The Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition (PSEC) will convene the 2015 Pennsylvania Youth Action Conference: Cultivating New Possibilities for Rural LGBTQ Youth, at Juniata College in Huntingdon, PA, from February 27–28. Held since 2011, the PA Youth Action Conference has become the largest annual statewide gathering of LGBTQ youth.
The Keynote Speaker of the 2015 conference will be Mike Fleck, the first openly gay state legislator in Pennsylvania. Former State Rep. Fleck (R-81) served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from 2008 to 2014. His district was comprised of parts of rural Centre, Huntingdon, and Mifflin Counties.
Alison Bechdel will address the conference on Saturday afternoon. From rural Clinton County, Alison is a world-renowned lesbian cartoonist who produced the syndicated comic strip “Dykes to Watch Out For” for over 20 years. She is a 2014 MacArthur “Genius” Grant recipient and a 2012 Guggenheim Fellow. Her memoir “Fun Home” will debut as a musical on Broadway in New York in March 2015. Alison will speak to the conference attendees about her experiences growing up and coming out in rural Pennsylvania.
The Youth Action Conference will also feature an address by the newly named Deputy Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA), Hannah Smith-Brubaker. Before joining PDA this month, she was the President of the Pennsylvania Farmers Union. Hannah and her wife operate a farm in Juniata County.
Additional speakers include: Candace Gingrich, Associate Director of Youth and Campus Engagement for the Human Rights Campaign, and sister of Newt Gingrich; Terry Mutchler, the former Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records and author of “Under this Beautiful Dome”; Dr. Michele Angello, a nationally-regarded gender and sexuality youth therapist; Dr. Karen Whitney, President of Clarion University; and, Joe Burns, Sam Deetz, and Mary Nancarrow, several of the founding members of the Pennsylvania Rural Gay Caucus – the first statewide LGBTQ organization in Pennsylvania.
Programming includes an All-Conference Training on mental health and self-care for rural LGBTQ youth, a plenary of rural Pennsylvania LGBTQ advocates, and a screening of “Out in the Silence” – the 2010 documentary on LGBTQ life in Oil City, PA – with filmmaker Joe Wilson providing remarks. There will be over a dozen cutting-edge sessions on rural issues, including on the history of the rural Pennsylvania LGBTQ movement, access to healthcare for rural LGBTQ youth, safe schools advocacy, rural organizing work, transgender youth issues, and the role of religion in the rural LGBTQ community. The third annual Keystone Banquet and Award Ceremony will be held on Saturday evening, honoring Pennsylvanians who have made a positive impact in the lives of LGBTQ young people.
The recipients are as follows:
The Altoona Award
Alison Bechdel – Beech Creek, PA
For great courage, strength, and resilience in advancing the visibility and welfare of LGBTQ youth in the commonwealth
The Keystone Award
Terry Mutchler – East Stroudsburg, PA
Presented to a legislator or government official who has demonstrated great courage, strength, and resilience in advancing the visibility and welfare of LGBTQ youth in the commonwealth
The Generations Award
The Pennsylvania Rural Gay Caucus (Accepted by Mary Nancarrow, Joe Burns, and Sam Deetz)
For Pennsylvanians who have provided significant contributions to the legacy of LGBT advocacy in the commonwealth
The Mara Keisling Leadership Award
Turner Stulting – Lewisburg, PA
Presented to a transgender youth who has completed substantial work to advocate for gender equality and inclusivity in the Keystone State
The 2015 Pennsylvania Youth Action Conference is sponsored by PSEC, Juniata College, Village Acres Farm and Foodshed, the Philadelphia Gay News, and the Pennsylvania Farmers Union. Efforts to organize the conference at Juniata College have been led by their campus LGBT student organization, All Ways of Loving.
More information on the gathering, and online registration, can be found at youthactionconference.com.