A controversial conference that’s raised claims of bullying both from gay rights advocates and from a conservative group opens today.  The Governors Conference on LGBTQ Youth is in Altoona and has been criticized by members of the FAMiLY LEADER and some state legislators for using tax dollars for a conference that includes sessions critical of conservative media members, and a session dealing with the bible.

Iowa Safe Schools puts on the conference and the group’s executive director, Nate Monson, says the controversy hasn’t hurt attendance as they are at the capacity. “The past two years we’ve doubled the event in size, thanks to the publicity that the FAMiLY LEADER has given us, quite frankly,” Monson says.

The keynote lunch speaker at the event is a crown prince in India who is called the world’s only openly gay member of royalty. One of the workshops at the conference takes on an Iowa sports icon.

The workshop will address the pink locker room at Kinnick Stadium at the University of Iowa. Former Hawkeye football coach Hayden Fry created the pink locker room in the 1980’s and it was updated in 2005. Fry said it was a psychological ploy to make the other team less aggressive.

Monson says the workshop was proposed from a group outside the state. “It’s actually really interesting, we were approached this year by a group called Gender Justice. And they were the original authors of this great kind of article on the pink lockerroom at the University of Iowa and what kind of message does that send,” Monson says.

He says the lockerroom has gotten little talk within Iowa. “We kind of just shrugged our shoulders and moved on with our business, and there was a big actual national dialogue going on about what kind of message does that send? Does it send a message? Is it appropriate, is it not appropriate? I mean, where is the line there?,” Monson explains.

“And so what we want to have is a conversation about that and bring in an organization that has written…the article and kind of have a health debate about it.”

The conference begins at 8:30 at the Prairie Meadows events center. See more here: iowasafeschools.org