Diversity conference to raise awareness on gender, sexuality issues

Valentina Vargas, Multicultural Reporter

Eastern students, staff and faculty are welcomed to learn about gender and sexuality-related issues and terms at the EIUnity Diversity Conference on Friday.

The first session will start with a Safe Zone Core workshop at 8 a.m. in Room 1895 at Martin Luther King Jr. University Union, where the other workshops will take place as well.

Kurt Ness, the assistant for the Center for Gender and Sexual Diversity, said he will be one of the people presenting the Safe Zone core training that has been presented in other times during the school year.

Ness said it has been his duty as the graduate assistant in the GSD to update the Safe Zone training and present it as well as help others become trainers and presenters.

“(The Safe Zone core) is the entry level, (in) training for people to become better allies to the LGBTQA+ community,” Ness said.

In the webpage of Office of Inclusion and Academic Engagement, people interested in attending can see the other different workshops on the EIUnity conference page.

The sessions will include the Gender and Sexual Diversities History, Trans 101, Queering Faith: Sexuality in the Bible and others.

Ness said his session will start off with a presentation, but most will be an open discussion that is followed before with activities, and the session will be for two hours.

“We have a coming out experience,” Ness said. “We do a simulation of coming out to help people build empathy for the GSD community.”

He encourages people in the open discussion to not be afraid to ask as many questions as they have, so that they have a full understanding of everything.

Early in the session, he will be discussing some common terminology to establish a common language to speak with the audience.

“So, we go through like the terms of gay, lesbian, bisexual, (that) pretty much everyone knows what those are,” Ness said. “From there we go into transgender, sexual orientation, romantic orientation, and cover some of the other ones.”

He along with his partner will then do a knowledge pre-test to see what types of things the people think are true about the LGBTQA+ community and what people think are false.

“One question (they will ask) for example is, transgender people are gay,” Ness said. “And that is false because being trans, that is a gender identity versus a sexual orientation.”

Ness then shared another false statement that not all gay men are attracted to all men or lesbians attracted to all women. He said the EIUnity conference is important for people to have a better understanding of the GSD community, and it can help develop a better inclusive community in Eastern.

“(I hope they gain) just a spark for intuitively of knowledge, and by the end of the conference to be able to grow more of a ‘that is really interesting, I want to know more about that,’” Ness said.

Valentina Vargas can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].