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LANSING, MI—Today, the Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally College Conference, America’s largest and oldest conference for queer and trans+ college students, is changing its name and taking an important next step in intentionally recognizing and centering the needs of asexual students in its collective work.

The conference’s new name is the Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Asexual College Conference.

“I couldn't be more excited for this change!” said Ashabi Owagboriaye, a past conference organizer. “I joined MBLGTACC as a chair in 2017 because I wanted to represent and open up dialogue for those who felt underrepresented in this identity. For me, the move to the 'A' standing for asexual means being able to recognize queerness encompassing several amazing things and all the ways to express them. I'm so glad that we are taking steps to help the people in this community feel safe and seen.”

The update to the conference name comes just three years after MBLGTACC Oversight Committee authorized the creation of what would eventually become the Midwest Institute for Sexuality and Gender Diversity.

“This move has been a long time coming,” said Roze R.B. Brooks, the Institute’s director of operations and an MBLGTACC 2014 conference chair. “I—as well as other previous conference planners now involved with the Institute—have heard consistent and increased critique of the longstanding interpretation of ‘A’ in our conference name to mean ‘ally.’ As a team dedicated to recentering identities and experiences that are not part of the dominant narrative, we collectively understood that this was a shift that required our action, and we are thrilled to make this progress." This isn't the end of the work on behalf of asexual students, Brooks added. "Today, that progress is in name, and moving forward it will also be rooted in practice as we continue to build coalition with the asexual community to truly expand our program to center these experiences.”

This is the fourth time leaders have changed the conference name in its 27-year history. Originally held in 1993 as the Midwest Bisexual, Gay, and Lesbian College Conference (MBGLCC), the second annual gathering was held a year later under the re-ordered name Midwest, Bisexual, Lesbian, and Gay College Conference (MBLGCC). The name was updated again in 1997 to center transgender students (MBLGTCC), and in 2001 to add “ally” (MBLGTACC). Each of these changes came about through the efforts and initiative of students and student organizers.

MBLGTACC continues to invite allies to share in the conference space and to learn through the views and experiences of queer and trans+ folx, as well as fellow allies.

“It’s in no small part because of the culture MBLGTACC organizers and the Institute have been careful to support that our allies have so readily gotten behind this transition and its purpose. Allyship is an action, and they’re walking the walk—they’re actively doing the work of decentering themselves while centering the most marginalized. This is a natural next step,” said Bryan Guffey, the Institute’s board president. While the name has evolved, “what it doesn’t change is that allyship—true allyship—is necessary to continue radical change and transformation in the way our society operates. We warmly and enthusiastically welcome all who are committed to that work.”

This update to the conference name takes effect October 1, 2018 and applies to all current and future business purposes. Historical references to the conference will continue to align with the established practice of using the name or acronym at the time the conference was held, followed by the year. Instances of the full MBLGTACC name will be updated on conference and Institute websites and social media by October 15, with print materials, collateral, and ephemera updated as they’re replenished. A formal announcement will also be made to all conference attendees at MBLGTACC on February 15, 2019 in Wichita, Kansas.

Note to editors: This change to the conference name comes as the nation gets ready to celebrate National Coming Out Day on October 11, 2018. Also note that this news item was edited after publication to correct the number and history of the conference's name changes; through new information shared by a 1993 conference organizer, the record now reflects that the conference name has changed four times, not three, and that the 1993 conference was known as the Midwest Bisexual, Gay, and Lesbian College Conference. It wasn't known as the re-ordered Midwest Bisexual, Lesbian, and Gay College Conference until 1994.

The Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Asexual College Conference (MBLGTACC) is America's largest and oldest continuously-running conference for queer and trans+ college students. The Midwest Institute for Sexuality and Gender Diversity empowers students of diverse sexualities and genders to inspire sustainable change; leads higher education colleagues in relevant and inclusive practices; and advances knowledge of sexuality and gender through advocacy and expansive programming.

Originally published on MBLGTACC News, October 1, 2018.