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Commitment to Full Inclusion of Transgender Women at MichFest

April 11, 2015

We are writing to state clearly our commitment to the full inclusion and welcome of transgender women, as women, in the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (Michfest). We will continue to actively work to fulfill that goal.

After a number of conversations, we do not believe the petition/boycott is going to be ultimately productive in achieving the goal of a fully inclusive Michfest.

There have been a number of misstatements and distortions that have been included in some media reports, social media and blogs about our positions regarding Michfest that have wrongly equated taking our names off the petition with a lack of support for trans women.

We have not abandoned our efforts to work for a fully inclusive Michfest. Our goal is a Michfest that fully welcomes trans women.

What we have done is remove our names from the petition in order to pursue an active, intentional dialogue which we hope and believe will be a more productive course in achieving the goal of a fully inclusive Michfest.

We encourage people who have not done so to read our full letters below.

-Rea Carey, National LGBTQ Task Force Executive Director, and Kate Kendell, National Center for Lesbian Rights Executive Director


Kate’s Letter:

As you know, last summer NCLR signed the petition sponsored by Equality Michigan calling on the organizers of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (Michfest) to embrace the presence of transgender women at the iconic gathering. In the wake of our signing, you contacted us to express your disappointment and anger that NCLR would sign a petition which called for a boycott of the festival.

Many of the letters we received recognized transgender women as women and sisters in struggle, while also arguing that the intention of Michfest does not diminish the lived experience of transgender women.

Since then, we have been involved in a number of conversations with Michfest womyn, Equality Michigan, transgender leaders and colleagues who signed the petition. These conversations have made clear that there are essential values and perspectives we all share and that the petition was not going to be an effective vehicle for a resolution.

NCLR has removed our name from the petition and will be actively engaged in conversations in which we honor our differences while also pursuing a conclusion that supports the gender identity and inclusion of all women in Michfest. We have faith that such a resolution is possible.

This entire process has been one of great learning for me and, while we may disagree on some issues, I think there are many values we share. I signed the petition on behalf of NCLR because our core passion and commitment is that we all be able to live fully and be embraced as our authentic selves.

We are grounded in some deeply held principles, including the belief that discrimination and bigotry against lesbians is rooted in sexism, misogyny and the devaluation of women. We do not believe it is possible to win liberation for lesbians in a world where misogyny thrives. We also do not believe we can end the oppression of women and lesbians in a world where transgender women are reviled and targeted.

NCLR has come to a deeper understanding of what Michfest means to our community and seeks to honor that through this process. We also acknowledge the Michfest organizers have been involved in an ongoing conversation over the years on this issue. We are committed to honest and forthright dialogue as a more constructive means for seeking resolution and common ground.



Kate Kendell, National Center for Lesbian Rights Executive Director

Kate Kendell, National Center for Lesbian Rights Executive Director


Rea’s Letter:


Last year, the National LGBTQ Task Force signed onto a petition organized by Equality Michigan which called upon the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (Michfest) to fully welcome and include transgender women, as women, at the festival.

You took the time to write to me and I appreciate that you did – you and others shared with me your perspectives and experiences on the land that some described as “sacred,” “an annual touchstone,” iconic” and “home.” I heard that you are angry and hurt by the Task Force and other organizations signing the petition.  I heard from you and others that Michfest is a truly historic and transformative annual event that has influenced, inspired and helped to liberate millions of womyn/women from the daily trials and tribulations of misogyny and sexism. It holds a very special place in the hearts of lesbians and other womyn/women.

In the months between then and now, I have talked with womyn/women who have attended, womyn/women who would like to attend, and other people who have a variety of views.  I’ve talked with our colleagues at Equality Michigan, leaders of other organizations who have been engaged in this, and with transgender women.  From these conversations, I have gleaned shared values, differing opinions, and have come to a view that in order to move forward in any type of dialogue we must move beyond the petition.

