UCO welcomes first International Gender and Sexuality Conference

Group photo from the “History of Sex Fashion Show”. History of Sex is an elective course in the Gender and Sexuality Studies minor. Photo provided.

by Sophia Babb
Journalism Intern

“We don’t even realize how much issues of gender and sexuality affect every facet of our lives,” says Lindsey Churchill, Director of the Women’s Research Center at The University of Central Oklahoma (UCO).

UCO will be seeing its first International Gender and Sexuality Conference this September. The conference will be hosted by the university’s Women’s Research Center and the BGLTQ+ Student Center.

“This conference is a way for us to discuss these issues in a way that will be both entertaining and informative,” adds Churchill.

UCO’s Women’s Research Center and BGLTQ+ Student Center were both formed earlier this year, but there was no physical spot available for them until this fall.

“This is the grand opening of our new centers on campus,” Churchill says. “This is a way to celebrate these new programs and what they stand for; there’s nothing really like them in the Midwest.”

Churchill described the conference as an inclusive place for all kinds of art, poetry, presentations and discussions about gender and sexuality. “The idea was that the conference would be very broad, so we could include as many people as we could.

“For example, if you write poetry about gender and sexuality, come to this conference. If you do research about women in prison, come to this conference. If you have a painting about gender and sexuality, there is a place for you at this conference.”

Students from all over the world will be traveling to UCO to attend. For some, it will be their first time in the United States.

“We have students and presenters coming from all over the United States, the Philippines, India, Spain, Nepal, the UK, Turkey, Indonesia, the Congo, Ghana,” Churchill exclaimed. “We have about 75 total presenters scheduled for the conference.”

Just a small sample of the schedule is rich with broad discussions under the umbrella of gender and sexuality. UCO has never seen a conference like this before, Churchill told The Gayly.

“There will be workshops discussing sex education in Oklahoma, the role of men and masculinity in the feminist movement, a panel about perceptions of African-American sexuality, entire panels about literature and the role of gender and sexuality, a presentation about asexuality, a panel about LGBT in film. Those are just a few panels you’ll see at the conference,” Churchill says.

“You will see all the ways that gender and sexuality affects people’s lives, whether it is through poetry, an art piece, a round table discussion about sex education,” she continues. “Whatever it is, there will be issues discussed that affect your life or that you are going to relate to.”

There are also timely issues occurring in Oklahoma that several panels will discuss, such as sex education and reproductive rights in the state, but Churchill emphasizes the importance of the outside attendees’ presence at the conference.

“The most important part of this conference will be the broader perspective we get from international students and presenters attending. A larger global perspective will be brought in to discuss issues that affect women and the BGLTQ+ community worldwide, which is valuable to bring to this part of the United States.”

Lindsey Churchill began planning this conference earlier in the year with Raksha Rao, the Graduate Assistant for the Director of The Center.

“Basically it is the two of us organizing the conference, with a lot of help from Academic Affairs and my student workers,” Churchill says. “UCO donated $10,000 for the conference. It shows how inclusive and supportive UCO is of the conference and centers.”

The International Gender and Sexuality Conference will take place September 26-28, starting at 9 a.m. September 26. 

The three-day-long conference will be held on the third floor of the Nigh University Center on UCO’s campus, located at 100 N University Dr., Edmond, OK. Registration for outside attendees, which includes all breakfast and lunches, is $125. For UCO students, registration is only $25.

The Gayly – September 9, 2016 @ 11:30 a.m.