On Oct. 18, 2019, UNC Charlotte hosted the Carolina Conference on Queer Youth. For the seventh year running, this conference is designed to bring together staff, educators, therapists and professionals to discuss topics supporting LGBTQ+ youth in the region.
The Office of Identity, Equity, and Engagement, Time Out Youth, and Equality North Carolina all worked together on the one-day event. The conference is a unique opportunity for area representatives to network, dialogue and organize around issues important to the healthy development of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning youth in K-12 education.
“Intersectionality as the starting point” was the central idea of this year’s event. Those who attended had the opportunity to break off into workshops to learn about the overlap of various social identities, such as race, gender, sexuality and class, and how those contribute to the specific type of systemic oppression and discrimination experienced by individuals.
“We need to remix and reframe how we see these master statuses,” said Dr. Vanessa Drew-Branch, assistant professor at Elon University.
Drew-Branch is the owner of VLDrew Consulting Inc. which provides cultural and inclusion training and support for organizations, end of life doula services and life coaching services.
Her academic scholarship currently focuses on advocacy and social justice through empowering marginalized communities. She earned a Bachelor’s from the California University of Pennsylvania in 2005 and went on to earn an MSW and certificate in public health with a specialty in women's health issues at West Virginia University, and her Ed.D in Higher Education Administration.
During her keynote speech, Drew-Branch expressed the need for individuals to utilize cultural responsiveness. This is a student-centered approach to teaching in which individuals are able to learn from and relate respectfully with people of their own culture as well as those from other cultures.
When this approach is applied to youth, it can eliminate racial and cultural discrimination, can improve student-student and student-teacher interaction and collaboration, as well as pave the path to an inviting environment.
These organizations come together each year to express their mission of fostering a campus community that celebrates the expansion of identities and recognizing the spectrum of identities goes beyond the binary.
“There is a lot outside the binary,” expressed Tony Carr, workshop speaker who focused on stopping monosexism.
Monosexism is social structure operating through a presumption that an individual is, or should be, only attracted to no more than one gender. People who identify as bisexual are widely impacted by monosexism and face discrimination due to their sexuality not just from heterosexual people, but from within the wider LGBTQ community as well.
Eddie Harris, a second keynote speaker, and an emerging social consciousness facilitator took the topic of intersectionality a step further. He expressed how it has become such an important and pervasive concept in our world today and believes that empathy and vulnerability are necessary components of changing any societal issue we face.
Harris went on to confide in the audience, conveying that intersectionality can be tedious, hard and even uncomfortable, but stressed the necessity of this approach from the very start.
“People think those of intersectionality compounds are asking for extra or something special when really they are just asking to be at the table,” said Harris.
He believes, “Survival simply requires being alive. To thrive, we must consider what it means to live.”
In October of 2020, Time Out Youth will be hosting CCQY again to provide yet another educational day for the folks of Charlotte in hopes of bringing more support to the LGBTQ+ community.