This was a special Creating Change conference that my colleagues Margaret Romig, Bill Tucker, and I attended this January. While it was my third, it was also the 25th anniversary of this amazing conference.
Officially, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Creating Change Conference is the “largest annual gathering of activists, organizers and leaders in the LGBT movement.” But that does not even begin to describe what this conference is about.
It is about training the next generation of leaders, it is about learning and listening to others, it is about being open to new ideas and differences and being inclusive, it is about finding and giving support, it is about being an activist and building a movement from a community… and it is a whole lot of fun.
As Margaret wrote:
Although we’re often told that it’s what’s on the inside that counts, the truth is that if you can’t express yourself on the outside, the world is a pretty tough place. Creating Change is a special place for just a few days a year, where everyone can be themselves and safely speak their hearts and minds. All the attendees have common goals – more acceptance, more love, happier families, stronger communities – all brought about by full equality. You can feel the buzz as attendees rejoice at seeing each other, cry because they finally feel at home, or laugh with joy because they’re surrounded by people who want to create real and lasting change! The Task Force knows how to bring people together, and has the skills to teach people to go out and make things happen for good.
There were receptions, great speeches, and first looks at powerful documentaries to open your eyes and open your mind. You can see some of the highlights at the Task Force’s website: thetaskforce.org. But you really have to be there to understand all of what this conference has to offer.
As Bill described it:
One of my highlights was attending a session on rural organizing – not a common topic of discussion among LGBT people, who usually flock to urban centers. Everyone in the packed room introduced themselves, and said what they hoped to learn from the session. From just those introductions, I realized that there are a lot of people growing up in the same situation I did – closeted in a town where I thought there were no other gay people, and hoping for a resource (other than the Internet) to which I could turn. The amazing organizers assembled in the room discussed how to create a sense of community in a place that might have only one or two gay people, and how they could create a lasting impression in their communities. After this session, I plan to talk to teachers at the middle and high schools I attended to try to convince them to help create a system of teachers or guidance counselors who would be willing to listen and help LGBT people at those schools who feel they have no one else to turn to. Because, as my Facebook feed now shows me, I certainly wasn’t the only closeted kid in my class. And kids in schools in rural areas deserve to know that they probably aren’t the only LGBT person in that school today, either.
What I take away from Creating Change is the pride in the great organization that the Task Force is, and the true impact it has on the individual and on the larger community to build a better world for all of us … where no one is left behind.
I know it had an impact on me and I am fairly sure the Atlanta Hilton will never be the same.
I cannot wait for Houston.