By Vivienne Chen ’14
A team of 12 Princeton students led a successful bid to host this year’s IvyQ conference, the largest pan-Ivy-League LGBT student symposium. From Feb. 6-9, the conference made its first visit to Princeton, drawing approximately 350 students from all eight Ivy League universities and other colleges, including New York University, Emory, Georgetown, and the University of Michigan.
Now in its fifth year, IvyQ began at the University of Pennsylvania in 2010 and features a variety of workshops, speakers, and networking events for LGBT student activists.
“We wanted to ride the momentum from the Every Voice LGBT alumni conference last year,” said conference vice-chair Ronan O’Brien ’16 on how Princeton won the bid. “We had to demonstrate that Princeton was a good place to have IvyQ.”
Members of Princeton’s team said they wanted to include a more diverse set of speakers than the conference had seen in past years. “We wanted to shift the focus to voices that have been ignored in mainstream LGBTQ politics,” said conference co-chair Tzu-Yung Huang ’15. “IvyQ is by definition rather elitist, and it comes with a certain level of privilege. We wanted to use this privilege to focus on what is affecting the most queer people around the world, not just the issues that are of most concern to the upper middle class.”
Co-chair Ozioma Obi-Onuoha ’16 helped invite a range of speakers who focused on topics like asexuality, the prison-industrial complex, HIV criminalization, and working with religious communities. Notably, the speaker selection leaned heavily toward self-identified queer and transgender people of color.
“We inherited IvyQ from previous leaders who were white and cisgender, and the speaker selection reflected that,” Huang said. (Cisgender refers to those whose gender identity aligns with their sex at birth.)
“This was a good way to give back to the community,” Huang said. “Our speakers are not always invited to main conferences, so it great way to focus on empowering local activists from the New York and Philly area. We hope to start a process that would be beneficial to the queer community in general.”
Transgender activist and former editor of People.com Janet Mock was the Friday evening keynote speaker. Mock recently made news for her dispute with television host Piers Morgan on transgender issues.
Huang called the conference “a collaborative effort” with support from the University administration and several departments. Princeton’s LGBTQ alumni group, the Fund for Reunion/BTGALA, was among the lead sponsors. Other University support came from the Projects Board, the Lewis Center for the Arts, and the Program in Gender and Sexuality Studies. Corporate sponsors included Google, J.P. Morgan, and McKinsey & Co.