At the time that I’m writing this, it’s been about a week since the 2017 IvyQ Conference wrapped up at Yale University where I’m currently in my senior year. As one of three Co-Chairs who organized the conference and began planning it more than a year in advance, it was a bittersweet moment to see the more than 250 students from around the world return to their respective campuses. We were ecstatic to finally have time to focus on school work and reclaim our personal lives after a period of chaos in the weeks leading up to the conference. At the same time, however, we felt emotions of confusion and even sadness that the conference went by so fast with significant hurdles and mistakes along the way.
Quite frankly, we were utterly exhausted and burnt out.
None of us slept for three straight days as we had to prepare for the next day’s events while the ending day’s fires were still being extinguished. I learned more about the physical limits of my body and the boundaries of sleep deprivation than I had from any other experience. In the wake of this conference and the formidable task of organizing it, I have some reflections about queer community organizing, the need for collective self-care, and the queer future that we must take action to create for ourselves.
The Co-Chairs and I began planning the conference right at the beginning of 2017, which is when we chose the theme “Creating Queer Futures.” Like many in our community, the end of 2016 was a particularly difficult time as we came to terms with the new administration in the United States and tumult occurring worldwide. We conceived of the theme as a means of transcending the political realities of the present by looking towards the future—a place where queer people have often found solace, hope, and inspiration.
But the theme of looking forward was not intended as solely an escape, though that is at times necessary and important. “Creating Queer Futures” is also a present action, one to be done in the presence of our peers as well as before those who negate our existence. In these two ways of transcendence and action we envisioned the conference to serve as a resource for our community. We wanted conferees to be inspired in workshops through theory and organizing, and we also hoped that the parties would serve the equally important purpose of instilling radical, unfiltered queer joy.
Former Point Scholar Jacob Tobia was one of the conference’s keynote speakers, and they stressed that as a community we must work to actively define ourselves beyond our histories of trauma by taking ownership over our narratives. The closing keynote speaker Moises Serrano, an undocumented queer activist, similarly spoke about the need for recuperation and self-care during hard times when tireless activism can quickly lead to burnout. What I think both of these speakers’ messages have in common is that their mandates were deeply personal and requiring of self-reflection. In order to queer the future, we must look inwards to define our own stories and take care of ourselves both individually and collectively. Without this, we are not our full selves.
The current political climate is not changing anytime soon, but we can still remain strong as a community by looking inward to find our strength and inspiration. Organizing the IvyQ conference may have been physically and emotionally draining, but now that I’ve recovered I feel more energized than ever about the work young LGBTQ students are doing to create queer futures. Gradually, through hard work but also through self-care, the future we can now only imagine will become the reality which we’ve always deserved. LGBTQ students such as Point Scholars and those who attended IvyQ will be on the frontlines of that change, and they will be the ones to continually expand our realm of queer possibilities and take action to realize it.
Read Point Scholar Bodo Lee’s experience as an attendee of IvyQ here.
This post was written by Point Scholar Kyle Ranieri.
Kyle attends Yale University and studies Global Affairs with plans to enter the field of international human rights law. Kyle also dances ballet, plays violin in a chamber orchestra, and works at his school's Native American Cultural Center. Read more about Kyle here.