OFFERING MORE SPEECHES, workshops, and motivational sessions than you can shake a big gay stick at, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s 2014 Creating Change conference convenes in Houston, January 29 through February 2.
Now in its 26th year, the highly touted conference for LGBT activists, and those who want to be, features small group special interest gatherings and institutes as well as humungous daily plenary sessions featuring notable speakers and celebrities, all addressing progress—and the need for more—in the quest for LGBT equality.
Speaking to racial issues impacting the LGBT community, Wednesday’s Racial Justice Institute explores “the intersections of gender, sexuality, class, ability, and race,” teaching queers of color and their allies how to “better navigate day-to-day obstacles thrown in the path to equality.”
“Then on Thursday, they have 23 different daylong institutes that speak to every racial and gender and health and political issue we might have,” says local Creating Change organizer, the Reverend Lynnette Ross, pastor of Cathedral of Hope-Houston. “On Friday and Saturday, they have about 250 workshops and caucuses.
“You have to sit down and map out what you’re going to do!”
Sessions pertaining to health issues concerning the LGBT community will be highlighted at the conference, including the continually increasing rate of new HIV infection among gay men despite decades of prevention education, cervical and breast cancer among the lesbian and female-to-male transgender communities, and accessing health insurance coverage through the developing Affordable Care Act.
Additionally, NGLTF executive director Rea Carey, AIDS activists Michael J. Kaplan, Phill Wilson, and Cecilia Chung, writer Charles Stephens, and Latina activist Elicia Gonzales address LGBT youth, seniors, reproductive rights, fundraising, and more during the conference’s plenary sessions and in other forums.
Houston mayor (and newlywed) Annise D. Parker will also be on hand to address the conference.
But it’s not all about studies and seriousness. Longtime LGBT activist and comedian, Kate Clinton offers her wry assessment of the state of our LGBT culture throughout the weekend. Transgender activist and actress, Laverne Cox (Orange in The New Black) delivers the keynote address on Thursday evening, with singer Nona Hendryx, an original member of LaBelle, wrapping up the festivities on Sunday.
The conference also honors Houston’s LGBT history with the Houston History Timeline Project. Spearheaded by local activist Sara Fernandez, the project remembers milestones that marked Lone Star progress for equality.
One of the earliest events included in the Houston History Timeline Project was a 1967 incident that brought together a group of local lesbians known as “The Tumblebugs.” Led by early lesbian businesswoman, Rita Wainstrom, who owned the lesbian bar The Roaring 60s, 11 lesbians fought against and eventually overturned a city ordinance that made it illegal for women to wear fly front jeans.
Other inclusions in the highly visual banner project include the emergence of This Week In Texas (TWT) magazine in 1972, the founding of Houston’s Gay Political Caucus (now the Houston LGBT Political Caucus) in 1975, the 1977 protest against antigay celebrity Anita Bryant which inspired Houston’s Pride parades, the 1991 hate crime murder of Paul Broussard, the 2003 Lawrence v Texas Supreme Court decision which overturned U.S. sodomy laws, and more.
Beyond the sessions, the entertainment, and all the accompanying kerfuffle, Rev. Ross says the most empowering aspect of Creating Change confab is “just literally being in the presence of that many people of the movement.” As many 4,500 “change-focused” individuals are expected to attend the five-day series of events, she adds.
“It’s the most diverse group I’ve ever seen,” Rev. Ross continues.
“This is the best way I can describe it: If you’re young and you got to go to this, I would imagine you would walk away and say, ‘We are changing the world.’
“If you’re a woman of a certain age, like I am,” she laughs, “I think you will walk away incredibly grateful for how far we’ve come, and you want to do everything you can to help us go farther.”
For a complete Creating Change conference schedule, and to register, log on to creatingchange.org.
Nancy Ford is a Houston-based comedian and writer. Find her on Facebook at facebook.com/nancy.ford.790.