I am writing to let you know that the Task Force has asked that our name be removed from the Equality Michigan petition and we will be seeking other ways to be in dialogue about Michfest’s intention regarding transgender women. As we reflected on the petition’s contents and read carefully letters from concerned people like you, we came to understand that the point in the original petition that called for a boycott of vendors and performers was misaligned with our own support for womyn/women artists, craftspeople and musicians.  Although that point was withdrawn from the petition, we recognize and share the deep concern about the possible economic impact on womyn/women striving every day to make a living through their art, craft and music.

Please know that the Task Force’s view regarding the MichFest intention is rooted in our core value of inclusiveness and the festival’s extraordinary transformative power. For over 40 years, the Task Force has worked for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer identified people in all areas of our lives – whether it be in the workplace, the government, companies and, yes, in our own community.

The Task Force will remain in active discussion with MichFest womyn/women, Equality Michigan, transgender colleagues, and other organizations that signed the petition.  The Task Force is committed to productive discussions in which we honor our differences and also pursue our desire for MichFest to fully welcome the gender identities of all womyn/women at the festival, including transgender women.

For over 40 years, the Task Force has worked for a changed world. A world in which we can all experience liberation. A world in which misogyny cannot thrive. A world in which womyn/women, lesbians, bisexual women and transgender women no longer experience sexism, targeted attacks and the most horrible form of violence – murder. As we intensify our work to take on all of the challenges we face as a movement, know that these values are at the heart of what we do.



Rea Carey, National LGBTQ Task Force Executive Director

Rea Carey, National LGBTQ Task Force Executive Director

Historic Trans Women of Color Briefing Held at the White House

April 7, 2015

This post by Kayley Whalen originally appeared in the Huffington Post Blog on 4/3/2015

On Tuesday, I attended a historic, first-ever briefing on issues facing trans women of color at the White House. Convened by the National LGBTQ Task Force, the briefing was held on the International Transgender Day of Visibility — March 31 — and during Women’s History Month. Panelists who took part in the briefing were comprised of Black, Asian American, American Indian and Latina trans people from from all over the country, with varied immigration statuses. The panelists were:

  • Tracee McDaniel; Juxtaposed Center for Transformation, Inc.
  • Ruby Corado; Casa Ruby
  • Mattee Jim; First Nations Community HealthSource
  • Bamby Salcedo; Trans-Latin@ Coalition
  • Dr. Ayana Elliott, FNP; The Elliott Group, LLC
  • Raffi Freedman-Gurspan; National Center for Transgender Equality
  • LaLa Zannell; New York City Anti-Violence Project
  • Kylar Broadus; National LGBTQ Task Force
  • Cecilia Chung; Transgender Law Center
Panelists at TWOC Briefing (Cecilia Chung and Kylar Broadus not pictured)

Left to Right: Tracee McDaniel, Ruby Corado, Mattee Jim, Bamby Salcedo, Dr. Ayana Elliott, Raffi-Freedman-Gurspan, Lala Zannell (Kylar Broadus and Cecilia Chung not pictured)


As a Latina trans woman, the briefing felt like a breath of fresh air; a rare moment where I could witness my community united together, speaking our truths and knowing that we were being heard. This year began in tragedy for my sisters; in just January and February seven trans women of color were murdered in the US, in addition to the killing this week of Mya Shawatza Hall. As someone who has worked to bring national visibility to this violence against trans women of color through the National LGBTQ Task Force’s #StopTransMurders campaign, I carry around with me every day the huge emotional weight of each of these murders, and it’s easy to lose hope. However, the inspiring transgender leaders present at the briefing — including audience members from groups such as the Trans Women of Color Collective — demonstrated that not only are we surviving, we are thriving.

