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Howard County Rainbow Conference, celebrating LGBTQ community, transitions to virtual event amid coronavirus

The Howard County Rainbow Conference is not being canceled and will instead be held virtually this month due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The inaugural conference, which was originally planned for May 15 at Hammond High School, will still be May 15 but will consist of 14 online sessions with the goal of celebrating LGBTQ students and community members and raising awareness. Attendees will have the option of signing up for just one or several of the sessions.

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Danielle DuPuis, a media specialist and video production teacher at Hammond and the Rainbow Conference’s coordinator, said it was important to not cancel the event since the conference is able to still educate people virtually. The decision comes about a month after the Howard County Pride festival was canceled due to the pandemic.

“This conference has been in the works for about a year and a half now. We had a lot of time invested in this conference. I really didn't want to see that time go to waste, especially since people are at home now and they’re looking for other things to do,” DuPuis said.

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“I thought we could do it online and have people tune in and learn from home. Especially with the LGBTQ+ community, depending on the student’s situation at home, it may be harder for them to be at home right now. So offering them a safe space is important right now.”

The conference has seven time slots — from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. — with an average of two sessions per hour. The sessions range in topic, from support for transgender students, LGBTQ literature, support from allies, suicide prevention and others. Keynote speaker Mikah Meyer — an American travel journalist and LGBTQ rights advocate — has been rescheduled for the 2021 conference.

The goal of the conference is to “raise visibility and awareness and to encourage allies to support LGBTQ+ youth and community members,” DuPuis said

“I think there’s a lack of understanding for the community. A lot of times people say, ‘Well, I’m not gay, it doesn’t pertain to me, I’m moving on.’ Unfortunately, we do that a lot as humans, but we need each other. We need people to call out when others are being unkind to others,” she added.

Registration for the free Howard County Rainbow Conference ends May 12. To register, go to sites.google.com/hcpss.org/hcpssrainbowconference.

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