National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Creating Change Conference

Recently I was fortunate enough to attend the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s (NGLTF) annual Creating Change conference in Atlanta. The extensive conference offerings covered five days, beginning with a full-day Racial Justice Institute and then expanding into a multitude of panels, workshops, trainings, and plenaries on the range of social issues that intersect with LGBTQ interests. While many organizations give lip-serice to diversity, the NGLTF is impressive in its willingness and ability to actually address and include issues of diversity in the programming and have a diverse range of people leading the organization. From the conference attendees to the presenters and organizers, Creating Change was a blizzard of ages, abilities, races, ethnicities, sexualities, gender presentations, and nationalities.

This pervasive diversity led to very interesting sessions, such as one the plenaries that honored the delegation of 20 queer youth organizers from China, recognized Race Bannon for lifetime service to the BDSM community, and ended with a debate on immigration among a panel of Latin@ immigration activists. In sharp contrast with more mainstream gay and lesbian organizations like the Human Rights Commission, the NGLTF embraces the true intersectionality of queer populations across race, age, class, (dis)ability, gender presentation, and relationship style. Rather than further marginalizing white gay men from access to conventional social power as some movement organizers feared, embracing diversity has made NGLTF relevant to the breadth of the movement’s social and political issues. This importance was clearly evident among the prestigious presenters and panelists. President Obama even addressed the conference with a recorded message recognizing the contributions, strides, and challenges of LGBTQ communities, reinforcing the President’s mention of the Stonewall riot during his acceptance speech for his second term in office. Kate Clinton, emcee and mistress of ceremonies, quipped that it was great to get a recorded message and a nod in the speech, but next year he really should send Michelle.

If you are interested in human rights, social justice, activism, and diversity, I strongly encourage you to attend a Creating Change conference. Having attended many, many conferences and conventions, I can say without hesitation that Creating Change stands out as singularly impressive in its breadth and depth. Next year in Houston…

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