Welcome to the 29th Creating Change Conference. Where diversity meets action and identity means cause. It’s truly an honor to be here this week in Philadelphia, the City of Queerly Love. Where thousands of LGBTQ activists gather to share in thought, discussion, curiosity, and strategy in forming our movement. As we start this new year, we are presented with the opportunity to build family and form friendships to last a long time.
In this crucial time, we must continue to stand next to each other. When many are still fighting for their homes, their jobs, their lives; the need to continue to create change is by all means the most important reason to continue to be an activist. For thousands of people will be coming together to learn, empower, and strategize about the coming year in LGBTQ rights and social justice.
Creating Change is the stage for the nation and the world to gather LGBTQ leaders and shape this new year and the next four years to ensure our livelihoods and our rights. So like everyone coming for the first time or the 29th time at Creating Change, expect something new that will help you in your journey to make a difference in the LGBTQ movement.
Visit creatingchange.org to learn more about Creating Change.
by the National LGBTQ Task Force staff
Let us share with you how The Wellness Hub (TWH) made its way to Creating Change and welcome you to Philadelphia. TWH is a space dedicated to being here for you!
A few years ago, staff members of the Leadership Academy at the National LGBTQ Task Force asked a vital question to their leadership academy members: does trauma affect and influence their daily lives and/or their activism? An overwhelming number of 1,200+ people responded YES! So in 2014, and breathe.,llc began training on embodied leadership in the academy sessions, and then in 2015 and 2016, applied their skills in the full day institutes. Embodied Leadership supports people in learning the hard science regarding the impact of trauma experienced by oppression on the individual, group, and community level. The workshops and institutes were overflowing with standing room numbers. The bottom line, people were ready to hear about the impact of activism and oppression on the body, the mind, the heart, the emotional body. Importantly, people wanted to learn ways to cultivate and practice “showing up for themselves”.
At the 2017 Creating Change Conference, the National LGBTQ Task Force has made a commitment to you to have a space where you can practice taking a time out, push pause, regroup, rest, be fully expressed, chill out and experience moving from states of dis.ease to states of refreshed and ready to jump back into conference activities.
The space provides:
Each and breathe. team member has a longstanding dedication and is committed to social change, just like you. Our dynamic team is grateful for the opportunity to serve the Creating Change 2017 Community. We welcome your arrival, we are prepared to hold space for you, and we look forward to connecting with you. To learn more about the team click here and to learn more about and-breathe.com click here. We are wishing you safe journeys to Philly and we’ll see you soon!
By Shannyn Vicente, LCSW, guest blogger
Never Forget. Those are the words I have carried with me every day since I woke up to the brutal murder of 49 mostly LGBTQ Latinx people at Pulse Nightclub 6 months ago. Never forget the lives lost. Never forget the hearts broken. Never forget the survivors. Never forget the trauma. Never forget the self-hatred and internalized homophobia of the killer. Never forget the impact of religious narratives on culture and on people’s lived lives. Never forget. Never. Forget. And, don’t let others forget either. This has been my mantra. This has been my way to honor their lives while working towards a world where this tragedy would never be repeated.
It should not have taken the worst massacre in modern US history to make people realize the dignity inherent in all human life — including LGBTQ lives. Yet, it did. Clergy across the country opened their eyes on June 12th to the harm caused by the words they preached from their pulpits, mosques, synagogues, and temples. Pulse transformed them. They realized that the neighbors they were called to love included LGBTQ people and families. They realized their words created an environment that caused parents to kick their children out to live on the streets, youth to commit suicide before they even began to truly live, and caused a man to commit mass murder on people celebrating pride in who they are at a nightclub. I’ve been working with several of these clergy over the past 6 months to provide support in transforming their ministries and their congregations. They are sincere in their commitment to create affirming and safe faith communities for LGBTQ people and to compel their parishioners to understand what it means to love ones neighbor as oneself.
I know that these transformations are not just happening in Orlando. Reactions like these are happening across the country — perhaps even the world. If any good is possible to be made — it may be the outpouring of love and apology towards LGBTQ people from the very same communities of faith that once exiled us.