We are living in a moment when, for the first time, a handful of transgender women of color celebrities have been in the public spotlight, including Laverne Cox and Janet Mock. Yet only 8 percent of Americans personally know a transgender person. When a trans person is in the news, except for rare exceptions such as when Laverne Cox was nominated for an Emmy, it’s almost always about violence. As Janet Mock recently wrote in her blog, “The names of our sisters shouldn’t only make headlines when we walk a red carpet or lay in a casket. Our visibility shouldn’t be subject to such extreme circumstances”

Yesterday’s briefing at the White House is one step to changing this narrative and bringing positive visibility to many more trans women of color. Each of the speakers, many of whom had personally experienced anti-trans violence, were an example of the resiliency and vibrancy of our community. Each of those present is working as an advocate to change the narrative about transgender lives — that our lives matter, that we are hirable, that we deserve good jobs, education, healthcare, safe housing and loving relationships free from violence. Trans people’s lives need to stop being criminalized; we are tired of being profiled and harassed by police; we are tired of being imprisoned simply for trying to survive; we are tired of being detained by immigration authorities when we come to the U.S. to escape from violence; we are tired of being harassed, assaulted and being denied medical care in jails, prisons and detention centers; and we are sick and tired of having to prove that we are human beings who deserve dignity and respect.

Structural violence and discrimination is an everyday fact of life for transgender people. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 78 percent of trans people experience harassment at school, and 90 percent experience harassment or discrimination on the job. These and other factors lead to high unemployment and homelessness rates, which contribute to trans people being four times more likely to live in extreme poverty — reporting a household income of less than $10,000 per year — than the general population. Trans people of color suffer the most from this structural discrimination, with 34 percent of black trans people, 28 percent of Latino/a trans people, 23 percent of American Indian/Alaskan Native trans people and 18 percent of Asian American trans people living in extreme poverty. It is clear that working towards economic justice must go hand-in-hand with our work to end violence against trans people.

On Wednesday night, at an office two blocks from the White House, I attended an inaugural celebration of the opening of the new national office of the Trans Women of Color Collective (TWOCC) and Casa Ruby’s new TransLife Center. Both organizations are founded and led by trans women of color, and both are engaged in powerful advocacy to ensure that our lives are valued. Economic empowerment and leadership development are central to the missions of both organizations. It is so necessary that we as trans sisters help each other access jobs, housing and other needs, because we best know how to care for each other. And we need our allies to support us with resources and opportunities that will allow our organizations to thrive. There is nothing more powerful and needed than trans women of color nurturing and supporting other trans women of color in becoming powerful new leaders and spokeswomen for our own liberation.

In February, at the National LGBTQ Task Force’s Creating Change Conference in Denver, nearly 100 transgender and queer people of color stormed the stage, unified by the message “Trans Lives Matter.” They called attention to the recent murders and structural violence against trans women of color, and the recent killing of queer Latina Jessie Hernandez by Denver Police. Bamby Salcedo, one of the panelists at the White House briefing, was also one of the leaders of the protest at Creating Change. During the protest she declared that Trans People of Color are in a “state of emergency” and presented a list of demands for how the LGBTQ movement can address this emergency. One of her key demands was that LGBTQ and allied organizations “leverage their access to policy makers and funders and use their privilege to support trans-led efforts in eradicating the ongoing structural violence that our community faces.”

Bamby Salcedo selfie with trans women of color from the White House Briefing

Bamby Salcedo selfie at the Task Force office after White House Trans Women of Color Briefing

Tuesday’s White House briefing demonstrated the commitment of the National LGBTQ Task Force to ending this state of emergency. While speaking with Bamby after the White House briefing she told me “the Task Force heard us.” But this is only a start, and we have a long way to go to. The LGBTQ movement has to continue to use our resources to center the voices of and support those most marginalized by systemic oppression including racism, transphobia and sexism. There is also a shameful history of the LGBTQ movement silencing and invisibilizing the very trans women of color who founded this movement — Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera and more — that we must be accountable for and work to reverse.

I’m excited to have the privilege to do this work every day in my role at the National LGBTQ Task Force. Every day I ask myself, what more can I do to use my space, my privilege, to make space for and lift up the leadership of other trans women of color. I urge everyone who is working for LGBTQ equality to join me in this commitment. Together we can ensure every member of our community can live free of violence, free of persecution and able to fully embody our diverse identities in every aspects of our lives.

by Kayley Whalen, Digital Strategies and Social Media Manager, National LGBTQ Task Force 

Kayley Whalen

Kayley Whalen

My Crash Course in Advocacy

March 27, 2015

Experience, as the saying goes, is a cruel teacher: it gives a test before presenting the lesson. It is also, as I have come to learn, the single most important ingredient in success. The great thing about experience is that it comes in many forms and varying levels, and best of all there’s no such thing as too much of it.

