Hoosiers Out Together Conference Highlights

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IUPUI hosted the second annual Hoosiers Out Together Conference, or HOT CON, from Friday, Oct. 26 to Saturday, Oct. 27 at Hine Hall. The organizers of HOT CON aimed to strengthen the bonds of the LGBTQ community both on campus and statewide through its presentations and workshops, including a photo exhibit from local photographer Mark A. Lee and a keynote address from organizer and artist elle roberts.

HOT CON organizers anticipated an attendance of approximately 150 people, including LGBTQ students from Ball State University, IUPUI, IU Bloomington, IU Northwest, Marian University and Purdue University. The event was sponsored by the IUPUI Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the IU LGBTQ+ Alumni Association, the Purdue University LGBTQ Center and GenderNexus.

Day One

During the first day of HOT CON from 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at Hine Hall, attendees viewed Mark A. Lee’s “A Visual Journey: From AIDS to Marriage Equality”, a traveling photo exhibit sponsored by the Indiana Historical Society and shown throughout the state since 2014. The exhibit condensed 30 years of Lee’s work documenting the tragedies and triumphs of LGBTQ people, from the height of the AIDS crisis to newly legal gay marriages.

A portion of Mark A. Lee’s “A Visual Journey: From AIDS to Marriage Equality”, a photo exhibit featured at Hine Hall during HOT CON.

“I started taking pictures then in college, but it wasn’t until after college when basically my friends started dying from AIDS,” Lee said. “It became more important for me to document their lives and to let people know they were here, because if we don’t do it, no one else is going to do it for us.”

Lee said that he donated over 18,000 photos of his work to the Indiana Historical Society. Lee said that 60 of these donated photos became a part of the organization’s first LGBTQ exhibit. Lee said that the first photo he took was of Vicci Laine, a Hoosier performer and openly transgender woman who received the 2008 Celia Busch Award for her contributions and work for HIV/AIDS service organizations. Lee explained that when the exhibit first debuted, Laine was dealing with cancer.

“The last couple years had been tough for her going through chemotherapy,” Lee said. “She had been questioning whether or not her life meant something. It wasn’t until she went to the historical society and turned and saw her picture larger than life in there that she knew her answer.”

“That to me made everything you see here worthwhile,” Lee said.

Day Two

The second day of HOT CON, held from 9:00 a.m. to 3:50 p.m., began with a keynote address from Indianapolis-based organizer and artist elle roberts. The address focused on how seemingly inclusive changes can still reinforce oppressive structures in society. 

The keynote address was given by elle roberts, an Indianapolis-based artist and organizer who argued that some changes which appear to be inclusive for LGBTQ people can sometimes serve to exclude others.

The address focused on how seemingly inclusive changes can still reinforce oppressive structures in society. As an example, roberts pointed to medical barriers for transgender people and gender minorities who do not exclusively belong to female or male genders.

“In order to fit even the Obama administration’s memo of what gender is, you had to have gender dysphoria on your medical chart,” roberts said. “You had to be a certain kind of trans in order to access gender-affirming care. And if you were not, you were just out of luck.”

After roberts’ address, attendees could attend the resource fair or a series of workshops on topics ranging from the lack of workplace discrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity to navigating the health care system as a LGBTQ person.  

Jessica Chen, a medical student with the Alliance at IUSM (Indiana University School of Medicine), explained that LGBTQ people are often afraid of discrimination from doctors or health care providers.

“I know that as an LGBT person, it’s kind of scary to go to the doctor. You don’t know what they’ll say, what they’ll do. And that can have a huge impact on your health, especially if you’re so afraid you won’t go to a doctor,” Chen said.

According to a study from the Center for American Progress, 29 percent of the transgender people surveyed said a doctor or provided refused to see them because of their gender identity. The Alliance at IUSM has partnered with the non-profit organization OutCare Health to help LGBTQ people identify find doctors and providers who can meet their needs.

“For any of your friends or peers in the queer community that are afraid to see doctors, I just want to say that there is hope out there,” Chen said.

Noelle, an aspiring web developer who graduated from IUPUI with a degree in computer science, said that she found hope and community in HOT CON as a whole.

“I think it provides a really important resource for the queer Hoosiers out there who don’t really have gathering places,” Noelle said.

Noelle identified a need for community, especially in the wake of reports that the Trump administration plans to roll back civil rights protections for transgender people in education and health care.

Noelle said, “Being able to participate in celebrations of our community is a nice antidote to all that."

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