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Members of the Texas Tech community speak to the audience during the Office of LGBTQIA Education & Engagement's third annual Big 12 LGBTQIA & Allies Summit on Friday, March 6, 2020 in the Student Union Building Red Raider Ballroom.

On Friday, the Office of LGBTQIA Education & Engagement kicked off its 3rd annual Big 12 LGBTQIA & Allies Summit. The event was hosted at 7:00 p.m. in the Student Union Building Ballroom.

The event included a conversation and desert with various speakers. Recognitions at the beginning of the event included Lawrence Schovanec, president of Texas Tech University, Carol Sumner, chief diversity officer, and Margaret Williams, dean of the Rawls College of Business.

“We have to remain aware and work together to help our community,” Sumner said. “There’s too much education. There’s never too much learning.”

Jody Randall, director for the Office of LGBTQIA Education & Engagement, was the host speaker for the event in the afternoon. A total of 290 people registered for the summit; in addition, 17 institutions joined the cause, Randall said.

Any student not able to pay the registration fee who wants to join the rest of the summit is welcomed to join, Randall said.

“Any student that wants to come, we will waive the fee for them,” Randall said.

Trey Grayson, former Secretary of State of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, was the special guest for this year's summit. Grayson discussed his life being both a republican and a LGBT ally. He became a public ally in 2019 after he posted a video as co-chairman of Conservatives Against Discrimination. His morals and beliefs are grounded from his faith, Grayson said.

Grayson recalls becoming a public ally as being a journey, he said. The journey included prayer and continual exposure. His church began to accept LGBT people into their congregation and onto their staff years ago; this helped Grayson love LGBT people, no matter their sexuality.

When Grayson came out as an ally, he loved the amount of positive feedback he received, he said. There have been many changes in society in the past decade to allow more support.

“A lot of people have similar views to mine, but just don’t publicly say it,” Grayson said. “I want to make a difference.”

Grayson spoke with kids about equality, as they are getting more exposed to it every day, he said. Grayson wants his kids to grow up in a welcoming world.

Sofia Chapman, associate academic dean of Student Life, was also a speaker at the event.

Chapman spoke to her son about same gender relationships when he was five, after he witnessed their male cousin marry another male, she said. This came with many questions and the opportunity to educate her child at a young age.

When LGBTQIA students face negativity or backlash, they must meet it with grit and perseverance, Chapman said. It is ok to process it with a friend or counselor.

“But you must continue on and dig deep,” Chapman said.

Matt Gregory, dean of students, and Derek Mergele-Rust, founding partner of DebnamRust, both asked questions and spoke at the event, as well.

“Empathy is everything. We lack the ability to empathize,” Rust said.

The summit included an Alice and Wonderland themed drag show at the end of the speaking session. Queer Trivia and Drag Bingo were played to end the afternoon.

On Saturday, the summit will continue at 8:45 a.m. in the SUB Ballroom. Multiple speaking opportunities and various other events will be hosted from 9:45 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., and lunch will be at 12:15 p.m. in the Matador Lounge, followed by more events at 1:30 p.m.

For more information on the event schedule, visit this website.

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