Illinois State recently hosted one of the largest LGBTQIA college conferences in the nation, the Midwest Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, and Ally College Conference (MBLGTACC). With nearly 2,300 attendees, the three-day conference consisted of keynote speakers, workshops, and social activities that brought together the LGBTQIA community.

The conference was organized by a student planning committee, with the assistance from University staff. The committee, including Andrea Swick, the student director of public relations for MBLGTACC, dedicated much time and hard word in preparation for the conference. Swick loved working with the planning committee, stating that the “team became a family” and that she would not trade her experiences with them for anything.

Support for MBLGTACC leading up to and during the actual conference was tremendous.

“Having the conference here at Illinois State, or even in the Bloomington-Normal community, has enabled a larger conversation to take place,” Swick said. The conference “allowed more identities, such as trans individuals, to be on the forefront of conversations.”

Transgender issues were definitely a focus of this year’s conference, which was evident through the opening night keynote address from Laverne Cox, transgender actress from Orange is the New Black.

Swick says that she and the planning committee learned so much from hosting the conference and that it was a rewarding experience for all.

“It was amazing to see the happy, smiling faces from attendees that had never been in such an open and affirming environment before,” Swick said. “Attendees who come to this conference are able to express themselves as they wish, something that is not possible during most college experiences at other institutions.”

Illinois State was fortunate to have the opportunity to host MBLGTACC, which supported the University’s strong commitment to diversity, a respect for differences, and creating an inclusive environment. Now, while MBLGTACC is over, staff and students will continue the important conversations that occurred during the conference.

For any questions about MBLGTACC or other cultural programming, please contact Diversity Advocacy at (309) 438-8968.

Marie Huels was a contributor to this article.