Statewide Connection: The Outright Youth Leadership Conference


BFA’s participants at the Outright Youth Leadership Conference Photo credit: Rachel Ledoux

Rachel Ledoux, Writer

In Nov. 2021, students across Vermont gathered together virtually for Outright Vermont’s annual Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) Conference. This past Thursday, March 31, students were given another opportunity to interact with Vermont youth at the Outright Leadership Day. Among them were Bellows Free Academy students, many of whom also attended the GSA conference.

Seven of BFA’s GSA members, as well as BFA math teacher Nicole Schubert, attended this conference. Students were excused from class at the end of Enrichment and spent the rest of the day attending the event in W-302. 

Throughout the day, students partook in a mixture of in-person activities and Zoom discussions. The meeting was managed by members of the Outright faculty as well as Vermont state legislators and a panel of youth leaders from across the country.

According to participants, while not technically being an LGBTQ+ or GSA related event, the conference had a focus on LGBTQ+ rights and activism. Youth leaders discussed their work in the fight for queer liberation, discussing everything from protesting against the Don’t Say Gay bill to fighting for trans girls’ right to compete in sports.

“I really enjoyed the student involvement they had from youth,” Paxton Getty (‘24) said.  Getty added, “I also liked how open the panelists were to questions and getting to meet Vermont legislators.”

Students said that this was particularly inspiring as the youth panelists were also middle and high school students.

“I learned a lot about the things youth can do in their communities that not a lot of people realize they can,” one participant said. 

One exciting aspect of the conference, according to students, was getting to meet state leaders in person as well as virtually. Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, a Vermont state representative, was at the Northwest Career and Technical Center during the conference, and introduced herself during the meeting. Recognizing her background, BFA students invited her to attend the conference with them, and she joined them to hang out for a portion of the conference.  .

“It was really cool to see somebody that powerful being part of the community and really advocating for LGBTQ+ rights,” Moth Palmer (‘24) said.

Students also noted their enjoyment of the free items they were given throughout the conference such as Domino’s pizza and various refreshments, leadership resources, stickers and balloons.  These items were donated to the event by both Outright and Schubert.

“We got a ton of cool stuff…We got to write all over this balloon and just had a lot of fun with it,” Palmer said.

According to V Pearson, an Outright leader, groups then switched to Gathertown, a virtual meeting platform that Outright typically uses for meetings.  The platform allows students to create an avatar and host meetings in a virtual environment, complete with a café, rooftop, office building and beach.

This was a new platform for many, so there was a learning curve involved. According to Pearson, Outright had never attempted to host this many people on the platform at once, so it was a bit chaotic. However, students said they still had a good time with it.

“We got to speak to the youth leaders one-on-one and hang out with other [groups of] youth, which was super cool,” one student said.

The conference ended around 3 p.m., when school groups were released. Students were given some Outright events to look out for in future months as well as information about current opportunities for youth leadership and involvement.

All in all, the group said they viewed the day as a success. Students described learning a lot about ways to help their communities and gaining a better understanding of both positive and negative LGBTQ+ legislation currently under discussion.

“It was a really awesome experience,” Getty said. Getty added, “[The conference] definitely gave me a greater appreciation for our Vermont legislators and all of the youth fighting for their rights across the country.”