Hundreds of students from high schools around Michigan gathered at Grand Valley State University on March 8 for Building a Movement for Michigan Gender and Sexualities’ (BAMM GSAs) annual summit. The event brings GSA students and advisers together for a day full of keynote speakers, breakout sessions and conversations.
The summit aims to connect those involved in Michigan GSA with each other to encourage dialogue about the societal factors surrounding Michigan’s LGBT+ community.
“(The) summit is a unique event that works to center LGBTQIA+ youth voice in an effort to improve inclusion and affirmation of young people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in our state,” said Executive Director of the Michigan Organization on Adolescent Sexual Health Taryn Gal.
Gal said that the summit has grown exponentially in the past several years, increasing both in attendance and depth of sessions. Through this, the goals of the event have also expanded to promote collaboration.
“The BAMM GSAs Summit provides students and advisers with many opportunities – to network with peers, learn club development skills, share successes and challenges and be in a truly inclusive and affirming space,” Gal said. “We also strive to provide a space where authentic youth voice is heard and honored.”
Sessions this year included lessons on bystander intervention, self-care, leadership and more. While some were led by professionals working actively in the LGBT+ community day to day, others were lead by student leaders, like Makenzie Jackson and Maggie Patri from Novi, Mich.
Presentations also featured members from GVSU’s LGBT+ community alongside others speaking about their experiences. Four GVSU students presented on gender transition, giving advice on not only the legal and medical aspects of being a transgender person, but also how it feels to be a transgender student through the various stages of the process.
2019 marks the summit’s fifth year, and the third that GVSU has hosted the event, said Director of GVSU’s Milton E. Ford LGBT Resource Center Jen Hsu-Bishop. Hsu-Bishop said that this year’s guests include over 300 students and advisers from more than 40 high schools throughout the state.
While GVSU will also be hosting a range of speakers and presentations, Hsu-Bishop said that the effects of participation will give guests tool to bring back to improve their school’s branches of GSA.
“The summit provides students involved with their local GSAs with an opportunity to develop their leadership skills, connect with other students and build their capacity to lead successful GSAs throughout Michigan.” Hsu-Bishop said.
The annually increasing numbers of both returning and new faces alike is inspiring, Gal said. With the efforts that supporters make to both attend and host the summit, Gal said that the results are inspiring.
“We know it takes time and energy and resources to take the day off of school to attend the BAMM GSAs Summit, and I am so grateful and humbled that all of these students and advisers from across the state have chosen to take that time and energy and resources to spend the day with us working towards a more inclusive and affirming Michigan for all LGBTQIA+ young people,” Gal said.