Meredith Wolpe

Meredith Wolpe, National LGBTQ Task Force Intern

This week, during my internship at the National LGBTQ Task Force, was full of many first experiences for me. It was my first time interning at a nonprofit organization, my first time watching a Commissioner’s briefing, my first time listening in on staff meetings and conference calls. I could go on, but you get the idea.

My first day here at the National LGBTQ Task Force office, I found myself playing a never-ending game of catch-up. As I scrambled to write down every single task and piece of information that was being passed to me, I struggled to keep up with the stimulating, fast paced environment. In between staff meetings, conference calls, and debriefings, I tried to hurry back to my desk to look up names or unfamiliar bills and amendments that had come up in the meeting I had just attended. Looking back over my notes from the beginning of the week, I see many words or sentences only half written out, practically illegible as I rushed to jot down the next point of a conversation.

I decided to make myself an outline of all of the major hot topics this week, so that I could refer back to them later to refresh my memory. Topics including the re-introduction of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), Loretta Lynch’s prolonged confirmation as US Attorney General, the Hyde Amendment, and the new Utah LGBT anti-discrimination housing and employment law. What I quickly learned is that none of these current events are disconnected from each other. Apart from the obvious fact that they all relate in some way to LGBTQ rights, they are also all intricately related and intertwined with each other.

I came here this week with hopes of getting a feel for a nonprofit work environment. One of the beneficial experiences I gained was the opportunity to briefly interview members of different departments, in order to get a better idea of what each of them does and how they work. What was so cool to me was that here, in this one small office on Massachusetts Avenue in DC, every single person is making a difference. From working on Federal legislation level to grassroots organizing, people here are creating measurable change for the better. Listening to Public Policy and Government Affairs Director Stacey Long Simmons discuss the crucial wording of a small phrase on a piece of legislation, or watching Faith and States Organizing Manager Kathleen Campisano’s face light up as she described to me the unparalleled feeling of speaking with a voter, and knowing that she changed that voter’s mind: these are the important lessons I am left with. Every change, no matter how nuanced or small, makes a difference.

I found myself coming in each day with a deeper understanding of the work being done. As a current college undergrad, I am told so often that life and issues are not black and white, and here at the National LGBTQ Task Force I was able to see this first hand. As I observed, it is not always clear where an organization stands on a particular bill or subject, and making these types of decisions only comes with experience. I have deep appreciation and admiration for all of the people I worked with here, and I can only hope that one day I will gain as much experience as they have, to be able to do this type of important work with such dignity and ease.

by Meredith Wolpe, National LGBTQ Task Force Intern

Dr Jean V. Hardisty: Memories of Friends and Comrades

March 25, 2015

WASHINGTON, DC, March 23, 2015 —Jean Hardisty, lithe and slight of frame and a daughter of the genteel South of Maryland and Washington DC, lived in two great cities in the United States. Chicago, the City of Big Shoulders, opened itself to Jean when she studied political science at Northwestern University, earning a Ph.D. and setting her on a path of social justice analysis and research of the right wing movements in the U.S. and the world. Later, Boston, the Hub of the Universe, would be her home, where she opened the permanent offices of Political Research Associates, her lasting contribution to progressive and left movements in this country.

Jean Hardisty

Jean Hardisty

Jean Hardisty’s gigantic intellectual shoulders made her a hub of the universe of LGBTQ and other progressive organizers as we worked to better understand the anatomy and physiology of virulent right-wing movements that challenged us at every turn. Jean’s thinking and writing would become seminal for the Task Force Fight the Right Project, among other organizing entities.

