By Baylee Pulliam–
As the clock wound down on the Cardinals’ Final Four run Saturday night, U of Lers, clad in red and throwing up the “L” sign on one hand, welcomed students from their in-state rival school. They watched the game together in the Red Barn, cheering at the same big-screen T.V.
The viewing party was a part of a state-wide LGBT conference, hosted this year by the University of Louisville.
Students from colleges across the Commonwealth, like Berea College, Morehead State University and, yes, the University of Kentucky, hit campus just in time for the heated UK-U of L Final Four showdown.
“We try to be nice,” said U of L junior CIS major Scott Thompson, eyes glued to the T.V.
The Come Together Kentucky conference focuses on social justice, inequality, bullying prevention and LGBT identity. About 160 participants took part this year – over five times more than last year, said AJ Jones, Special Project Coordinator for U of L LGBT Services.
“With so many people, and this whole rivalry going on, it’s great that everybody’s getting along,” Jones said. “You’ve got red and blue joking together.”
Die-hard Cats fan Brandi Stanfield sat in a full suit of blue UK gear Saturday night. “Everybody’s been really nice,” she said.
There was an unspoken “no trash talking” rule during the weekend conference, said U of L senior women’s and gender studies and PAS double major Jyler Donovon. “There’s respect,” Donovon said.
There was respect in more ways than one. Brian Buford, director of LGBT services, said sports bars can be “really unfriendly to gay people.” The Red Barn was a safe place, where “the students can talk sports, have a little fun, and not be judged or harassed.”
And respect is the most important thing, Buford said. The students may be from rival schools, but “their LGBT identity overrides their team loyalty. They find more in common than they do differences.”
But don’t expect them to swap their red for blue – or vice versa – any time soon.
“Personally, I could never be a UK fan,” said freshman education major Dave Lingerfelt. “But I respect their lifestyle choice.”
Photo: Michael Baldwin/The Louisville Cardinal