Metro Weekly

ColorFEST Conference focuses on those who are LGBTQ and deaf

Workshops, panels and speakers address issues of identity and the LGBTQ experience

Gallaudet University

“It’s important for the LGBT deaf and hard-of-hearing community to have allies, and to know where they can go for support,” says Emma V. Balderas, co-director of the 10th Annual ColorFEST Conference, taking place this weekend at Gallaudet University.

Started in 2007 at the National Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology, the conference focuses on the different aspects of being LGBTQ and deaf. It features workshops, panel discussions, and speakers addressing LGBTQ identity, the transgender experience, and intersectionality, focusing on the life experiences of those who carry multiple labels or feel out of place because their life experiences do not fit others’ preconceived notions.

“We want people to be aware of LGBT culture,” says Balderas. “We want them to understand our journeys and our lives, so they understand what we go through, so they can help advocate for us.”

ColorFEST begins Friday, April 14 at 10 a.m., with a community expo featuring nonprofit organizations, community centers, businesses and other resources that serve the LGBTQ and deaf and hard-of-hearing communities, with free HIV testing provided by Whitman-Walker Health. Later that night, the Student Body Government will stage a short performance, and organizers will hold a speed dating event.

Conference organizers have planned the bulk of the workshops and guest speakers for Saturday, followed by a “Self-appreciation Dinner” and social activities, including a carnival for those under 21 and an off-campus outing to Town Danceboutique for those of legal age. The weekend wraps on Sunday with a cookout, followed by a candlelight vigil to honor those who lost their lives in last summer’s Pulse nightclub massacre.

The 10th Annual ColorFEST Conference is Friday, April 14 to Sunday, April 16 at Gallaudet University, 800 Florida Ave. NE. Tickets are $10 for Friday, $30 for Saturday, $40 for Friday and Saturday, or $50 for a full weekend package. FEST tickets must be purchased separately. For more information, and a full schedule of events, visit colorfestdhh.com.

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com