The genius of Jean turned on fundamental aspects of her personality and charisma: Jean’s witty and plain-spoken perspectives were laced with human kindness and magnanimous empathy for we who wanted to crush the right wing movements. She taught us that it is the leadership of these movements that need to be crushed, not the rank and file followers, even while they did the dirty deeds that their leaders asked of them. She schooled us to avoid hate and vitriol and to veer towards compassion and heart-driven conversation with rank and file followers, while doing our best work to expose right wing leaders for their callous manipulations of the insecurities and economic distress of their followers. Her mentorship of all of us shaped our thinking, our organizing, our strategies and tactics, and our very lives.

Jean’s spouse of 16 years, Peggy Barrett, related in a memorial post:

In the weeks before her death, Jean, her deft humor ever intact, said she wanted to die “the way Jackie Onassis did: be with family and friends and then just go.” She managed to die just that way. She was a storyteller, a champagne drinker, and a lover of life. All of us who loved her will carry on her legacy.

Jean presented at Creating Change conferences; worked with Task Force staff on the Fight the Right Project in the early ‘90s; testified in 1993 on the political and religious right wing in the preliminary hearing in the ultimately successful challenge of Amendment Two in Colorado; participated in the Moral Values Project convening in 2006, a Task Force project; and was a donor to the Task Force. Jean’s web site,, is a treasure trove of incisive political analytical writing. For historical perspective on Jean’s influence of our work, read The Right Response, a Task Force report summarizing the work of the Fight the Right Project, 1993:

Friends and comrades remember Jean:

We have lost one of our best and brightest, Jean Hardisty. My generation of progressive community organizers owes our analysis of the virulent and anti-LGBTQ right wing to Jean. Her work both anticipated the massive power of the right wing in our country as well as provided us with the tools and information we needed to combat right wing forces at the local, state, national and international level. Jean was a visionary, an intellectual heavy weight who could speak in plain English, and she was a really funny and kind person.

–Kerry Lobel, Task Force Deputy Director, 1995 – 1996; Executive Director, 1996 – 2000

As the LGBTQ nation learns of the death of our beloved Jean Hardisty, there will be many who are not aware that her extraordinary work of revealing and analyzing the right wing has affected every queer life. Jean was a mild-mannered, tough-as-nails-warrior and a proud open lesbian who exposed the Right’s attack against LGBTQ people and all social advances in this country. And she charged us with taking on the fight as relentlessly as she did.

I share one remembrance of this precious woman that captures her spirit. On our last call nine days before her death, Jean said that she so wished she had the health to finish writing her piece on Neoliberalism and Poverty. Then she said, “When I get to the Pearly Gates, they will say, ‘You commie lesbian bourgeoisie!’” To which I replied, “Jean, I thought you would hear ‘You commie lesbian!’—and you would reply, ‘You got THAT right!’” In the great spirit of friendship and politics, we had a good laugh.

–Suzanne Pharr, organizer, movement mentor, and author of In The Time Of The Right: Reflections On Liberation and Homophobia: A Weapon Of Sexism

Jean Hardisty was a powerful influence on the Fight the Right Team. She was among the first of our community leaders to recognize the threat posed by the religious right. At the Creating Change Conference in 1993 in Durham, North Carolina, Jean was presented at a session on the right wing incursions taking place all over the country. Jean quietly waited her turn as each presenter spoke. But, eyes were glazing over at the complexity of the movement against us. Then Jean spoke. What she said galvanized the crowd: she talked about the right wing strategy, its the leadership and their plans, and the important role that LGBTQ people across the country were about to play in confronting and defeating the right’s anti-queer campaign. She made it clear that the danger to us was real, but the stakes in these fights were much higher, having to do with an attack on civil rights in and a much broader and vicious social and economic agenda. What I remember most is how she humanized the followers of the right. She spoke to the fears the right exploits, and to the very real problems and concerns undergirding those fears. Jean called us to compassion rather than to demonization. She made it clear that in order to win this fight, we needed to understand that the “other” in that fight were human beings, reminding us that you can’t win over people you hate. Jean was a gifted thinker, a brilliant research strategist, and a great communicator, but, first and foremost, she was a kind a caring person. She managed as few are able to fight the good fight without picking up the master’s tools.

