On Thursday, April 6 approximately 300 people, most from student organizations across the state, arrived at Middle Tennessee State University to attend MT Lambda’s fourth annual conference. The primary goal of the conference is to bring people together for a three-day educational event so that people all across Middle Tennessee and other areas can learn how to create an educational and corporate environment where all people are accepted regardless of their sexual orientation.
The MT Lambda organization was founded in 1988 by Daniel Webster, John Weaver, and Richie Smith in the aftermath of a slew of homophobic remarks published by a single student writer for the campus paper—Sidelines. The original membership of this organization consisted of 20 students and faculty members searching for a safe place where they wouldn’t be ridiculed or bullied. This organization is the oldest of its kind in the state of Tennessee. MT Lambda has weekly meetings and are open to all current MTSU students who act in good faith of MT Lambda’s constitution and community standards.
MT Lambda serves as a support for students, as well as to foster a welcoming environment on campus and a healthy and safe transition into the corporate world. The organization’s mission incorporates four main goals: political activism, LGBT education, community engagement, and social support. During its tenure, MT Lambda has hosted celebrity speakers such as Judy Shepard, Megan McCain, and Chaz Bono. According to their website, members of MT Lambda were the first to view the pilot for the infamous television show Sordid Lives.
The theme of this year’s conference was “All Identities–Removing Obstacles to Inclusion.” According to the MT Lambda website, the conference focused on how religious beliefs, nationality, race, gender, age, and sexual orientation can play a significant role in how we experience the world. Professors, students, practitioners, and leaders spoke to guests in attendance on how access and opportunity intersect with someone’s identity and our interactions with the community and one another, as well as how to remove those obstacles that keep us from being included.
The conference’s presenting sponsor was Nissan. Nissan is an avid supporter of LGBT rights. The conference consisted of three days of keynote speakers such as Tara Prairie, Michael McDaniel, David Jay and Eric Watson. These speakers are experts in the fight for minority rights. The conference also included a mini film festival on Thursday night, an open mic night on Friday night, and an awards dinner wrapping up the weekend on Saturday night.
Professor William Langston is the advisor for the MT Lambda organization and the organizer for the annual event. According to Langston, his hope is that the conference will help create environments conducive to a welcoming experience and that aren’t hostile, wherever students go.