Safety is a major concern for the UNC community.
Many steps have been made to increase campus safety, which is focused into efforts such as Alert Carolina and Safewalk. The Southeast Regional Unity Coference aims to create a safe space for the LGBTQIA community in the form of their annual conference taking place this weekend.
The conference began in 2003 and has had a different theme each year, with this year’s theme being: “LGBTranscendence*QIA: Opening Our Eyes, Expanding Our Horizons.” Lauren Martin, co-chair of the Unity Committee, explained the theme as a continuous push for rights within the community.
“We want to look at the past LGBT communities and contextualize the present and apply this to the future,” she said.
The Unity Conference was funded this year by UNC LGBTQ Center and the UNC Student Safety and Security Committee. The committee helps allocate funds to similar projects like the Multicultural Affairs and Diversity Outreach Committee. Andrew Wood, chair of the SSSC, has striven to change the meaning of safety to be more inclusive.
“Events like this let students know the community cares and honors them, which leads to a feeling of safety and comfort,” Wood said.
Students, faculty and community members are invited to take part in the three-day event. Structured like a convention, the event consists of talks, workshops and performances by a variety of people in the LGBT community. The featured guests for this year are Chapel Hill mayor Mark Kleinschmidt and Brooklyn-based queer indie folk artist Julia Weldon.
One of the main highlights is a performance on Saturday at the Library by Weldon. She will also be hosting a workshop called “Queer Storytelling: Increasing Queer Visibility in the Entertainment Industry”. Aside from Weldon's performance, the schedule is teeming with an eclectic mix activities, ranging from a drag show to yoga to informative workshops that help weekend participants feel more comfortable with themselves.
“I would say that the most important thing is to be yourself and be true to yourself,” Weldon said. “Starting out, I wanted to normalize what it is to be a queer performer. I didn’t want people to think about the sexuality, I wanted them to think about the music. The more I thought about it, the more that changed. I’m very queer, and I’m so proud of it.”
Martin wants to have participants come away with a similar feeling of pride and self-confidence.
“I really want people to feel a sense of community. Living in the southeast can be difficult for people in the LGBT community. You’re not alone.”
Tickets for the conference are still available online for those who want to register and attend.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.