–Scot Nakagawa, Task Force staff, 1992 – 1997, first writing the Fight the Right Action kit, then serving as Fight the Right Project organizer and, later, Field Director

To learn more about the National LGBTQ Task Force, visit us online:

Historic Day for LGBT Elders? We’ll see!

March 3, 2015

Walking into the Eisenhower Office Building in the White House complex on February 10, I realized that I was crossing what has the potential to be a historic threshold for the LGBT community – I was entering a full day meeting with Obama administration officials around the issue of LGBT aging and, more specifically, affordable housing for LGBT elders.

From the left: Lisa Krinsky, Director, LGBT Aging Project, Boston MA; Tracey Welsh, Deputy Director and Chief Financial Officer, SAGE, New York NY; Gerald McIntyre, Directing Attorney, National Senior Citizens Law Center, Los Angeles CA; Barbara Satin, Assistant Faith Work Director, National LGBTQ Task Force

From the left: Lisa Krinsky, Director, LGBT Aging Project, Boston MA; Tracey Welsh, Deputy Director and Chief Financial Officer, SAGE, New York NY; Gerald McIntyre, Directing Attorney, National Senior Citizens Law Center, Los Angeles CA; Barbara Satin, Assistant Faith Work Director, National LGBTQ Task Force

Thanks to the work and advocacy of SAGE and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Administration was embarking on a conversation that should have happened years ago but now has taken on more of a crisis-like tone.

Think about it: today in the U.S. there are four affordable rental housing projects focused on LGBT elders – with a total of 285 units to fill that role.

Now reflect on the reality that there are around 2 million LGBT folks who are 65 and older – our elders – and that number is expected to reach 3 million by 2030 – only 15 years from now.

So where are these thousands – probably hundreds of thousands – of LGBT elders going to find safe, secure, respectful and affordable rentals if we only have less than 300 units now spread across the country?

There are 104 units in LA at Triangle Square, the first affordable rental project for LGBT elders which opened in 2007. Then in September 2013 Minneapolis joined in with its 46 units at Spirit on Lake, followed by 56 units in early 2014 at the John Anderson Apartments in Philadelphia and 79 apartments at the Town Hall development in Chicago that opened later in 2014. And, yes, there are more projects on the drawing boards but even these, if successfully developed won’t make a dent in the need.

That’s the context that surrounded the White House Conference on LGBT Elder Housing that took place on February 10, 2015.

Five panels, filled with some of the most knowledgeable people about aging issues, elder housing and public policy, covered the needs, options, resources, legal rights and policy changes required to meet the housing requirements of LGBT seniors .

The audience was made up of a who’s who of LGBT aging activists and allies as well as senior management of major government departments that deal with housing development and senior care issues.

The panel presentations were thorough and insistent while questions and comments were thoughtful and probing.

Keynote speaker for the gathering was Jennifer Ho, Senior Advisor on Housing and Services for the Department of Housing and Urban Development who brought a supportive message around commitment to LGBT elders but also tempered with the reality of a lack of both resources and Congressional support.

A major feature of the day was a listening session where participants in the conference were able to pose questions and concerns to representatives of the Administration, including Kathy Greenlee, Assistant Secretary for Aging with the Department of Health and Human Services, and Nora Super, Executive Director of the White House Conference on Aging.

Audience comments were far ranging, passionate and covered a variety of needs and concerns for LGBT elders.

Takeaways from the Affordable Elder Housing Conference include the already established fact that there is a growing and critical need for housing that is safe, respectful and affordable for LGBT seniors plus the concomitant reality that given the lack of financial resources we are not going to be able to build our way out of the issue.

But, as one of the panelists proclaimed, we can effectively respond to the challenge with a combination of approaches including new affordable housing development, appropriate training for senior care providers and more intensive research around the needs and concerns of LGBT elders.

