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Don’t miss out on The Wellness Hub at Creating Change

January 15, 2017

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:wellness-graph-cc17

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

As seen on a Sussex Directories Inc site

Never Forget the 49

December 13, 2016

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

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LATEST: Tell Ohio Gov. Kasich to veto the extreme abortion ban in HB 493

December 9, 2016

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

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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

At 2017 Creating Change: “The White People’s Institute for Ending Racism”

December 2, 2016

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!

evangelineSo 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

This Election Cycle, We Need Spirit Day Now More Than Ever

October 20, 2016

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.

img_1468As 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

In Michigan: Bringing together transgender advocates and faith allies for trans lives

October 19, 2016

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.14332941_10154505856758784_1455488760179696_n

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!

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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 

LGBTQ and Reproductive Rights Advocate Kierra Johnson Testifies Before House Subcommittee 

September 30, 2016

By Candace Bond-Theriault, Policy Counsel, Reproductive Health, Rights & Justice

 As a member of All* Above All coalition, the National LGBTQ Task Force participated in this week’s United for Abortion Coverage Week of Action and advocates are raising awareness about the Hyde Amendment and the negative impact the 40 year old policy has on low-income women seeking abortions. Having abortions is a constitutionally protected right and access should never be limited on the basis of a person’s financial stscreen-shot-2016-09-30-at-5-04-15-pmatus. The National LGBTQ Task Force is proud that our former board member, Kierra Johnson, who is executive director of URGE, delivered a powerful testimony on this issue before the Constitution and Civil Justice Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee. Check out what she had to say by watching the video clip here or reading her remarks below.

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Hearing on “The Ultimate Civil Right: Examining the Hyde Amendment and the Born Alive Infants Protection Act”

September 23, 2016
Oral Remarks

Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to speak about the Hyde Amendment, one of our nation’s most harmful and shameful policies.  One that singles out low-income women and interferes with their personal decision about whether to end a pregnancy.
 
My name is Kierra Johnson and I’m the Executive Director of URGE: Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity and as a steering committee member of the All* Above All campaign, a campaign led by more than 115 reproductive health, rights and justice organizations united to lift the bans on abortion coverage.
 
Safe, quality abortion services should be available regardless of a woman’s ability to pay, her source of insurance, or where she lives. However, since the passage of the Hyde Amendment in 1976, the appropriations process has been used as a vehicle to systematically deny meaningful abortion access to poor women, and has been expanded to harm many others. As a result of the Hyde Amendment and its extended reach into similar restrictions, nearly 29 million women of reproductive age do not have insurance coverage for abortion.

Each restriction, each ban is intended by anti-abortion politicians to further their ultimate goal of pushing abortion out of reach for as many people as possible.
 
For those who are struggling to get by– disproportionately women of color, low-income women, young women, immigrant women – a coverage ban might as well be a ban on abortion all together. Studies have shown that restricting Medicaid coverage of abortion forces one in four low-income women seeking abortion to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. The Hyde amendment creates one the most onerous barriers to abortion care.
 
Just listen to the voices of those who have felt the impact of these bans. Kendall from Colorado says, “I found out I was pregnant and was deceived by the center I visited because it ended up being an anti-choice crisis pregnancy center. After that I struggled for weeks to find resources and to come up with the last $200. I have been anxious, frantic, and terrified. My health has declined and I believed there was little to no hope until today when I was finally able to access an abortion.”
 
A second woman recounted: “Here is what it took to gather the money for my abortion.  It was hard, it took me three weeks…. The payday loan [I took out for my abortion] wiped out my entire account…. I got a three-day notice on my apartment door, and things started to spiral out of control and then when I became evicted I lived in a shelter temporarily.”
 
As a Black woman, I am outraged that the morally bankrupt Hyde Amendment has been permitted to persist for so long.  It is a source of pain for many women, and should be a source of shame for those who support it.
 
The time for policies that visit indignity and deprivation on women, including Black women, is over.  Last year, Representatives Barbara Lee, Diana DeGette and Jan Schakowsky made history by introducing the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act, known as the EACH Woman Act.  This bold legislation respects that each of us, not just some of us, should be able to make our own decisions about pregnancy and prohibits politicians from interfering by withholding coverage for abortion care. With this bill we are saying that all of us should have access to the same coverage and options, independent of income, zip code or source of insurance.
 
This legislation now has more than 120 cosponsors in the House and the support of the American people. Polling released last July shows that a majority of Americans would support a bill requiring Medicaid to cover abortion.
 
A right without access is not a right at all.  In the EACH Woman Act, I see the transformational power of centering the lives, struggles, and aspirations of those for whom the legal right to a safe abortion has not yet been made a reality.
 
But that reality is within our reach. We can work together to build a future where women’s decisions are treated with respect and we can get the healthcare we need with dignity and compassion. 

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Kierra Johnson
Executive Director, URGE: Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity
Steering Committee Member, All* Above All

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