This weekend, Justin Drwencke, the Institute's executive director, and R.B. Brooks, director of operations, welcomed students and community members from across the Midwest to Omaha for the twenty-sixth annual MBLGTACC. Below is a transcript of their remarks.
JD: Hello! My name is Justin, they/them pronouns, executive director of the Midwest Institute for Sexuality and Gender Diversity. This is my 8th year at MBLGTACC.
RB: Heyhihello! I’m RB, they/them, director of operations for the Institute. This is my 7th year at MBLGTACC. It is our distinct honor to welcome you to the 2018 Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally College Conference! Your presence in this space is radical and revolutionary and we thank you for making the choice to be here.
JD: The Midwest is a curious and sometimes misunderstood place. Some some still ask if queer work is even possible here. We embrace the idea that it is not only possible, but it is happening. Everyday. On our college campuses, in our student organizations, and in our surrounding communities. We are bringing our desks to the ground and our work to our classrooms to make sure the Midwest is pushing for our collective liberation. For all of its intricacies and challenges, we are proud to call the Midwest home.
RB: In the early 1990s, the mainstream gay & lesbian movement—a movement which ignored the needs and contributions of trans and gender nonconforming folx & folx of color—continued to gain momentum on the coasts, building upon decades of critical community-building and access to the political and cultural capital those places offer. The Midwest was overlooked.
JD: Annexed from the work happening on the coasts by geography and resources, Midwestern student leaders and activists took it upon themselves to create their own change. They launched MBLGTACC. This weekend marks the 26th time that queer and trans+ students from across the Midwest—and the nation—have come together for a weekend of learning and coalition building. Our gathering this weekend comes at a time when fear and pain is rampant and our attention is drawn in many confusing directions as we try to monitor the next attack on our identities, our bodies, our lives. This fear and pain exists within our own community and in the communities of other systemically disenfranchised groups. It is profoundly disheartening that in the year 2018, we still must fight external forces for our basic rights and liberation. But our community is strong. We are resilient. We are powerful and revolutionary.
RB: As we fight for our freedom, let us not forget the injustices and harm that take place every day within our very own community. We must learn to not only confront oppression, but to dismantle systemic institutions including white supremacy, ableism, colonialism, xenophobia, the police and surveillance state, and ALL mechanisms of social control that threaten our ability to be. We cannot be complicit in the oppression of others because that means we are complicit in the oppression of ourselves. We must build our collective power and we must resist.
JD: This weekend, your charge is simple. Resist oppression. Connect with one another. Build relationships. Celebrate in community. Learn. Challenge assumptions. Find strength to overcome adversity. Empower yourself and others to move forward in the world and create sustainable change.
RB: We hope you enjoy your weekend. But even more, we hope this weekend uplifts you, liberates you, and empowers you.