One of the biggest LGBTQ conferences prepares attendees for unity and action

Speakers and Special Guests: ALOK; Sandra Valls; Two-Spirit activist Beverly Little Thunder; Kierra Johnson and Mayra Hidalgo Salazar.
Creating Change Remix 2022 Speakers and Special Guests: ALOK; Sandra Valls; Two-Spirit activist Beverly Little Thunder; Kierra Johnson and Mayra Hidalgo Salazar.

Creating Change Remixed was virtual in 2022

Creating Change Remixed 2022

The National LGBTQ Task Force, an LGBTQ rights organization, hosted its 34th Creating Change Conference (CC22) on March 19-20, 2022. The virtual conference titled Creating Change Remixed focused on influencing positive change as a unified, international group.

Creating Change attendees had the option to enter nearly 14 different day-long institute sessions translated in English, Spanish, and American Sign Language (ASL).

These sessions included educating policy, intersectionality, youth action and mobilization, sex, climate change, LGBTQ Latinx community building, white supremacy culture, and more. The conference began with The Annual State of the Movement Address with Task Force Executive Director Kierra Johnson and Deputy Executive Director Mayra Hidalgo Salazar.

“We know that you’re tired,” said Johnson. “Many of you are afraid, and rightfully so; be tired, be angry, be frustrated, confused, sad. Be all of those things. But I know that I’m talking to a group of people who know that these events, these feelings, they’re not the reason to stop the work. These are the reasons we do the work.”

Over 240 anti-LGBTQ, and anti-transgender legislative bills were introduced in the U.S. in the last year. In preparation for the year to come, activists equipped their youth, adults, and elders with the tools to implement change.

This was the Task Force’s second year hosting Creating Change virtually due to Covid-19. The conference was originally planned for January 12-16 at the Hilton Riverside in New Orleans. Although the virtual shift downsized the conference, it also brought a surge of new attendance and continued to be, for many, another year of growth and learning.

“I think we were all just thrilled with not just how the conference came out, but the level of participation,” said Cathy Renna, LGBTQ Task Force’s communication director. “You know, so many people who had registered to be in person were heartbroken, but, you know, they still attended.”

The weekend, too, created space for people who challenged the mainstream LGBTQ movement. Ola Osifo Osaze, recipient of the Evelyn & Walter Haas Jr. Fund Award for Outstanding LGBTQ Leadership for Immigration Rights, criticized the movement’s lack of progress for Black LGBTQ populations, immigrants, migrants, and sex workers.

“What is your North Star mainstream LGBTQ movement?” Questioned Osaze, ​​the Project Director, Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project (BLMP) of the Transgender Law Center. “The sooner you figure this out, the better it is for the rest of us because what you do not want to be is a bulwark against any real progress, Black trans people, immigrants, and non-immigrants have been trying to make in this country towards the goal of Black liberation and Migrant Justice,” said Osaze.

Osaze’s speech reminded participants that the work of a movement must do better to diversify, heal, and build inclusion for the change. Something Renna said is an ingrained part of the conference. She has been to every conference since 1988.

“I think we’re in a time where taking care of ourselves, each other, and healing is front and center because of frankly the trauma that we’ve been through,” said Renna. Whether you’re talking about Covid, or whether you’re talking about the anti-LGBT climate that we’ve we had to fight through. But to be frank, that’s always the theme of Creating Change.”

Alok Vaid Menon a nonbinary author, poet, and performer, broadcasted a pre-recorded speech at the event’s close to a virtual audience of nearly 200. Their hot pink hair folded into curls atop their head while their face reflected the spotlight. Renna said they were in awe of Menon as she observed their speech in person.

Renna remembers Menon as a youth attendee of Creating Change a decade prior said listening to them speak was one of her favorite moments of the weekend. Menon’s aunt and LGBTQ rights activist, writer, and lawyer, Urvashi Vaid, has been with the Task Force for decades.

“I’m learning that love is about interdependence, not isolation. Love means the sum is always greater than its parts. ‘We’ is much more than ‘you and I,’ said Menon in their closing keynote speech dedicated to the late author and academic bell hooks. “The only way we can create change is by recognizing that we must continually exceed our own paradigms and expand our imagination of freedom,” the writer continued.

Others at the conference echoed similar feelings.

Louie Ortiz Fonseca, Director of LGBTQ Health and Rights at Advocates for Youths, spoke about the importance of relationships in the Out From the Margins: Youth Activism, Mobilizing, and Direct Action 101 institute. Fonseca asked audience members what comes to mind when they think of trust. Words like vulnerability, communication, and care flooded the video chat room.

“When we think about trust, especially in this context, and the organizing context, in this space that we share is trust that, you know, you have something to share; that you have something to offer, right? So it’s kind of like faith, right? And I know faith often has this kind of religious connotation to it, or the spiritual connotation to it, but trust is having faith in yourself and the communities you are working and advocating for, and in the communities that you are working in advocating with,” said Fonseca.

This vulnerability, the intimacy of relationship building, is the foundation to change, said Fonesca. So how do these relationships create change?

For Beverly Little Thunder, a Lakota Two-Spirit woman, great grandmother, and activist committed to racial and social justice, the protection and healing of the Earth, and the uplifting of future generations, it’s about standing beside those who are oppressed and taking time to listen.

“Think about why we call this conference creating change,” said Little Thunder in her keynote address. “Creating Change is a task we are charged with today. It is the youth of today that are going to create that change. Let this be the time you learn to listen more than you talk. Learn how to be an accomplice instead of an ally who only gives lip service,” she said.

For more information on Creating Change 2022, go to the Task Force website or follow them on Instagram @thetaskforce.