WSU hosts LGBTQ weekend conference

Ogden OUTreach hosted the LGBTQ Youth Summit on Friday and Saturday in Weber State University’s Shepherd Union Building.

LGBTQ youth who participate in the OUTreach program come to the Unitarian Universalist Church in Ogden on Wednesdays and Thursdays to receive help and counsel and listen to guest speakers. The program is designed to help prevent the suicides of LGBTQ youth, as well as help them in school.

This is the first time Ogden OUTreach has held an event like this. The Youth Summit featured panels, discussions and workshops focused on the LGBTQ community.

“I hope people get a sense of neighborliness,” said Marian Edmonds, executive director of Ogden OUTreach. “We are all different, but all the same too. “

Vendors came to the event and set up outside the union building ballrooms. One of the vendors was artist Rochelle Wise, who sold gay pride T-shirts of her own design. The shirts sported slogans like ‘no shame’.

“Wearing one helps spread the message,” Wise said. “It makes a subtle difference.”

The event began with a talk by Caitlin Ryan about her research on the effects families have on LGBTQ youth. To conduct her research, she first interviewed LGBTQ youth and their families about the families’ reactions when the youth came out. Ryan’s results showed that about 1 in 3 families had a negative response, whereas about 1 in 5 accepted the revelation.

“We found that the reactions were much wider, much more hopeful and much more inspiring than we anticipated,” Ryan said.

Sarah Liggera, who attended the event, said she loves Ryan’s work and that she thought her presentation was incredible. Liggera was there with Shilyn Jeppesen; both of them said they go to Ogden OUTreach for support. Jeppesen said she found the College Age Youth Panel the most helpful feature at the event, because she and Liggera are both high-school seniors.

The summit also included a talent show on Friday. Five contestants performed, as well as Amir Jackson, the founder of Nurture the Creative Mind, who performed a song he wrote for his grandmother.

Three guest judges chose three finalists from the contestants, then the audience chose the winner. Whichever performer received the biggest cheer won the contest and a $400 laptop from Best Buy.

The winner of the talent show was Lincoln Parkin, who sang “Come What May” from the movie Moulin Rouge. During his performance, the accompanying music and the microphone completely cut out multiple times, but Parkin continued singing without the music.

One of the top three performers, Morgan Thomas, wrote the song he played, and accompanied himself on the guitar.

“It was cool,” Thomas said. “I’ve never been judged before . . . I like hearing feedback.”

Jeppesen said she found the College Age Youth Panel to be the most helpful part of the event, because she and Liggera are both high-school seniors. The panel featured students from four different universities talking about their college experiences and answering questions. Three of the panelists were from WSU, five were from Brigham Young University, one was from Utah State University, and one was from Westminster College.

The panelists started off by discussing the progression each university had made when it came to LGBTQ acceptance. Mike May, a recent BYU graduate, started going to BYU in 2001, when a student could be expelled for being gay.

“It’s gotten a lot better,” he said. He also said the campus started changing about a year or so after Proposition 8. “The change has been drastic.”

The panelists also offered advice on how to deal with negative people and bullies. Harrison Spendlove, who ran for student body president at WSU earlier this year, talked about his experience with threats. While campaigning, he found a note on his car windshield that threatened him and told him to drop out of the running.

“We can’t let things bring us down,” Spendlove said. “We can’t let fear control our lives, and we just need to keep pushing forward.”