Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual and Queer Ivy League students gathered this weekend at Brown University for the third annual IvyQ conference, hosted this year by Brown’s Queer Alliance. IvyQ is the first conference to bring Ivy League schools together to discuss issues facing LGBTQ students on campus.
“The goal is to bridge the Ivy community for LGBTQ students and to explore issues” such as relations between the gay and straight communities, identification and gender issues facing the LGBTQ community, said Benjamin Gordon ’14, one of IvyQ’s Cornell organizers.
This weekend’s conference attracted almost 500 students, an increase from the event held at Columbia University in spring 2011, which drew 400 students, and from the first IvyQ at the University of Pennsylvania in spring 2010, which drew 300 students.
Despite the high overall turnout at the conference, Student Assembly LGBTQ Rep. Nate Treffeisen ’12 said he feels that Cornell is behind on LGBTQ acceptance when compared to fellow Ivy League universities. Only about 30 students from Cornell attended the conference.
“We’ve got a long way to go when looking at other Ivies in terms of general acceptance on campus and general social openness,” Treffeisen said. “While the structured events and organizations are very similar, I’ve found that students on campus at most of the Ivies generally feel more comfortable [about being openly gay] than a lot of Cornell students feel.”
The conference attracts LGBTQ students and allies — supporters who do not personally identify as LGBTQ — from all eight Ivy League schools and a few other universities, according to Gordon.
“It’s great in general because you’re meeting people with similar goals,” Treffeisen said. “It brings people together.”
According to IvyQ’s website, the conference attempts to create a cohesive Ivy League LGBTQ community by teaching LGBTQ students and allies to examine their own identities while valuing the unique personalities of others.
The conference’s website was created as a forum for participants to anonymously submit thoughts, feelings and personal experiences surrounding gender and sexual identities before the conference, according to the IvyQ website. Submissions were used as material for discussion topics developed by IvyQ organizers for the event.
According to Treffeisen, the program was primarily organized into small discussion sessions with speakers. Session topics included health and sexual assault, identity, queer histories and sex and body positivity.
“The conference isn’t particularly about policies and things like that,” Treffeisen said. “It’s learning how to be yourself and learning how to live. It’s about gay history and gay life.”
Social events such as a talent show, a dance, an outing to downtown nightclubs and an on-campus movie screening were also offered to give participants a chance to socialize outside of the workshop setting.
A career fair on Saturday provided students an opportunity to network with IvyQ’s main sponsors, including Oliver Wyman, JP Morgan, Credit Suisse, Booz & Company and McKinsey & Company.
“It’s mostly a learning experience, but you’re making connections at other schools on a professional level and on a friendship basis that you can’t necessarily get on a day to day basis,” Treffeisen said. “You get to see what gay life is at other colleges.”