LGBT+ College Conference at MTSU to examine ‘all identities’

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An executive with a national health care firm whose personal journey includes gender reassignment will deliver the keynote address at MTSU’s 2016 LGBT+ College Conference, which is slated for April 7-9.

Dr. Renee McLaughlin will speak under the conference theme of all identities” at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 9, in the Tennessee Room of the James Union Building. McLaughlin replaces originally scheduled keynote speaker, Martin Luther King III, who will be unable to attend.

The conference is a combination of research presentations, strategy sessions and lectures with topics pertinent to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students and their allies.

Some topics include breaking down barriers among identity groups, stemming the tide of LGBT+ youth homelessness and creating a culture of respect in the workplace.

Dr. Renee McLaughlin.jpgIn 2013, McLaughlin, who was born male and named Robert, underwent facial feminization surgery and breast augmentation procedures. According to a July 2015 BBC story, the transition prompted high-level discussions at CIGNA about the company’s nondiscrimination policies.

McLaughlin is a senior medical director with CIGNA who is responsible for developing and implementing the clinical integration model for the company’s delivery system alliance initiatives. Prior to assuming this role, she was the market medical executive for CIGNA’s Midsouth market. Prior to joining CIGNA, McLaughlin was a practicing general and vascular surgeon in a single-specialty practice. She also served as a major in the United States Army during the first Gulf War.

Conference advisory board co-chair Ron Snitker of Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis LLP will deliver the official opening address at 9 a.m.Friday, April 8, in the Student Union.

“Historically, laws have helped move along workplace norms that may be embedded in our American business culture,” said Snitker. “We are already seeing laws popping up in various states to help close the gender equity gap.”

Since its inception in 2014, the conference has attracted students, faculty and staff from colleges and universities from around the state who want to improve the campus climate for the LGBT+ community.

“A corporate culture that embraces gender equality policies and procedures is critical to attract and retain talented individuals,” said conference advisory board co-chair Greg Cason, senior buyer for Nissan North America, a corporate sponsor of the conference.

“Our goal is to get all the schools together and share tips and tricks to make their campuses more welcoming places,” said William Langston, a professor of psychology and faculty adviser to MTSU’s student LGBT+ organization Lambda.

All conference events except the awards dinner are free and open to the public. Awards dinner tickets are $50 each or $500 for a reserved table and may be purchased here. For more information, contact Langston at 615-898-5489 or see the LGBT+ College Conference website.