Gloin Global: 4Th Annual Queer Cuny Focuses On Bridging Community Gaps

The fourth annual Queer CUNY Conference, an academic conference considering topics
relevant to lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and queer people in the CUNY community, took
place on the 6th floor of Hunter West Saturday, April 5, 2003. The theme was “Building
Bridges,” and all of the day’s planned events, including the unplanned dialogue that took place at the
conference, fit the concept of bridging the gaps.
For conference attendees, the day began with a short welcome speech and report from the boroughs,
during which students, faculty, and staff spoke about the LGBTQ situation at each individual school.
Hunter has always had a strong queer presence in course offerings, students clubs, and campus
politics. However, Hunter is not only school with a thriving LGBTQ community. Students and faculty
across the city, from John Jay to La Guardia, spoke about safe space programs, LGBTQ groups for
students and faculty, and queer courses that are starting to make their way into more conservative
CUNY schools. These students and faculty members must contend with everything from conservative
administrations to homophobic students who rip down flyers advertising queer events. Many came to
the conference specifically to find and share strategies for getting past the roadblocks – from red tape
to hate – that stand in their way.
Participants did just that in two rounds of workshops. Seven
topics were offered, with panels on everything from transgender
issues to creating safe spaces on campus; from the politics of
being a gay athlete to political issues in the city and state that
affect the lives LGBTQ students in public universities.
“From what I gathered of folks’ conversations, it was a big
success. I know I had a blast in my workshop,” said Alena
Singleton, one of the Hunter students who helped to plan the
event.
Following the workshops came the plenary, the event that would
sum up the day’s events and act as a jumping off point for next
year’s conference. Graduate student Robert Kaplan led a
discussion of the day’s successes and failures, what worked this
year and what people wanted to see the next.
“I’m really looking forward to attending next year’s conference at La
Guardia,” said Julie Geyer, a Hunter freshman who was unable to attend
this year due to previous athletic engagements. “I heard a lot of good
things about the conference at Hunter, and I can’t wait to take what
[they] did this year to the next level.”
Judging from the attendees’ comments, there were far more successes
than anything else. Most recommendations for the future were ideas
that came from the workshops and built on the successes of this year’s
conference.
The event that many attendees were waiting for came just after the
plenary session. Deborah Glick, the first openly lesbian member of the
New York State Assembly and a CUNY graduate, spoke on LGBTQ issues
in state politics, what it’s like to try to get things done in Albany as the
only out lesbian there, and how her own experiences at Queens College
informed her political career. One of her main goals is to add to the
recently passed Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act by passing
the Gender Identity Non-Discrimination Act, which would extend the
human rights legislation in SONDA to protect against discrimination on
the basis of gender identity or expression.
“I look forward to participating in a grassroots effort to educate policymakers
and the general public about transgender issues and the need for
protections against gender-based discrimination,” Glick said.
Queer CUNY is an annual event sponsored by the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at the
Graduate Center. The conference takes place at a different campus every year. Previous conferences
have been held at Queens College and Baruch. Next year La Guardia Community College will host
the event. u
Sara Clarke is a double major in Women’s Studies and Anthropology at Hunter College. This article originally
appeared in the Hunter student paper, The Envoy, 16 April 2003.