Gender conference discusses sexuality, identity

Nashville alum (second from left) Simone Lampkin ’13, presenting as male-impersonator as Sammie Luvv, speaks about reconciling religion and personal faith with an LGBTQIA lifestyle during a Gender & Communication Conference panel on trans* and drag identities. Lampkin was joined on the panel by sophomore (from left) London Chandler of Louisville, junior Jared Johnson of Somerset (second from right) and junior Lexus Miller (right) of Lexington. WKU HRL hosted their fifth annual Gender & Communication Conference in DSU on Saturday, April 25, 2015.

ShelRogers

B!****$,” drag performers and masculine gender identity were several of the subjects covered in Housing and Residence Life’s fifth-annual Gender and Communication Conference.

The conference was headlined by transgender man and activist Ryan Sallans. Sallans discussed his transition process and how people receive members of the trans community. 

Ethan Sykes, residence hall director for Pearce Ford Tower, helped coordinate the conference. 

“This year’s theme is the ‘Intersectionalities of You,’ and the basic idea is that you are more than your gender, you’re a student, you’re a human, you may even consider yourself a spiritual being,” he said. 

The event was largely promoted with fliers and emails to students and faculty, and 87 students registered for the event with 75 percent showing up. Throughout the day, the event gained 20 walk-ins, Sykes said.  

This year’s theme expanded more into the realm of LGBTQ discussion, largely because of Sallans.

Genia Paige Wilson, assistant hall director for Southwest Hall, said expanding the topic allows for students to challenge themselves.

“I truly look at college as this beautiful little bubble where you have one foot in the real world and one foot kind of inside this safety net,” she said. “It’s a place where you can have your viewpoints challenged and be able to look at things in a completely different light and at the same time allow those experiences to shape who you become. I just believe it’s our job as people and professionals in higher education to present students those opportunities to learn about something different, even if they don’t agree or even if they do agree.”

The sessions themselves allowed students to pick and choose exactly how they wanted to challenge themselves. One session, titled “The Problem with Women in Leadership: B!****$ in Charge,” included a direct and open discussion of women in the higher echelons of business.

“We are probably going to be using the word ‘bitch’ a lot, in terms of how it relates to women in leadership,” HRL coordinator Sasha Ross said to open the panel.

Marko Dumancic, assistant professor of history, led his panel “Paris is Burning!: Conversaitons about Class, Sexuality and Race,” with an analysis of ballroom culture for the LGBT community in the late 1980s. 

“What does it mean to be more authentic?” Dumancic said to the students. “We look at something or someone and say ‘that’s authentic,’ but what does that mean?”

One of the most popular sessions was “True Life: I’m a Drag Performer,” which featured WKU students and an alumna who were performing at Saturday night’s drag show. 

Three current students sat on the panel. London Chandler, a transsexual, would be performing that night under the stage name London Chanel. The performing arts sophomore from Louisville said opening up to family was very difficult. 

“It got to the point where it got out of my hands and I couldn’t hide it,” she said. “One day my mother was shown a picture of me, that’s how it happened.

Chandler said her mother ultimately wants to support her, but it’s not an easy road.

“We are still working but we’re getting there,” she said. “I don’t think any parent can listen to their child and say ‘oh you want to be another gender, okay,’” she said. “It’s not something easy for the parent or the child.”

Drag king Sammy Luvv said he’ll soon turn 5 years old. The Nashville native and WKU graduate said drag performances helped him through defining himself. 

“Struggling through your gender identity, drag was an outlet to get my masculine side out there and not have to fight ‘I hate being a female everyday,’” he said. “With age, I’ve been able to accept my femininity more but there are days when I don’t really feel like a chick.”

For the four panelist, confidence should be held by everyone regardless of sexuality.

“Just live and just be happy,” Chandler said. “Find your niche and really focus on it because none of this is easy —drag, gay, straight— none of this is easy. You’ve gotta find what makes you happy.”