By Ana Gabriela García | 11/14/17 5:52pm
Last Saturday, the 2017 Intersect Conference keynote speaker, Kat Blaque, candidly addressed important, yet ignored topics on gender and sexuality, dating, growing up, failures and white supremacy.
The Intersect Conference is a two-day conference where participants, through education sessions and roundtable discussions, engage in dialogue, reflection and social justice. All topics discussed focus on the intersectionalities of diversity and leadership. “If…” was the main theme of the conference. Students from more than four different colleges and universities attended this year’s event.
Blaque, a social media influencer with 132,000 subscribers on YouTube and 199,000 on Facebook, began her keynote address explaining the desire to explore her own narrative after buying a knock-off Lisa Frank diary from her community’s catholic bookstore in elementary school.
“That’s when I started having a continuous conversation with myself,” Blaque said. The self-reflection ultimately led to her awareness of the ways in which she was different from most kids.
Before using YouTube, she used other platforms, such as Myspace, as a public diary. Later, she began using YouTube, on a $25 “rinky-dink” Logitech webcam, and began vlogging routinely. For Blaque, the power of YouTube was not in her ability to express herself, but rather in the empowerment it gave her.
“I started to recognize that social media had that ability to allow you to recreate yourself in many ways,” she said.
During her speech, Blaque also addressed the obstacles she faced as a transgender woman in college, a turbulent time where Blaque recognized that she wasn’t a queer person, but rather a trans person.
“I had this realization that I really had no responsibility to be the person I said I was the day before,” she said.
Blaque turned back to YouTube during this time, to talk about her concerns on transitioning and the stress of her college assignments. She also started ordering hormones online and began doing hormone update videos.
Knowing that the world around her didn’t fully accept her, Blaque decided to be “stealth” in college. “Stealth” means to live in a situation where the people around you do not know you are trans. In this way, Blaque existed without being thought of solely in regards to her transgender status.
“As a trans-person, sometimes you just hate having to go through life with your trans-ness being the thing, — the first thing — that people talk to you about,” she said. “Believe it or not, trans people do exist for more things than being trans.”
Staying “stealth” also allowed her to not be laughed at or rejected from a job opportunity, something which occurred many times before Blaque changed her gender marker and “dead name,” otherwise known as her birthname. In addition, Blaque no longer had to email her teachers and explain to students her real name and gender.
Today, her internet presence extends weekly more than 4 million people. The south California native is also an animator and illustrator who contributes to Everyday Feminism, Pride.com and The Huffington Post.
Before, during and after her speech, students tweeted responses to Blaque. Elon University junior Carolina Ferreyros tweeted in response to Blaque:
“@kat_blaque is apparently my spirit animal, she walked to steak n shake last night and is going to cookout later, can’t wait to hear what else she has to say.”
Her unabashed and insightful take on difficult and personal topics, something which undoubtedly rose her to fame, kept students, faculty and staff engaged throughout her talk.
“The intersect conference’s decision to choose Kat Blaque as the keynote speaker shows that they are truly dedicated to diversity in all its forms,” said junior Raechel Brunson whom attended this year’s event.