The White House Conference was a start of comprehensive conversations with government agencies and entities that can make these approaches of development, training and research work across the nation. We will be watching, waiting and witnessing to see if it turns out to be a historic beginning for a safe, secure, affordable housing future for our LGBT elders.

by Barbara Satin, Assistant Faith Work Director, National LGBTQ Task Force

Hacking the Law and Creating Change

February 20, 2015

The Creating Change conference is such a unique experience.  I’m so glad I had the opportunity this year in Denver to engage with so many incredible advocates from all over the country. The rich breadth and depth of the conference participants’ expertise was on full display during a workshop I presented called “Hack the Law: Using Policy for Change.”

picture of Sharita Gruberg

Sharita Gruberg, Center for American Progress

I am a Senior Policy Analyst for the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress, and I created the workshop along with Meghan Maury and Patrick Paschall from the National LGBTQ Task Force and Alison Gill from the Human Rights Campaign. The purpose of the workshop was to talk about our work on state and federal administrative regulatory advocacy, to hear what participants were working on in their cities and states, and to work with them through an activity to figure out what needs to be done after an LGBTQ non-discrimination law is passed to ensure it’s properly implemented.

To be perfectly honest, prior to our presentation, my co-panelists and I were a bit apprehensive that there just wouldn’t be a whole lot of interest in regulatory advocacy, and that we’d be having a conversation with ourselves in a near empty room. I’m going to take this opportunity to apologize for underestimating the nerdiness of LGBTQ advocates, particularly those that attend Creating Change. We not only had a full room, we had folks sitting on the floor.  Meghan introduced herself to each and every participant in the room and was an absolutely phenomenal moderator. I can’t stress enough how fantastic the participants were. They asked many thoughtful and insightful questions, so that instead of just talking at them, we were able to have a two-way conversation about tactics and strategies and all the different issue areas people in the room were working on to advance LGBTQ rights, from police profiling, to healthcare, to immigration, to civil rights. I even reconnected with a college friend I hadn’t seen in years!

After the presentation, participants split up into groups to develop a regulatory advocacy strategy to ensure a hypothetical local LGBTQ non-discrimination ordinance would be properly implemented. The ideas generated were really creative and interesting, including ways to get community buy-in and direction for shaping the ordinance’s implementation. We traded contact information with the workshop participants, and now I can’t wait to hear more about the regulatory advocacy work they’ll all be doing in the future!

Sharita M. Gruberg, Senior Policy Analyst for the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress. 

A Queer Latino filmmaker’s story on Creating Change

February 13, 2015

Creating Change 2015 was my third year coming to the conference. I am a filmmaker and activist; and my documentaries have shed light on subjects of injustice, human rights, gender and leadership for the whole spectrum of diverse communities that encompasses our LGBTQ family.

Dante Alencastre

Dante Alencastre

What attracted to me the conference was the creation of a day-long Latino Institute. Having been in the programming committee for the last three years has opened up my eyes to a myriad of other very particular issues that face us queer Latinos including immigration, violence, faith and family acceptance.

Family acceptance and support for me and my queer Latino brothers and sisters is the key to empowerment and social change. It has also allowed me to meet some of my heroes and role models including veteran activists such as Dolores Huerta, Roland Palencia, Valerie Spencer, Bamby Salcedo and so many others young and old alike.

This year was particularly special for me since I brought a piece of queer history to the fore and proudly presented a rough cut screening of my newest documentary in progress, “Nelly Queen: The Life and Times of Jose Julio Sarria.”

Jose Sarria was a defiant and notorious civil rights activist from San Francisco. He was the first openly gay man to run for public office in the USA in 1961. When he ran for city supervisor he got nearly 6,000 votes. He didn’t win but created the gay voting bloc that paved the way for Harvey Milk to become our first LGBTQ elected public official.

Jose passed away in 2013 at the grand old age of 90 after having founded many organizations including the Imperial Court System, which cemented his legacy as a LGBTQ role model and as a pioneer in our movement.

To learn more about “Nelly Queen: The Life and Times of Jose Julio Sarria,” please check out the following website:

By Guest Blogger Dante Alencastre, Filmmaker


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