True Colors Conference inspires youth, encourages confidence

Elise Dudley, News Editor

29 Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) members and three staff chaperones attended the True Colors Conference on March 16 at the University of Connecticut’s Storrs campus.

The annual conference focuses on issues pertaining to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQIA) community. Now, 25 years after its first meeting, the conference hosts more than 3,500 participants from around the nation.

The True Colors organization offers over 220 workshops during the two day conference, all of which have a focus on LGBTQIA youth issues. The non-profit organization works with other social service agencies, schools, organizations, and within communities to advocate for gender and sexuality minorities. The conference is the largest LGBTQIA youth conference in the country and manages the state’s only LGBTQIA mentoring program.

“The programs are full of people from different backgrounds, and there are a bunch of different workshops to choose from. It’s really nice to be a part of something so big and special to me,” junior Victoria Bouchard said.

According to the True Colors website, their mission is to work with other large facilities and communities to ensure that the needs of sexual and gender minority youth are competently met.

“The conference has special workshops tailored to educators, so I was able to attend more specific workshops that offered tips on how to best support my LGBTQ students,” GSA advisor and science teacher Mary Stewart said.

Members of GSA have attended throughout the years and have brought lessons they learned back to school with them. Students who attended the event in years past unanimously noted that the experience was unifying, as they were able to be themselves and meet new people from across the state.

“This event is extremely important to me because it gives me the opportunity to be myself, the confidence to express myself how I want to, to meet people in similar situations as I am in, and be educated on new topics,” junior Astro Abustan said.

After the conference, GSA members hope to bring what they have learned to school and advocate further for LBGTQIA rights.

“Most kids who go to the conference always talk about how nice it was to be who they truly are in a judgment free zone, so we really want to promote those ideas within the school so LGBT+ kids don’t have to wait a whole year to be themselves again,” sophomore Madison Muszynski said.

Last year, students integrated what they learned in their Social Justice Week workshops, offering information on how to be a better ally and accepting one’s self.

“I love that this conference offers students a place where they can truly feel 100 percent understood and supported. The conference’s atmosphere is one of contagious joy. Students leave feeling empowered,” Stewart said.