—ranging from those striving to offer practical knowledge to those creating a space for dialogue and healing.
Wislar attended a workshop focused on the performing arts, an area she felt has been historically inaccessible to her as a queer and disabled person.
“That workshop was super therapeutic because it was self-reflection in a room of other people who were sharing their experiences … all queer people, a lot of trans people, a lot of queer and trans people of color just taking up space and loving themselves and each other in a way that they wanted to,” said Wislar.
The day concluded with a dance performance, called “The Missing Generation,” both choreographed by and featuring Sean Dorsey. The dance performance was inspired by Dorsey’s project of collecting oral histories from people who survived the AIDS crisis.