Students from across the Ivy League arrived on campus yesterday to participate in IvyQ, an annual weekend-long conference that tackles issues of queer identity first held two years ago at Penn. Brown is hosting the conference for the first time and expects 500 students to participate in the weekend’s jam-packed schedule of lectures, panel discussions and socializing.
Conference Co-Chairs Alp Ozcelik ’13 and Drew Heckman ’13 said they are excited the conference is at Brown this year and hope their planning of this year’s event will help form a framework for future hosts of the conference and ensure its continued growth.
This year, Registration Chair Ben Gellman ’14 said a limited number of registration slots were allotted to non-Ivy League students. The slots have been filled mostly by students from Rhode Island universities, but also a few from Vanderbilt University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The conference includes a series of workshop sessions in which participants can attend different panels and lectures on topics such as “enthusiastic consent,” the way “gay male physique magazines invented 1950s masculinity,” high school anti-gay bullying and more.
In each workshop block, attendees can choose from six events that fall under one of six themes relating to queer identity and activism. The themes are Internationality and Culture; Queer Histories; Identity; Sex and Body Positivity; Health and Sexual Assault and Practical Applications.
Gellman said the workshops represent a collection of “very diverse perspectives on queer identity” to allow for the interests of as many participants as possible, but he acknowledged that some views will always be excluded.
“(It is) important to recognize that not everybody will necessarily feel like their identity niche is supported by this conference,” he said.
Heckman and Ozcelik said they attempted to include more perspectives in this year’s conference using feedback from previous conferences expressed in the post-conference survey. Ozcelik said the group tried to increase representation from people of color and “female-identifying people” in its programming.
This year, each student was assigned to a “family group,” bringing together 20 to 25 participants in an attempt to “mix and mingle school groups,” Ozcelik said. Each group has a conference coordinator serving as the “parent” of the group. The family groups met last night after students arrived for their initial group meetings to open discussions. Heckman said the goal of bringing together groups from different schools was to “create discussions they wouldn’t have just with their friends.”
Heckman and Ozcelik said the family groups are also meant to help participants branch out socially, since socialization and networking are a large part of the conference. The conference includes a talent showcase, Sex Power Queer dance, banquet, club night and movie screening to allow participants to socialize.
Ozcelik and Heckman expressed possible concern over participant safety while partying, but they also expressed confidence that the participants will be responsible.
Heckman said he hoped the conference will empower its participants to make a change “not necessarily on a global scale — although that would be great — but even in their own lives.”