Upon a cool autumn morning, a group of people met at the black cultural center of UT-Knoxville for the institution's first annual LGBTIQ conference, OUTstanding.

The meeting started with encouraging messages from the organizers and college representative proceeded with a presentation from Shane Windmeyer the cofounder and executive director of Campus Pride. Touching on subjects of serious nature with a kind hearted turn by having the audience interact for answers to the subject matter helped to warm the audience to the diverse and various topics to be spoken about throughout the day. With four different topics per round of discussions; selecting which course to attend was a tough decision. A few highlights:

Round 1 started with a discussion led by Scott Eldredge in regards to the factors of what leads most LGBT youth to suicide or a life of risky behaviors. In a Seattle-based study, it was estimated that 40 percent of homeless youth are part of our community. Furthermore  the chance of youth experimenting with drugs, alcohol, and other dangerous behaviors increases due to the isolation of being LGBT with sources of support being limited by either national outlook, religious, or the beliefs of the family holding back the child in question.

Round 2 was a presentation by Dr. Tina Shepardson in regards to gender and sexuality in regards to the Christian Bible. The emphasis of her discussion was the flexibility of scripture and how each person makes preconceived notions before looking into these collections of ideas. She also made the point to state that ideas of sexuality were not understood as in depth as they are in modern times. This was a challenge in both hierarchy and the social scale of the people from then, though some of these ideas still live on in the ideas of society in modern times.

Round 3 was a presentation from former Belmont soccer coach Lisa Howe. Hers was a personal story about the struggles she endured after the incident with her former employer. She feels that her faith helped in her ordeals and led her to the position she is currently in: advocating for LGBT rights by going to people as a motivational speaker.

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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