Less than two weeks ago I cried with members of the National LGBTQ Task Force’s National Religious Leadership Roundtable and local faith leaders at Pulse Nightclub as we recited their names and silently read the items left at the memorial in honor of those taken from us too soon. We apologized for any way that our religion had been used to cause harm and committed to take action individually and collectively to not let their deaths be in vain. I recommit to that vow every day. I will never forget…and I won’t let anyone I know forget either. #ForThe49
by Victoria Kirby York, National LGBTQ Task Force, National Campaigns Director, Religious Exemptions and Welcoming Movements
This blog post originally appeared on Victoria Kirby York’s blog at: https://medium.com/@VictoriaKYork/never-forget-the-49-87af2f0a6944#.ldso5w36s
Access to medically-sound abortion care matters to all of us. Bans on reproductive health services undermine our bodily autonomy and compromise our progress in the struggle for liberation and equal dignity. We in the reproductive justice, LGBTQ, and faith communities are all working for the right to choose how we live, love, and use our bodies without harmful government intrusion.
We must act now to stop Ohio Governor John Kasich from signing the anti-abortion amendment to HB493—the most extreme abortion restriction in the country—into law. Please call Governor Kasich’s office at (614) 466-3555. Or, if you’re in Ohio, please go here to send him an email
On Tuesday, December 6, the Republican-led Ohio legislature passed a dangerous amendment, to an unrelated child abuse measure, that would ban abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as soon as only six weeks after conception. This is unfathomable. Many people do not even know that they are pregnant this soon after conception.
Make no mistake, this measure does not protect women’s health. Quite the opposite, if Gov. Kasich signs this measure into law, many of us, cisgender women, transgender men, intersex, gender nonconforming people, and many others will effectually not have the right to abortion. This is unconstitutional. Further, this regulation directly targets abortion providers. If a provider detects a heartbeat and performs an abortion, they may face imprisonment for one year. We must show our opposition to allowing such an extreme measure become law.
Proponents of making abortion increasingly difficult to access claim moral reasoning for their position, but faith leaders from diverse traditions are committed to justice and dignity for people seeking abortion care. Any law attempting to override an individual’s conscience and personal-decision making by forcing them to carry a pregnancy to term without regard for their health, life circumstances, or faith tradition is a violation of core American principles and is a form of moral violence. HB493 would insert politics into important medical decisions and would deny an individual the ability to decide what is right for them in consultation with their faith, family, and doctor.
This abortion ban has an exception for the life endangerment of the pregnant person, but does not include an exception for rape or incest. This provision goes against Governor Kasich’s previous voting record of only supporting anti-abortion provisions that include the exceptions of rape and incest. We must convince him to veto this piece of legislation, and to oppose similarly discriminatory efforts to ban abortion at 20 weeks.
Please urge Governor Kasich to veto the abortion restrictions in HB493 by calling his office at (614) 466-3555. If you’re in Ohio, please use this link to send him an email
Thank you for taking action.
by Stacey Long Simmons, National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs
White queers! White allies, family members, teachers, lovers, neighbors, leaders, and all WHITE PEOPLE! We must be more courageous and more vulnerable than ever before. We must FEEL and STILL ACT. We must RISK EVERYTHING COMFORTABLE to us. The only way to survive this hideous act of violence is to make different choices. Several months ago, after a long and hard spring (what I thought of then as long and hard) I said to myself, “self, let’s stir some work with white people at Creating Change 2017.”
At the Creating Change Conference set to take place in Philadelphia on January 18-22, 2017, I will facilitate a Day Long Institute, which I felt audacious naming the “White People’s Institute for Ending Racism.” I thought to myself, “IF WE CANNOT SAY IT, WE CANNOT DO IT.” I envisioned facilitating something magical and transformative: creating space for 100 or more white LGBTQ people to come together and reflect, learn, and share our white/ness/privilege/ internalized dominance journey stories, have some of our pervasive tears, and make commitments to take action!
So now. Post Election Day. I am sitting with my pain and anger over the results, with the knowledge that an inexperienced and unqualified white cis-gender man who ran a campaign based in racist, misogynist, transphobic hate and fear has won. What do I make of that and the fact that so many white people voted for him?
About the institute’s agenda:
The institute will be comprised of three parts: The Past, The Present, and The Future. In each part we will examine the stories, people, and rules that maintain white supremacy. We will address internalized dominance, the importance of working with other whites on racial justice activities and what organizing across race and supporting the leadership of people of color looks like. Lastly, the institute will support attendees to dive deeply into what a white anti-racist identity means to us individually and collectively.
