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Note: News editor Raychel Johnson contributed to this story.
The Weber State University Diversity Conference was held for the 14th year on Friday. The conference started with a talk Thursday evening at the Davis campus
and continued Friday morning, starting with a keynote address by Don Lemon, a CNN newsroom anchor.
Lemon told his own story about being gay. He said Tyler Clementi, the gay Rutgers student who killed himself, inspired him to tell his story.
“That led me to realize that my personal story was important enough to tell,” Lemon said. He wrote a book called Transparent and dedicated it to Clementi.
He talked about how the topic of the LGBTQ community is no longer controversial because people who think LGBTQ people shouldn’t have rights are living in the past.
“I’m not an activist,” Lemon said, “I’m a truth-teller.” Lemon came out in 2011.
He also gave advice to the LGBTQ people who have had people say they are uncomfortable with hearing about LGBTQ relationships. He said to ask him or her what it would be like to go his or her entire career or lifetime without talking about marriage or the “hot girl” in the office. He said he has told people this and later had them apologize.
“What is so shameful about loving someone?” Lemon said. “Isn’t love a basic human need?”
Lemon said he was excited to come to WSU because it is in the middle of an LDS community in a conservative state, yet WSU was bold enough to tackle the subject.
“It was way inspirational,” said Ashlee Swallow, a Job Corps student, about Lemon’s talk. “Everyone could relate and everyone was focused on him.”
Job Corps is a trade school that helps students get their diploma or GED. Swallow heard about the event from her teacher and came with seven other people in her class. This was her first time at the Diversity Conference, and she said she would come again.
The conference closed with a talk by William Bradshaw about the biology of LGBTQ people and a study he did with Mormon LGBTQ people and their experience with reparative therapy. Reparative therapy is therapy to try to turn LGBTQ people straight.
“It’s especially interesting, working as a social worker, to be able to reference (that) there is empirical data that shows this does not work,” said Brett Bartruff, a social work senior. “I think that’s really important.”
Bartruff went to the one session, but said if he was in town he would come again next year.
At the conference, Cara Rose Partington was one of the students awarded the Matthew Shepard Scholarship. The scholarship goes to a member of or an activist for the LGBTQ community. The recipients of the scholarship do not have to be activists.
“I think one of the main reasons (for that) being (that) coming out in this environment can be a really sensitive thing to do,” Partington said. “So some people aren’t out to their families or their friends, but they want to apply for this scholarship. One of the things that I thought was attractive was there wasn’t any pressure to be a public personality.”