Youth Council Highlights from the Gender Spectrum Conference

Jul 26, 2016

The National Youth Council had a very active role in our recent Gender Spectrum Conference and helped to plan the majority of the workshops for the High School Program.

We asked members to share feedback from the Conference. Below are some of their favorite moments!

Elliott – My favorite moment was having my first ever panel with the Youth Council on Saturday. I’ve always been really shy, and – if you asked a year ago – would never have dreamed of doing a panel.

An attendee at my Developing Gender workshop really changed my perspective when they told me that, just because you medically Transition, doesn’t mean you have to be Transgender. I had never really thought about being Agender or Non-binary and medically transitioning.

Attending the event for me really validated me as a non-binary youth. Being young, I thought that my opinions would be overshadowed by those who had more experience. But instead, everyone’s reactions were the opposite. Being told after a panel that you did amazing and that everyone’s super proud of you for being progressive is such a validating and amazing feeling. I feel as though it has jumpstarted my career in gender advocacy and hope to attend again in the future.

Kiristen – Attending the conference was important to me because this was an opportunity for me to expand my knowledge on Gender identity and educate others simultaneously. Facilitating the Race, Culture, and Gender and Ally Workshop presentations were very important to me because they both discussed issues that are current. The conference enabled young adults from various parts of the country to learn and have productive conversations. Being an African-American woman, some of these opportunities such as presenting nationally, are far and few in between. This is why I am so honored that Gender Spectrum allowed me to have a voice that was heard. This is a memorable part of my summer before I embark on my collegiate journey at Wayne State University in the fall. I wanted my summer after high school to have substance and see the work that my co-facilitators and I had been completing come to fruition.

Violet – Last year, like this year, I spent months planning for the conference as a member of the Gender Spectrum youth council. However, I wasn’t able to attend the conference last year because of financial and scheduling concerns. I was unsure what to expect upon arriving this year, but I felt almost immediately that my hard work in preparation for the conference was easily worth it. I got to meet some really amazing people and have some wonderful experiences during my weekend at the conference, but most meaningful for me was my pride at having contributed to such a space, where people can express themselves authentically and learn from each other as a community. Being there allowed me to remember why the work I do with Gender Spectrum is so valuable, to me and to others.

Aslik – Aside from all the workshops and fun activities, my favorite moment was definitely the Goodbye Ceremony. I was looking around the room and was elated to recognize so many of the faces. Thinking back to Friday night and Saturday morning, we’d come a long way.

Hearing multiple stories from the teens in the room about how they started questioning the reliability of the gender and sexuality expectations they’ve been presented with because of their sex warmed my heart to a million degrees. Being able to hug those familiar faces afterwards, with a promise to see each other next year, was the frosting on the cake that made everything worthwhile.

Aiden – I attended my first Gender Spectrum Conference three years ago absolutely terrified since it was my first conference that I attended without knowing anyone. The worrying was for nothing; it was one of the most affirming, accepting places that I had ever gone to (it’s my third year now and I’m confirming this). There’s a freedom here to truly express yourself, and the connections you make with the people here can last a lifetime. I’ve even met some of my closest friends here. A few of my happiest moments happen at GSpec, whether it was discovering something new, or connecting with another person, or affirming a part of my identity that I don’t really discuss too often (so I’ve had my fair share of crying here because it’s so damn lovely and I adore everything and everyone). I really love this conference, and I hope it was able to mean as much to others who came here as it was for me.

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Please note: Gender Spectrum is recruiting for our national Youth Council for the 2016-2017 year! The Youth Council is a dedicated group of teens who are passionate, motivated, and want to be agents of change in their community.

Click here to download the Youth Council Application