Groups join 15 years of pride

GLBTA conference draws many from across the country to the Twin Cities.

Justin Horwath

On Friday afternoon, the line to register for the Alphabet Soup Conference tangled around the ground floor of Coffman Union as students from across the nation – some still pulling suitcases -waited to sign their names in one of the 1,500 slots that had sold out in the weeks prior.

In its 15th year, the Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally College Conference – hosted by the Queer Student Cultural Center and the GLBTA Programs Office – was held at the University for the first time.

It was dubbed the Alphabet Soup Conference based on the motto “no matter the letter, we stand together,” adopted to describe the diverse group of people who attended the conference.

Isaac Dowd of Newman University rode a Greyhound from Wichita, Kan., for the event to see transgender photographer Loren Cameron. Dowd had never been to the conference before, but wanted to meet more transgender people.

“It took a lot,” Dowd said of the decision to go. “I’m so alone (in Kansas).”

Along with over 130 workshops aimed to address issues facing the GLBTA community, the conference featured keynote speakers comedian Margaret Cho and GLBTA activist Candace Gingrich.

Cho performed Saturday in Northrop, where she attacked a variety of topics including pop culture, race, religion, sexuality and politics.

“I don’t understand homophobia,” Cho said. “They treat homosexuality like it’s a disease. They treat it like it’s contagious Ö It’s not like it’s a cold.”

Organizers said the conference has never had a high-profile speaker like Cho. This year has also seen a slew of big names contributing to the conference – including companies like Best Buy and General Mills as well as about 75 departments at the University.

Mike Grewe, mathematics senior and co-director of the conference, said this year’s success can be attributed to a fundraising campaign started in September. The campaign raised more than $45,000, Grewe said.

“I think the people on the (fundraising) committee were really committed to getting community support. We launched a huge fundraising campaign,” Grewe said.

Professor David DeMuth serves as a faculty adviser for the GLBTA committee on the Crookston campus. DeMuth called himself an ally, and said although the conference was impressive, he thought there could have been more faculty involvement.

“Even if they just left it open,” Demuth said of the 1,500-person limit posted on the Web site.

However, Grewe said that despite being sold out, the conference didn’t turn anyone away.

“(The conference) is about forging partnerships to bring about equality and change,” he said.