I know I can deliver a space full of needed challenge and necessary love. I believe that everyone teaches and everyone learns. Join me and 4,000 other activists and leaders for the 29th annual Creating Change Conference. And please, if you are white, join many other brave and heart-centered white attendees and I on Thursday, January 19, 2017 for the “White People’s Institute for Ending Racism.”
By Evangeline Weiss, Leadership Programs Director, National LGBTQ Task Force
As a mom, on Spirit Day, my thoughts can’t help but go directly to my daughters. They are 12 and 9 years old and bursting toward tomorrow with the energy and curiosity of the world that holds them. It’s a tough gig to be a kid these days and I can’t help but think that it has been made harder in many respects by the election cycle. The trickle down dynamics of the election have been more than unprecedented; they are harmful. When a presidential hopeful is not embracing the rich diversity of our country, but is instead degrading women, immigrants, people with disabilities, veterans and people of color, it sets a dangerous tone for the country.
As leaders, as mentors, and adults, we need to remember that our children are listening and learning about democracy as we exercise our right to vote and elect our next president. It’s dangerous to listen to people downplay predatory behavior as “locker room banter” or “boy talk,” as if even in a gym or locker room it would be acceptable to joke about grabbing a woman. At the very least it is bullying and worse, it is sexual assault.
On a reflective day, like today, we need to take pause and remember that individually we have a responsibility to model behavior that is conducive to a gentler world free of hate speech, violence and bullying. We need to celebrate diversity in a way that makes everyone feel welcomed and valued, because collectively our differences enrich our experiences. As a country, we need to find joy in our likeness and be respectful of our differences. On Spirit Day, we wear purple to stand in solidarity with all those that have experienced bullying. It’s time to reject the nonsensical and unkind behaviors that we have seen as of late and vow to lead by example, with kindness and gratitude for the uniqueness that each of us bring to the table.
By Julie Childs, Special Assistant to the Executive Director
Last month, over 100 transgender advocates and community leaders took part in a daylong training in the beautiful sanctuary of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Brighton, Michigan. For about a year, my colleagues Kathleen Campisano and Camden Hargrove, and I had worked alongside the board members of Inclusive Justice, a Michigan-based interfaith organization at the intersections of faith and LGBTQ justice. Together, we set a goal to call, meet, and invite people of faith across Michigan to participate in a daylong training centering the lives and experiences of transgender and gender non-conforming people.
At the training, I felt fortunate to co-facilitate a transgender and gender non-conforming caucus and training with our local partner and transgender advocate, Char Davenport. I was moved by just how vulnerable and supportive everyone in the room was with us and with one another. Of all conference attendees, 12 transgender, particularly transgender women, and gender non-conforming people participated in the workshop that I co-facilitated with Char. During the caucus session, we shared a wide rage of stories that included affirming experiences and heartbreaking incidents.
During the session, we grappled with questions of faith, gender identity and expression, and what it means for transgender people in Michigan to find and build spiritual homes. We also thought intently about our expectations for people of faith on the journey to being affirming allies. We wrote our “Manifesto” on a piece of big presentation paper, which we shared with the cisgender faith allies participating in the training.
It was incredibly inspiring to feel the warmth and enthusiasm being shared by everyone in the room. I felt particularly connected in some way with everyone in the room—as I had already held phone conversations with many of them over the past few months. I had never coordinated an event like this with members of the LGBTQ and faith communities, as a matter of fact, before I took on the role as an organizer with the National LGBTQ Task Force—and certainly not in Michigan!
So, as I enjoyed the interactions and presence of the people who attended the conference and training, I felt an encompassing sense of satisfaction. Satisfaction at putting faces with the voices of people I had inviting to be a part of this opportunity. Satisfaction at seeing my colleagues, who aren’t on the ground in Michigan as often as Kathleen, Camden, and I are, joyfully greeting, engaging, and building relationships with people I’d been getting to know. Satisfaction that the passion I have to work for justice, liberation, and equity for transgender and gender non-conforming people and faith communities came together for a successful day of community development. This experience has been influential to the vision of what a faith network of allies that centers transgender and gender non-conforming experiences could and should look moving forward in our movement work.
By Bri Sanders, Field Organizer, National LGBTQ Task Force