Marina Pappas ’19
This past weekend, members of E.R.O.S (Encouraging Respect of Other Sexualities) and Trinity College’s Gay Straight Alliance, visited Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass. to attend the 7th annual Five School Queer Gender and Sexuality Conference. The conference, which took place on Friday, Mar. 4 and Saturday, Mar. 5, hosted a variety of keynote speakers, workshops, performances, and lectures by student leaders, faculty, and other nationally recognized figures.
While these events covered a range of topics, they all focused on the intersectionality between “race, genders, sexualities, ability, class, kink, survival strategies, and many more, in a specifically queer context,” according to the Hampshire College website. President of E.R.O.S Maddie Burns ’16 also explained that, “The conference aims to explore topics such as political and social activism, personal narratives of LGBTQ experience, and academic enrichment on studies of gender and sexuality.”
The students that organized the conference sought to make the event all inclusive, and there were people from almost every race, gender, sex and sexuality in attendance. The conference was a collection of individuals coming together and being open to learn more about themselves and each other.
During the course of the conference, the Trinity students in attendance participated in a variety of activities, such as a group lesson on self defense from a polyamarous transgender woman, a discussion about micro-aggressions, and a panel on polyamory with a poly family made up of three women, two men, and four children.
One of the goals of the conference was to stress the fact that gender is a performance, and that hair length, makeup, nail polish, dresses, and jewelry are just as fun and appropriate for men to wear as they are for women. The conference sought to teach acceptance and encourage attendees to not judge people for anything aside from their souls.
The two-day conference began with a queer person of color named J. Mase III. J. Mase is a poet, a performer, and a blogger for the Huffington Post. They are also the author of “If I Should Die Under the Knife, Tell My Kidney I Was the Fiercest Poet Around” as well as “And Then I Got Fired: One Transqueer’s Reflections on Grief, Unemployment and Inappropriate Jokes About Death.” As a keynote speaker, J. Mase took the stage and talked about feelings of being marginalized and the oppression of being black.
No topic was out of J Mase’s comfort zone. The words spoken made an impact with the audience and clearly resonated with the crowd who snapped and clapped to show their solidarity, their understanding, and their support for the work J Mase is doing.
There were also three other keynote speakers. Lorelei Erisis, a self proclaimed “weirdo” and “six foot four transgender woman,” who spoke on the second day of the conference. She talked and yelled and bounced around the room. She got people excited to be beautifully and uniquely themselves. Later in the day, there was another set of speakers, Olympia Perez and Sasha Alexander, who discussed “Admission” and the difference between gaining admission and having entry. Olympia Perez is an Afro-Latina transwoman who is also a poet, healer, and multimedia artist. Her speaking partner Sasha Alexander is a non binary, trans, mixed race black/Asian facilitator educator. These people spoke about how institutions marginalize the queer community around them.
“My favorite workshop was a lesson in self defense designed in response to the increased instances of sexual assault and hate crimes against the LGBTQ community,” explained Burns. “From my own experience, and my conversations with other Trinity students who attended the conference, I feel that it was an enriching experience.”
In the future, E.R.O.S. hopes to bring speakers such as those that attended the conference at Hampshire to Trinity.
By doing this, Burns hopes that “the rest of the Trinity community also has the opportunity to learn from these people.”
Marina Pappas ’19