COLORS Club attends governor’s conference


Kelsey Keranen

Compiled by Lushia Anson and Kelsey Keranen

Photos Courtesy of Kayla Shader

COLORS members at the Governor’s Conference on April 3.


On April 3rd, members of the COLORS club attended the 10th Annual Iowa Governor’s Conference on LGBTQ Youth.  The conference, intended to spread awareness with young people about LGBTQ issues and offer a safe place for interaction of LGBTQ youth, made a fair impact on all of the West students in attendance and left them with a few prominent memories.

One of the favorite speakers among the club members was the former Prime Minister of Iceland, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, who was the first openly gay head of state.

“She gave a really long speech that was more like activism and why we should change what is going on around the world and in America, but it was her wife who had a little bit of a better grasp at English who gave her life story and how they met.  It was so adorable,” said Megan Kann ’16.

“She said ‘I’m going to tell you a love story,’” English teacher Kerri Barnhouse added.  “She said it wasn’t a typical love story, because what you’d usually expect from a love story is two young people, heterosexual, very attractive.  She said ‘We’re obviously not young, we’re obviously not heterosexual, and I won’t even speak about the attractiveness.’”

Barnhouse continued to describe the circumstances under which Sigurðardóttir became head of the Icelandic state.

“The really interesting part of the story is Iceland went into this huge economic crisis and three banks had collapsed and the country turned to the one person that they trusted, and it was her.  They said we don’t care about your life, we just need you because you’re the best person and they asked her to be the prime minister,” Barnhouse said.

“When she left office, all of the people gathered together to give her roses,” Kann said.

Other favorite speakers included Miss Coco Peru, Sam Killermann, Ryan Sallans and Dr. Karen Rayne.  Rayne, Aileen Norris ‘’15 added, was wearing a condom dress.

coco peru
Miss Coco Peru


Comedian and social activist Sam Killerman gave a rousing speech about miscommunications and dip.
Comedian and social activist Sam Killerman gave a rousing speech about miscommunications and dip.

During the conference, students could choose to visit panels or breakout sessions, one of which was attended by Anneke Thorne ’16.

“I went to a really good breakout session, and it was about the LGBT people in the juvenile justice system and foster care.  That was really interesting,” Thorne said.  “It was an issue I hadn’t really thought of before, so I was really glad I went. I knew in the back of my head that the foster care system for LGBT people might be an issue, but I hadn’t thought about it in depth at all.  One thing that I thought was interesting was that they said really Christian families will get foster care children and then try and convert them.  Then there’s the issue of do you tell your social worker that you’re LGBT or not.”

“I went to a breakout session that was led by someone who was a part of the Matthew Shepard foundation.  [What surprised me was] these were LGBT people, and she asked who knew who Matthew Shepard was, and only about half of us raised our hands.  It was such a cultural change when that happened, and the fact that it’s not being taught about,” Norris said in reference to a breakout session she went to.  “Matthew Shepard was tied to a fencepost and beaten with the butt of a gun and left out in the elements for eighteen hours before anyone found him.  He was in a coma for a couple of days and then passed away, and it really redefined how the UNited States looked at LGBT people.”

A new recurring theme that is highlighted by the conference is transgender youth, noted by Barnhouse.

“At the last two conferences, transgender issues were at the forefront.  I think that’s an area that people now are wanting and needing to learn more about,” Barnhouse said.  “Gender identity is definitely an area [where] we all need to be better informed.”