By: Kei Bayramshian

Photos by: Kei Bayramshian and Delaney Donnohue

LGBTQ+ delegates

The 28th of June marked the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, considered by many to be the catalyst for the LGBTQ+ movement we are familiar with today. As Pride Month comes to a close, the community reflects on the role pride plays in their everyday lives and in their experiences here at CONA. Both on and off the mountain, June served as an international celebration of pride in every sense of the word.

[Pride] is acceptance, and it’s toleration and happiness.

Jessika Crockett-Murphy

A significant amount of our very own delegates identify with the LGBTQ+ community, as they embrace aspects of themselves like gender and sexuality in coming to terms with their identities. From the LGBTQ+ GroupMe chat to a brief community meetup in celebration of pride, the welcoming atmosphere of the conference is tangible on Black Mountain. Jessika Crockett-Murphy of the Massachusetts delegation finds comfort in the fellowship present among our queer CONA students, saying that pride in any way, shape, or form “is acceptance, and it’s toleration and happiness.” She believes that to accept one’s identity is to look at the cards you have been played and say, “Alright, I have this and I’m going to work with it and I’m okay with that, in forming a community with pride.” The mountain is littered with delegates displaying this pride through pins, T-shirts, flags, and general kindness.

On paper, pride is evident in the legislation being proposed itself. In Committee H, twelve bills were centered around the rights of members of the LGBTQ+ community, discussing topics like blood donation, medical transition, and military involvement. Delegates from all across the country are fighting for gay rights- delegates like Garrett Schneider of the Tennessee delegation. With regard to issues pertaining to civil rights and social justice, the government’s role in queer legislation becomes rather fuzzy. Schneider feels that “it’s the government’s job to protect anyone no matter their race, sexuality, religion, or anything- when the rights of people are being trampled on, someone has to step in and say, ‘Wait, these are people too.’”

The YMCA is considered to be one of the pre-eminent faith-based organizations, traditionally characterized by Christianity or religion in general. In knowingly entering such a God-oriented climate, LGBTQ+ delegates may feel intimidated or initially ostracized if not received well right off the bat. All delegates are embraced and welcome at CONA, and the Blue Ridge Journal interviewed former CONA director and devotion speaker Bob McGaughey regarding the relationship between pride and conference. With regard to queer individuals and their presence and representation on the mountain, McGaughey explained, “I think it’s a natural occurrence in life- that’s where we are, that’s what we are. God loves all people, and we don’t wear labels to be loved by him.” Every delegate is welcome to express them self freely at CONA without fear of being discriminated against- an aspect of the conference that is consistently unique to the CONA experience and the people we have surrounded ourselves with.

With the upcoming presidential election already underway- and with an openly gay top democratic presidential candidate- LGBTQ+ issues are becoming increasingly more relevant across the country, and will remain relevant at CONA for years to come.