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Blog: Narrating a New Normal

By Rev. Jenn Tafel

By Rev. Jenn Tafel

It was a blessing beyond measure to attend MBLGTACC2015. I was a little bummed to be leaving my partner over Valentine’s weekend, but he and I celebrated earlier in the week—so I wasn’t too bummed out. I also was a bit concerned about the weather, but it held out. Good driving weather, but -25 degrees with the wind-chill once we got there! I was able to put most of these minor worries away once we got going down the highway because this adventure held more opportunity for fun and learning than what would hold us back.

I traveled to the event with one of the members of Q-CROSS@MSU, Mary. We both were looking forward (read: ECSTATIC!) to the keynote speaker, Laverne Cox, and what the workshops had to offer. As someone who loves all things alternative (okay, most things alternative!)—I was also looking forward to being with a crowd who pushes back against the mainstream. It was also an opportunity to connect with a member of Q-CROSS@MSU by learning her life story in more detail. The journey went by quickly as we both shared pieces of our life story and how we found our way into the queer culture and what that means for both of us.

Laverne Cox Collage

I had the good fortune to hear Laverne Cox speak at an event last spring, and I was eagerly anticipating what she had to offer at this event. To hear Laverne Cox speak is to connect with her truth in a profound and meaningful way. She is eloquent and articulate with humor that runs deep. She has traveled to dark places and prevailed. She weaves education and empowerment through her life story like the great masters with grace. She is a model for us all and thank goodness the trans* community has such an advocate and activist. She has away about her that makes a person want to #fixsociety with her. She runs a powerful Q & A—and this time was no different. We are all better people for being in that crowd and bearing witness to the light that is Laverne Cox.

How do you top that? You don’t. You find a way to integrate the learning and shine your light. Off we went to the next event, Vagina Monologues play offers a different form of empowerment—just as powerful. We left the conference center on a buzz.

MBLGTACC Photo collage

The rest of the conference was no less amazing. I was lucky enough to float between student and advisor workshops. The learning and networking opportunities were fantastic. I came away inspired and ready for action. From the plenary session on identity to the workshops for advisors to the closing keynote speaker—the message range out about self-care and authenticity. I took to heart the message, “We need you for the long haul.” I’ve been reflecting on this since I returned home. This conference had something for everyone. The entertainment Saturday night was aw esome. We got a dose of slam poetry with Kit Yan and a drag show hosted by Bianca Del Rio Two completely different forms of entertainment—both were spectacular.

During the closing ceremony we watched the promo video for the next conference to be held at Purdue University. I cried happy tears while I watched it as I felt a renewed sense of call. And while sometimes one can feel a sense of separation among the community, we truly are in this together. Rev. Dr. Jamie Washington imparted the message, “Wholeness is the new normal.” Wholeness within ourselves, the LGBTQ community, and our culture. How will I narrate a new normal? With a sense of corniness (for which I am famous), “This little light of mine—I’m going to let it shine…”

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