2023 LGBTQ+ Leadership Conference Theme and Purpose

Rise Up – Act Up:

Kansas LGBTQ+ Leadership Conference 2023

April 21 st 2023

At the time we are writing this, 450 anti-trans bills have been proposed across the U.S., 300 of which target queer youth. We find ourselves the targets of social and cultural debate, regulation, persecution, as well as radical liberation efforts. Because of the social and political climate we currently live in, this year’s conference theme draws inspiration from the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center’s special Exhibition “Rise Up: Stonewall and the LGBTQ Rights Movement” and the radical organizing efforts of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, or ACT UP.

“Rise Up” as an exhibition charts the June 1969 uprising at the Stonewall Inn where queer patrons rallied to oppose police and state violence in multiple forms. Stonewall was a significant flashpoint for queer history and activism as the LGBTQ community literally rose-up against police Vice Squads that would storm the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar, harass drag queens, and arrest patrons for wearing clothing assumed to be for a gender other than what they were assigned at birth. Collectively, queer folks refused to be subjected to such treatment anymore and together demanded justice for themselves and their incarcerated sisters, imprisoned 500 feet away in the “Women’s House of Detention.” This prison was made up of over 75% queer folks, largely people of color and by the 1960’s the prison had started marking queer prisoners with a “D” for degenerate and placing them in solitary confinement—which is functionally torture. However, seeing the Stonewall Riots from their prison cell windows, those incarcerated who could, started a riot of their own, setting fire to whatever they could and throwing it down to the streets below, joining in chants of “Gay rights! Gay rights! Gay rights!” while those on the street chanted in solidarity for the rights of their imprisoned siblings.1 “Rise-Up” in our conference theme marks this often unacknowledged part of queer history as well as what is possible when we work together as a community against state violence...wherever we find ourselves.

“Act-up” in our conference title cites the organizing efforts of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power. ACT UP as a group was formed in the late 1980’s to pressure institutions, government agencies, pharmaceutical companies, and political leaders to take AIDS seriously. ACT UP formed because tens of thousands of people—mostly gay men—had died of AIDS in the U.S., and more were dying every day, while government leaders were either indifferent or lauded queer deaths as deserved. ACT UP activists engaged in dramatic attention getting protests, kiss-ins, die-ins, dumped ashes of dead loved ones on the White House lawn, as well as formed their own treatment and advocacy teams responsible for changing the way medical trials were run that put pressure on the FDA to expand access which eventually led to the development of more effective treatment. ACT UP is a model for what is looks like when we save our own lives.

Pairing the lessons from Stonewall and the powerful organizing efforts of ACT UP, this year’s conference seeks to understand more fully what LGBTQ leadership entails in our present political moment. What does it mean to rise up and act up when we understand that our sexual and gender identities are impacted by larger systems of race, ethnicity, nation, colonialism, gender binaries, spirituality, and class? How do we understand and hold ourselves and each other accountable to larger questions of justice? And what does this all look like physically and emotionally as lived landscapes in Kansas?


The Kansas LGBTQ+ Leadership Conference 2023 steering committee offers the below themes as ideas, but all proposals are welcome even if they fall outside of the below categories. Innovation and novelty are encouraged.

  • Queer Advocacy & Engagement
    Sessions in this track will offer strategies, ideas, tools, skill-building, and trends to engage community in civic life while working toward concrete progressive change. Sessions will also focus on building community organizing skills, political and social advocacy knowledge, and justice-work capabilities.


  • Queering Reproductive Justice: a session on queering reproductive justice could examine how reproductive justice efforts can be more LGBTQ inclusive in Kansas. The session could discuss the history of reproductive rights, the Kansas eugenics movement, the turn to reproductive justice and how it would help trans folks, the cultural backlash against “birthing people” as a term, etc.
  • Queer the Vote: a session on voting couldfocus on LGBTQ voting, its history, and how voting laws impact our community. It could discuss electoral politics as a focus of activism vs direct action, “get out the vote” initiatives, systemics attacks on bodily autonomy by elected officials that were narrowly elected which LGTBQ voters could unseat next election cycle, etc.
  • Queer Popular Culture & Visual Representation
    Sessions in this track will focus on popular culture use by and representation of queer folks. Having queer representation is powerful. Having possibility models, seeing yourself represented, and knowing you are not alone can offer hope and transformation. However, representation can also be vexed. Negative representation can do harm. And, even positive representation when those shows or books are banned or debated have impacts. Sessions may address the history of particular representations, adolescence in film and television, advertising, African-American representation, aging and senior culture, American Indian literature and cultures, animals and popular culture, animation, art & design, Latinx performing arts, body & culture, border studies & migration, celebrity, children & YA literature and culture, comic art, digital culture, disability, apocalypse & disaster themes, Disney, pornography & erotics, fairy tales, fan culture, fashion, fat studies, film, folklore, food, gaming, horror, law, libraries, musicals, wrestling, romance, science fiction, fantasy, soap operas, sports, true crime, westerns, etc. Sessions on historically underrepresented LGBTQ+ populations are particularly encouraged.
  • Queer Health & Wellness
    Sessions in this track will focus on the broad range of mental and physical health issues and opportunities within LGBTQ+ communities. Health and Wellness sessions should highlight at some level the roles of trauma and violence in our lives, causes of health disparities, proposed solutions, or effective interventions with a focus on healing of oneself or our collective community. Sessions may also address cultures of toxicity, such as cis-masculinity, cis-femininity, white supremacy, settler mentality, internalized racism, internalized homophobia, American exceptionalism, etc.

Areas of focus within the requested session tracks should include but are not limited to representation, politicization, and visibility of the Kansas LGBTQ+ community and in relation to lived experience.

Please register for the conference here:


Abstracts should fall between 250 to 650 words and are due April 10, 2023.

Please submit electronically here:


For questions contact the K-State Spectrum Center at lgbt@k-state.eduor 785.532.5352.

We look forward to being in community with you!