Queering Spaces/Queering Borders conference gathers UNCA crowd

by Maeve Callahan – [email protected] – Staff Writer
Grammar School played as audience members settled into their seats on the third floor of the Masonic Temple in downtown Asheville last Saturday night.
“Grammar School will play one more song for us and I want to see people up and dancing,” said Griffin Payne, co-organizer of UNC Asheville’s Queer Studies Conference and UNCA post-baccalaureate second degree student.
Within minutes, the empty space of the thrust stage filled with dancing bodies, and the show had not even begun.

This year's Queering Spaces/Queering Borders conference featured performances from speakers, poets, drag queens and dancers.
This year’s Queering Spaces/Queering Borders conference featured performances from speakers, poets, drag queens and dancers.

Saturday night’s “Welcome Home Performance Bazaar: An Evening of Queer Community and Expression” ended the three-day conference that took place on UNCA’s campus last week.
Drag queens, poets, dancers and comedians preformed for the audience to raise money for Youth OUTright, an organization developed to support and empower gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth in Western North Carolina.
The three-day conference, Queering Spaces/Queering Borders, scheduled various panel discussions, lectures and performances to address the need to transgress harmful borders, according to co-organizer Amy Lanou, associate professor of health and wellness.
“Conference participants addressed inclusive and creative pedagogies, political constraints and social borders that limit and separate people from each other and from full civil engagement in society,” Lanou said.
The keynote speakers were invited to speak because their work challenged borders and spaces, according to co-organizer Lori Horvitz, director and associate professor of women, gender and sexuality studies program at UNCA.
“Only by speaking about these subjects openly we can start to understand their complexities, and by understanding the many facets of these issues, we can start bringing justice to them,” Horvitz said.
Horvitz said she was nearly brought to tears while she listened to the interracial LGBTQ children panel discussion “Queer Spawn.”
Horvitz said the panelists all spoke with pride and expressed gratitude toward their parents for how they raised them.
Keynote speaker Adela C. Licona spoke to an audience last Saturday morning in the Mountain View Room of the Sherrill Center.
“My presentation is called: ‘Mi’ja, just say you’re a feminist like you used to…: Pa/trolling & Performing Queer Rhetorics in the Everyday,’ and in it I will be addressing the relations of the self or, better yet, the selves that demonstrate an interest in and concern for collectives, coalitions and community,” Licona said.
Licona works with youth in Tucson, Ariz., as a co-director of the Crossroads Collaborative. Her experiences with the Tucson youth and her research of Zines encouraged Licona to move toward change.
“Think the unthinkable, imagine the unimaginable and work for change that revalues those that are overlooked, underrepresented or devalued,” Licona said.
Asheville singer and songwriter Kat Williams performed two songs on Saturday night at the Masonic Temple. Before she sang her mother’s favorite song, “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong, Williams shared with the audience that she recently came out to the public and why she decided to.
“If I have the attention of the masses, it’s my duty to educate. I am on a new path to live to be the authentic me,” Williams said.