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Siena to Host LGBT Conference in March

From March 29-31, 2019, Siena College will be hosting the 24th annual Northeast LGBT Conference. This year’s conference theme is “Queering Religion: Intersecting Faith and Identity.” The conference will feature keynote speakers, interactive workshops and networking opportunities.

The Northeast LGBT Conference was founded in 1995 at the University of Albany. The student-founded organization works to create conversation and provide education to students and staff on college campuses, as well as intends to “disrupt all forms of racism, sexism, ableism, classism, transphobia, and homophobia in our society,” according to their website. In 2010, the organization began traveling annually to campuses to reach additional colleges in the northeast. Last year’s conference was held at Rutgers University in Newark, NJ. 

I spoke with Reagan Randazzo ’19, president of Siena’s PRIDE-Gay Straight Alliance, about our campus’ opportunity to host the conference. “Sometime around the end of September, PRIDE-GSA was approached by the conference oversight board about submitting a bid in order to host the NELGBT Conference. They wanted a theme about faith and religion,” Randazzo explained, “and what better place to go than an institution whose identity is rooted in Franciscan and Catholic traditions?”

Randazzo then expanded on the extensive process that goes into applying to host the conference. “The process of submitting a bid was not what we expected but was well worth the effort we put in. We also needed a detailed budget breakdown and a tentative schedule for that weekend’s events,” he said. “Our bid was accepted over the semester break, and we were announced as the host school at the end of January.”

With the conference approaching at the end of the month, the NELGBTC announced that their 2019 keynote speaker will be Abby Stein, an American transgender activist, author, model and speaker. Stein was ordained as a rabbi in 2011, making her the first openly transgender woman to have received ordination by an Orthodox institution. She has received multiple recognitions for her activism, including the Footsteps Leadership Award and the LGBTQ Pride Award. Stein is currently working on her first book and memoir, “Becoming Eve,” which is slated for publication in the fall of 2019.

Lizzy Vinal ’19, the events coordinator for PRIDE-GSA, shared some of the activities that participants can look forward to during this month’s conference. Friday will feature dinner, performances by Siena’s on-campus dance groups and social mingling for the conference attendees. Saturday will focus more heavily on the informative components of the conference, including keynote speakers and hour-long workshops. Sunday will include breakfast and a closing ceremony.

When Randazzo was asked what he was most excited for regarding the conference, he said, “This sounds cheesy, but I’m most looking forward to the weekend of and seeing the final product. The PRIDE-GSA E-Board, as the host school committee, has put so much time and effort into planning this conference – for most of us during the final stretch of our senior year – and I can’t wait to see the results of our hard work.”

Students and community members can register online through the PRIDE-GSA Instagram page at @sienapridegsa or by emailing gsa@siena.edu. If you are interested in staying up-to-date on upcoming events, consider following @sienapridegsa or @nelgbtc on Instagram.