The date May 1 means different things to different people. Historically, May 1 is May
Day, an international day of solidarity for workers. For Roman Catholics, May 1 is the
opening day of the Month of the Virgin Mary. For queers at CUNY, May 1 was the
date of the fifth annual Queer CUNY conference.
The previous four Queer CUNY conferences were hosted by the Graduate Center and
three senior colleges (Queens, Hunter, Baruch); therefore, the student group SAGA
(Straight and Gay Alliance) here at LaGuardia was considerably honored to be asked at the
end of last year’s conference to be the host and organizer of Queer CUNY V. This was the
first time this CUNY-wide event was held on a community college campus.
The conference opened with a welcome from Monica Walters and Leon Chung
(president and vice-president of SAGA) who welcomed the participants and expressed their
honor and pleasure in hosting Queer CUNY V. Faculty co-mentors Leonard Vogt and Liz
Clark from the English Department reviewed the conference program and awarded the
2004 Queer CUNY Award for Courage and Activism to New Paltz Mayor Jason West for his
outstanding leadership in Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender/ Questioning (LGBTQ)
concerns. On February 27, 2004, Mayor West married 25 same-sex couples and now faces
19 misdemeanor counts for solemnizing a marriage without a license. Mayor West stated,
“Our Constitution requires equal protection for all New Yorkers. . . . My hope is that
someday soon mayors and officials in villages and towns across the country will be able to
perform marriage ceremonies for all committed couples, no matter their gender.”
The conference featured networking opportunities for queer students, faculty and staff
throughout City University with the “Wheel of CUNY,” a clever “Wheel of Fortune” type
game where campus after campus came to the stage to report on queer concerns on their
campuses. John-Wesley Caudill (former SAGA president and a founder of Queer CUNY)
moderated this section of the day like a true game show host.
Since LaGuardia is “The World’s Community College,” SAGA chose as our theme
“Celebrating the Global Rainbow,” which was reflected in several workshops. “Planet
AIDS: The International Impact of HIV/AIDS” reviewed the current global state of AIDS, the
political currency of AIDS in the U.S. and the way in which the conservative U. S. agenda is
driving national and international policy. In addition, this session included a discussion of
international LGBTQ human rights in relation to HIV/AIDS policy. Another workshop,
“Queer Planet: International Queer Politics,” introduced a panel of distinguished international
LGBTQ organizations that explained their work and invited participants to get
involved in advocacy for international queer issues.
Other workshops dealt with: the creation of LGBTQ clubs and the need for Safe Zone
training across CUNY; the experiences of instructors teaching queer/gay and lesbian texts
and the implications of using queer texts with pedagogy and the teaching of writing; the
common issues and differences transgender people have with other members of the queer
community; experiences of combating homophobia in sports and fitness; the queer youth
movement in the U.S. and around the world; themes of queer/gay language to define
identity; and health and public policy issues that affect the LGBTQ community.
The formal conference activities of the day concluded with a welcome from President
Gail O. Mellow, who introduced the keynote speaker for Queer CUNY V, New York City
Commissioner Verna Eggleston. The plenary which followed pulled together the events of
the day and precipitated plans for the hosting of next year’s Queer CUNY VI. A dinner
dance, held in the atrium, celebrated five successful years of Queer CUNY conferences.
The Queer CUNY V organizing committee is immensely grateful to the LaGuardia
community which pulled together to make this conference such a success: Student Life
and Development, Academic Affairs, The President’s Office, Marketing and
Communication, The Events Office, Buildings and Grounds, the Print Shop, Media Services,
Public Safety, the Theatre Staff, the Women’s Center, SAGA, and of course, our amazing
Organizing Committee*. This conference would not have happened without everyone’s
hospitality and generosity.
J. Elizabeth Clark and Leonard Vogt are both on the faculty in English at LaGuardia Community
*Queer CUNY V Organizing Committee: Tony Allicino, Andrew Bailiss, Lenore Beaky, Farrah
Benoit, Krista Berry, Phil Botwinick, John-Wesley Caudill, Leon Chung, J. Elizabeth Clark,
Mae Dick, Gregory Faulkner, Alexis D. Frazier, Brian Goldstein, Raymond Ho, David A.
Housel, Marisa Klages, Alejandro Lopez, Raquel Namuche, Justine Nichols, Peter Nickowitz,
Tom Regan, Alan Reiff, Gary Richmond, Diann Slade, Leonard Vogt, Monica Walters, Sei
Yoshioka. Queer CUNY V was also co-sponsored by CLAGS.