Not simply exceptional, but outstanding.
On Saturday, October 26, the Masters of Social Work Organization will hold its annual OUTstanding seminar. This year's theme will be "Axes of Identity: Exploring Intersections of Diversity."
The seminar is co-sponsored by Ready for the World, Issues Committee, Women's Coordinating Council, BCPC and Multicultural Student Life.
Created two years ago, the seminar has become a campus mainstay, growing in size and popularity. According to the seminar website, the event remains dedicated to its founding mission, "educating and exploring issues of LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer and questioning) identity and equality."
"OUTstanding will consist of 16 different presentations on LGBT topics," said Abel Howard, a future graduate student in business administration. "We will explore topics covering homophobia in sports, gay youth in the bible belt, issues facing parents of transgender children, sexual minority identity among Middle Eastern and Arab Americans, plus games covering LGBT issues."
OUTstanding Chairperson, Cat Miller said the event will also feature a keynote address from bisexual activist, Robyn Ochs, and entertainment from slam poet Staceyann Chin.
"I think events like this are a great way to talk to people who you may have not encountered otherwise," Miller, also a senior in kinesiology, said. "We are providing a safe, inclusive atmosphere for students, faculty, and staff from UT to interact with students and community members outside of the university."
Roughly two dozen community representatives will be present during lunch to offer information and services.
"UT is a place of learning so it is fitting that we would educate everyone in the area on LGBT issues," Howard said. "The more people that are educated, the more they can do to help our community."
A performance by the Knoxville Gay Men's Chorus during the lunch and a raffle furnished by local businesses to raise funding for the LGBT community's campus organizations will follow.
The seminar will focus on the unique perspectives that result from varying personal identities.
Miller identifies with a variety of social classifications.
"Some of the ways I identify are as a working-class student, feminist, genderqueer, trans*, white, Southern Appalachian queer," Miller said, "My experiences are going to be very different from a black heterosexual transwoman from Chicago or a biracial, cisgender, radical lesbian. These varying experiences will be talked about and hopefully provide insight for others into how to find common ground between people of different walks of life."
Miller hopes students will walk away from the OUTstanding seminar with a renewed sense of empowerment.
"We can all improve the campus climate for gender and sexual minorities," Miller said. "UT has so many people willing to educate and listen to the concerns and inner conflicts people may have."
Howard is also excited about the event, and sees the forum as an opportunity for engagement on diversity issues.
"Students should attend because this is a great opportunity for people in the area to get an education on LGBT issues," Howard said. "Plus that they get free lunch, free HIV testing, a free shirt and a discount at Edge Knoxville."
Pre-registration for the OUTstanding seminar is available here but walk-ins will be accepted from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. the day of the event.