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GLSEN Phoenix Hosts Conference for Students of Color
The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network Phoenix (GLSEN) Phoenix chapter is hosting a conference for high school students of color on Saturday, April 2, 2011, at the Phoenix Convention Center. The Students of Color Organizing conference is a project of GLSEN”s national organization, which supports youth advocacy to create safer schools for all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. The daylong conference will allow lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students of color and their allies a chance to learn about the issues that both sexual orientation and race/ethnicity can raise in the school environment, and how students can improve their communities through training and leadership development, as well as community organizing.
As part of the conference, Daniel Rodriguez, a local immigration reform advocate and member of The Arizona Dream Act Coalition, will serve as keynote speaker for the event. Rodriguez, whose family is originally from outside the United States, is an undocumented immigrant who came to the United States at the age of 6. It wasn't until approximately 2005, when Daniel came out, that he discovered how many similarities there were between “coming out” as an undocumented immigrant, and coming out as a gay man. In both cases, he says, he faced discrimination from some, support from others.
“You have the same questions -- 'what does that mean, are people still going to like me, and why can't I just be normal',” said Rodriguez of his experience balancing between two communities. He recounted how Latino peers, who were mostly steeped in Hispanic culture that was leery of LGBT issues, were uncomfortable with his coming out, and of gay communities that were predominantly white, and unfamiliar with or hostile to immigrant's issues. Rodriguez hopes that the conference will allow attendees to discuss how dual identities can be a source of strength and mutual support, if community members are willing to see the similarities in their own challenges for recognition and acceptance.
“I started telling myself that there are...maybe a lot of people like me, who aren't comfortable coming out,” Rodriguez adds. “I decided to go ahead and face it, and come out to everybody who mattered to me.”
Individuals who would like to learn more about the SOCO Conference, or GLSEN Phoenix and the work it does to promote safer schools through training and policy reform should visit www.glsen.org/phoenix/ or call 602-705-9780