Updated Wed, Apr 23, 2014 3:32 pm
It took Quinton Neal more than 20 hours to travel to Athens. After four bus changes and nine hours of layover, the senior from Southern Illinois University finally arrived on the campus of Ohio University.
"Even though I was exhausted I knew the mission," Neal said.
Neal is African-American and he is gay. He came because he wanted to spread awareness about gay men of color in the LGBT community.
"I thought it would be a great way for gay men of color to at least see some type of representation," he said.
Spreading awareness about race
Growing up in different cities in a single-parent household with his mother, Neal eventually discovered his homosexuality. "I had my racial community," he explained. But as an openly gay man he wasn't accepted by his friends. Neal was looking for a space where he would be accepted and joined the LGBT community. But in the community all he would have seen on television and in magazines were white gay men.
It bothered him. There would be an absence of representation of gay black men in the LGBT community, he explained. "We are in this community as gay men of color. But we are still oppressed because of race."
That is why Neal came to Athens and to talk on the annual queer studies conference which kicked off on Thursday, April 10 and continues on Friday, April 11.
Creative ways to discuss ethics and sexuality
Delfin Bautista, the director of the LGBT Center at Ohio University, is happy that there are mostly students presenting their work in the panels on Friday.
"You don't have to have a doctor title in front of your name to have an impact in that field," Bautista said.
The conference's theme is to find creative ways to explore gender, ethics and sexuality. The conference started with a writing workshop lead by Kit Yan, a transsexual spoken word artist from New York City, who asked participants to write whatever came into their minds.
"Queer students and queer students of color don't always have a space that is closed for them to write," Yan explained. The artist also gave participants the chance to share their writing in expressive ways by whispering and shouting.
Conversations on sexual ethics don't have to be boring, Bautista said after the workshop. "They can be dynamic."
LGBT Center wants to show more inclusiveness
This year the LGBT Center is making a concerted effort to be open and welcome to trans-identified individuals and people of color. Historically, Bautista said the impression is LGBT offices at universities are mainly a place for white gay students. The Center is tackling this misconception head on with the selection of Tan as the conference's keynote speaker.
"In Kit we have both, a person who is of Asian descents as well as a trans-identified individual."