National Gay and Lesbian Task Force REPORT FROM CREATING CHANGE

Sunday, November 12:

   

The 19th annual Creating Change Conference concluded today in Kansas City, Mo., after five days of strategizing and planning by more than 2,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights advocates.

“While we're fighting each other in our own Oppression Olympics, the neofascists and neoliberals are kicking our asses. They're killing us. And only a united movement for all of our human rights will save us.” — Loretta Ross, national coordinator and co-founder of SisterSong Reproductive Health Collective

 

Loretta Ross urges activists to build a human rights movement

Creating Change 2006 closed out today with a passionate plenary speech by Loretta Ross, national coordinator and co-founder of SisterSong Reproductive Health Collective, who called on activists to work together to build a human rights movement.

Ross chastised both the right and the left for moving conversations about sex off the radar screen and espoused the need to “talk about the human right to sexual pleasure,” saying, “What does this whole concept of sexual rights mean? I’m not sure we’ve had that conversation yet in this country.” Noting that the first rape crisis center formed in 1972, she said that, in a very short period of time, we’ve changed the whole world: “Now we’ve got to do it again, but bigger.”

Ross expressed concern that we are “indulging in the excesses of identity politics” and engaging in separate and parallel social justice movements.

She said, “When people think many different ideas and move in one direction, that’s a movement. When people think the same idea and move in the same direction, that’s a cult. So we are building a movement or are we building cults?”

Continuing, Ross said, “While we’re fighting each other in our own Oppression Olympics, the neofascists and neoliberals are kicking our asses. They’re killing us. And only a united movement for all of our human rights will save us.”

She said when we fail to embrace a human rights framework, we ultimately cannot succeed.

Ross listed the eight categories of guaranteed human rights and pointed out how political developments such as the war in Iraq and the English-only movement directly violate them, saying that widespread ignorance of our human rights serves only those who already have power over us: “As long as [the government] can treat us as the undeserving people claiming things that aren’t ours, they can defang us our struggle.”

Ross insisted that we share one struggle despite our individual causes and said, “To the extent that you allow other people’s human rights to be violated, yours will be diminished too,” elaborating that we cannot do work against homophobia in a racist way, we cannot do antiracist work in a homophobic way, and so on.

Challenging us to “do what hasn’t been done before,” Ross urged everyone to “create change by building a new movement and calling it the human rights movement of America.”



 

















Creating Change Awards

Two youth advocates, Wick Thomas, founder of the first Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) at Paola High School in Kansas, and Jovan Sage, board member of GLSEN-Kansas City, were each honored today with a Creating Change Award and $5,000 check, made possible by the Anderson Prize Foundation. Presenting the awards to the youth advocates, Task Force Organizing & Training Project Director Rodney McKenzie said, “Too often, people say that young activists are ‘the future of our movement,’ as if their contributions in the present are somehow not of value. Well, I’m here to give two awards that demonstrate that young activists are part of the heart and success of our movement now.”

Thomas helped found his school’s first Gay-Straight Alliance in 2004, enduring harassment and death threats. But the GSA survived and thrived despite only tepid support from the school’s administration. Accepting the award, Thomas encouraged the audience to look around and see the “2,000 people around this room that are here to create change. Two thousand people who deserve the same rights and freedoms as everyone else. Please look around this room and realize that we are not alone.”

Jovan Sage served two terms as president of the University of Missouri-Kansas City campus group, Queers and Allies. She also interned at PROMO, Missouri’s LGBT advocacy organization, and found the time to lead the People of Color Hospitality Committee of the Creating Change 2006 Host Committee. Sage pointed out that as a student, she has a bit more leeway with her time, adding, “I want to make sure that every moment of my time is spent giving back to my community.”



 



2006 Allan Morrow Community Service Award

Terri Worman, manager for state operations for AARP Illinois and co-chair of the Chicago Task Force on LGBT Aging, was awarded the 2006 Allan Morrow Community Service Award, made possible by the Allan Morrow Foundation. Honoring Worman’s leadership, vision and commitment to LGBT aging work at the Lesbian and Gay Aging Issues Network of the American Society on Aging, Task Force Senior Strategist Amber Hollibaugh presented Worman with the award, celebrating her “passion for LGBT equality and justice.”

Worman, a 2004 inductee of the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame, challenged everyone to “create true community by eliminating our own ageism,” embracing those who “paved the way for our current movement and continue to pave it with insight. We celebrate you, we honor you, and if we’re smart enough we will listen to and learn from you.”



 

Youth perform poem; quilt raffled off to benefit Two Spirit Press Room; Susan J. Hyde Activism Award announced

Dozens of youth 24 and under attended an interactive creative writing and poetry workshop by award-winning folk poet and progressive artist-activist Alix Olson on Friday. At this morning’s plenary, several of the youth performed a collectively written poem about sexuality, pride and radicalism, saying in alternating voices, “Pride is personal. Pride is identifying. Pride is loving yourself. Pride is holding hands without fear... Living these lives is radical. That is beautiful... We are bountiful. And beautiful.”

The Two Spirit Press Room, which covered Creating Change this year, raffled off a quilt made by a Two Spirit Native man from South Dakota. The quilt was wrapped around the winner. Next year, the Two Spirit Press Room intends to produce a live Web cast from the conference with the support provided by raffle proceeds.

Honoring Creating Change Conference Director Sue Hyde’s 20 years with the Task Force, Movement Building Director Russell Roybal introduced the Susan J. Hyde Activism Award, to be awarded for the first time at the 2007 Creating Change Conference in Detroit to an activist who has a history of longevity in the movement.

 


Mark your calendar now for Creating Change 2007, Nov. 7–11, in Detroit, Michigan!



Photos by Linda Kliewer

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