When I was first broached with the opportunity to volunteer at the Capital Queer Women’s Summit (CQWS)—collaboration between the Human Rights Campaign and Tagg Magazine—my initial response was hesitation. “I’m going to be uncomfortable in a crowd of queers. That’s not who I am. I’m not queer”, I told myself. My second thought was that I was going to have to shake that attitude before the summit in order to connect with and show support for my fellow queer community. Thankfully I was able to shake my narrow-mindedness, as the CQWS was a truly eye-opening experience from beginning to end.
Immediately upon arriving to the CQWS you can feel the open inviting atmosphere. Everything from the warm greetings I received, to the cute name cards complete with gender pronoun preferences said this is a safe space to be you. This sentiment echoed in each of the forums geared to promote deep meaningful conversations and delve into real issues in our community.
The conversation started in “Building Healthy Relationships”. When the conversation steered towards the dangers of ignoring red flags in a fun fresh relationship, it felt perfectly natural to do something I never do – overshare in a room full of strangers. At the CQWS that day, I made a commitment to genuinely connect to my fellow peers. To divulge that we have all been through similar circumstances, won out over any residual uncomfortableness I may have been harboring. Once again, Tagg and HRC were right there to remind us, we could create our own safe spaces.
I found myself in “Beyond the Spectrum: Gender Expansive and Trans Identities”. It was the most enlightening panel they could have put together. They educated us about the “genderperson 2.0” and the spectrum in regards to gender expression, gender identity, biological sex and attraction. As they spoke I found my face growing hot. I shifted uncomfortably in my seat for the first time all day. My pride bristled. I found myself confronting some of my own biases and prejudices placed on my trans brothers and sisters. How had I never taken the time to understand them, yet claimed to be an avid supporter of their rights? The challenges each of us face in the LGBTQ community makes us more alike than different. The labels placed on us by others because they feel the need to put people in a box to make them more comfortable. There isn’t a box for everyone.
The “Can’t We All Just Get Along: Segregation in the LGBTQ Community” conversation was deep. No pussyfooting around the issues or sugarcoating what they see in society. We acknowledged how it is important to spend time with groups of people that are the same as us in order to deepen our sense of self. We touched on various ways we segregate ourselves in the community. We talked about the gender, socio economic, and racial differences we face in society. It is because of these differences that we have to make a conscious effort to reach out to those in the community that are not like you and find a way to relate to them. The panel ended with a call to action from each of the panel members. We vowed to make more genuine connections, reach out to break down boundaries and check our privilege at the door.
There were so many other good topics touched on: sex and relationship forum, self-defense, wedding planning, aging in the LGBTQ community, salsa dancing, and a beer tasting. The fashion show – those models were serving and we were eating it up on a platter. It was delicious.
The Capital Queer Women’s Summit was a day that allowed us to sit in our truths. Society has already labeled us strange or odd from a conventional viewpoint. We do belong to a bigger community. We in the LGBTQ community have the same criticisms and judgments placed on us. We are all fighting for the same goals and rights to love and be free to be true to ourselves. The CQWS proves we are stronger when we come together to support one another.