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The Aquilian

    Unity Club invigorated after attending AIMS gender and sexuality diversity conference

    The banner head from the conference. (Image from Mr. Devon Leary)

    On Thursday, March 10, the Unity Club leaders and members of the club attended the Gender and Sexuality Diversity Conference hosted by the Association of Independent Maryland and D.C. Schools, or AIMS. The conference focused on making learning environments safe through advocacy inside and outside of school. The conference hosted students from all around the DMV and of all ages. 

    The conference started with a presentation from SMYAL, a D.C.-based program that advocates and creates opportunities for LGBTQ youth to build self-confidence, develop critical life skills and engage their peers and community through service and advocacy. The panelists discussed issues surrounding advocacy in Washington, D.C. and what students can do to increase awareness for LGBTQ issues in schools. 

    The next presentation was a scenario discussion. This was by far the most popular presentation for the Unity Club members. The situations presented were eye-opening for members of the club who have not been exposed to issues surrounding gender identity and using the bathroom of their choice. 

    Seniors Riley Grohowski and J.J. Horsfield led table discussions about how to make schools more inclusive for LGBTQ students and were enthused by the interactions between everyone in the chat. 

    “The biggest takeaway for me was the importance of making sure that younger queer voices are being heard in important conversations. Oftentimes, we fail to recognize them at the conversation table because we see them as having a lack of experience or not being able to understand issues affecting society, but we must remember to step back and listen in order to make sure marginalized groups are reached when helping those in need,” Horsfield said. 

    Grohowski saw that change needed to come from the younger generation and reminisced about last year’s conference.

     “It was a really good experience and something that was a lot of internal thinking and listening to the speakers. It was better in person because a lot of the communication and connection was missing from last year. What I will take away is that the world is changing to a younger, more inclusive society, and so we must also change to recognize that,” Grohowski said. 

    Kyle Lukoff, a transgender gay male author who has written children’s books that take on being LGBTQ, gave the final talk. His talk “A Whole Queer Life” tackled the issue of queer characters just being queer in books. He took on the how and why of stories that avoid the problem of being a problem. He discussed how cisgendered heterosexual authors put queer people in their books and boil them down to the stereotypical queer problems. He took specific issue with books that just say that a character is queer and not giving them depth. 

    The Unity Club meets every Tuesday at 2:45 p.m. in Madame Alexia Gino-Saliba’s room or virtually. 

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