2013 is the Task Force's 40th anniversary, and one of the many things we're doing to commemorate that is to focus on (and thank!) some of our long-time members. We have loyal members who've been supporting us for 30 years or more, so we'd like to show our appreciation and let all our members read about them. We hope you find their stories as interesting as we do.
"I joined the Task Force in 1987 because I was inspired by its vision of a society where we're all treated with dignity and respect. I loved the connecting of grassroots organizing and a presence in Washington, DC, because we could take action for what we believed in. I’ve been an organizer since before I really knew what the word meant. As a movement we've learned this lesson again and again: If we organize we can change the world; but only if we organize, and that's what the Task Force stands for.
"One of my greatest joys was being asked to manage United for Marriage, coordinating events around the hearings on marriage equality at the Supreme Court. It was a fabulous experience—the rallies, faith services, press coverage, events around the country, human stories of love and commitment; all advancing the cause of marriage and building our movement. It was also a wonderful experience to work with such dedicated and committed people who really put the greater movement ahead of their personal sacrifices. Working out of the Task Force offices was a pleasure. I learned from and loved working with the terrific staff and leadership. Thanks for your generosity and for the work the Task Force has done and continues doing for marriage equality. Thank you for all you do to build a movement where we can all be treated with dignity and respect in a world that is more equal and just and democratic. Thank you for showing that if we organize, we can change the world. That’s what the Task Force is: one of the most effective and trusted groups organizing the LGBT community.
"I first became active as a young teenager in 1960 in support of African Americans who weren't allowed to sit at the lunch counter at Woolworth’s. From there I joined SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee), chaired the chapter on my campus and was part of the Mississippi Summer Project in 1964, working for voting rights. Because we organized, there are a higher percentage of African American elected officials in Mississippi than in any other state in the country and official lynching has ended. Of course there's still a long way to go, shown by the killing of Trayvon Martin and increasing poverty for African Americans. But if we organize, we can change history.
"I started a center to train organizers called Midwest Academy and I’ve had the good fortune to direct many issue campaigns ranging from the NAACP National Voter Fund (in 2000 helping to increase African American turnout by nearly 2 million votes), Americans for Financial Reform (that won the Dodd/Frank Bill), and consulted with many other progressive groups. We know that it’s about more than just marriage, it’s about building a community and motivating people to create change in our world."
Harold "Hal" Kooden
Harold "Hal" Kooden (at right in the photo) has been a charter member of the Task Force since its inception. He says: "I began my gay activism in 1970 after Stonewall. Before that, I was involved in the anti-war movement and then the radical health and mental health movement. I was national coordinator of the Psychologists for Social Action (PSA), founded in response to the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968. While I was principally involved with PSA and coalition building with other radical groups, I also began working with the mental patients movement.
I then shifted and put all my activist energies into the gay community, both locally and nationally. in the mental health movement. I was cofounder of the Association of Gay Psychologists as well as being a founding member of the American Psychological Association's (APA) division devoted to gay and lesbian issues, Division 44. I had already worked with Howard Brown on mental health issues and had some contact with Bruce Voeller. I was already involved with a coalition of gay caucuses in professional health and mental health organizations but felt that our community lacked an organization that had the potential to unite a broader spectrum of our community.
So when I first heard about the Task Force being created, I immediately joined and supported its efforts. I felt that this might be the answer to the need for an organization in our community that dealt with social, economic and race issues and also supported grassroots organizing. These were ideas that were important to many us beyond the issue of "gay liberation." We knew that only through coalition building and grassroots organizing would any advancement take place. As the Task Force developed over the years, it proved faithful to these ideas and has been the major organization that understood what grassroots organizing was about.
For years, I had attended every Creating Change Conference as a way to network, recharge my batteries and learn about new issues. My focus of activity for many years was around AIDS as the founder of the NYC AIDS Network. In 1985, I also began working with the International Lesbian and Gay Association, spearheading the United Nations committee for NGO membership. In the late nineties, I also began my activism with SAGE which has continued till recently; this included presentations at Creating Change. Though my attendance at Creating Change has been limited recently, I continue to support the Task Force as it is not an elitist organization that only sees its members as financial donors and not as participants nor becoming its own reason for being -- it has a clear task.
I've seen the way the Task Force listens to the membership and actively works to educate its membership and helps them to organize locally. Having been connected for these many years with the Task Force, I can say that it has rarely wavered from its original goals. It has grown to become more of a sophisticated organization that did not rely only on charismatic leaders to give it direction. It needed that in the beginning but has grown into an institution which has never lost its grassroots orientation. It has maintained an essential diversity in its programs as well as its memberships and has not been afraid to tackle new issues which may make some of the membership uncomfortable. The Task Force is an organization that I plan supporting for the rest of my life (it's also mentioned in my will) as it's essential to our community's need to develop, our need to always see the broadest picture as well as not forgetting its roots in activism and coalition building."
Joan E. Biren
"The Task Force is the organization that has the boldest and broadest vision of LGBT equality. Its leaders understand that we must have a strong social justice movement; one that addresses the many issues that impact LGBT people in our impressive diversity. I’ve been part of this movement since before the founding of NGTF (later NGLTF, now the Task Force). Things I never thought possible in my lifetime have been accomplished in its 40-year history.
"At the first small Creating Change conference in 1988, I found folks who became longtime friends and colleagues. Each year that I return, it's both a reunion and a chance to meet new activists who challenge me and give me hope. This amazing gathering is like no other. It is the birthplace of many flourishing local and national organizations and the training ground for countless grassroots champions. Creating Change is the place to grasp and hone the tools of advocacy.
"At this conference, passionate people make sexy, powerful arguments on an incredible range of topics. In a workshop, married bisexual fathers delve into child custody issues with polyamorous genderqueer mothers. A gay man wearing a dog collar in a wheelchair and a lesbian in a clerical collar hurry to a caucus together. Sitting in the hotel lobby, an old Jewish dyke (like me) compares action plans on health care with a young Latino transman. It’s a colossal queer clambake. You can join in and keep the fires burning.
"There's a lot more to be done before we achieve our full equality. Let’s not stop now."
Ruthie Berman and Connie Kurtz
"We 'came out' in 1975, two years after the Task Force was founded. We had been two married women, with 5 children, and were the only lesbians we knew.
"We were very politically and socially active in our straight lives and felt that we needed the same type of involvement as we built a new life for ourselves. So for one year we went to every bar, club, and political meeting to become part of our GL (only gay and lesbian in the letters then) community. We joined the Gay Liberation Front, Radicallesbians, Lesbian Feminist Liberation, The Gay Democratic organization and the Gay Academic union.
"The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force was the only national organization at the time, and we participated both financially and politically early on. The Task Force worked with the American Psychiatric Association to declassify homosexuality as an illness. The Task Force was forceful in the AIDS epidemic, and it initiated the Anti-Violence project when Ginny Apuzzo, a friend and colleague, was the Task Force executive director. The Task Force was — and still is — our voice in gaining and maintaining our full civil rights.
"Without our experience with the Task Force, we wouldn't have had the guts to be two of the litigants in a Lambda Legal lawsuit to gain domestic partnership rights for Connie to be on Ruthie's health plan in 1988; something that was won for all New York city employees in 1993 or 1994. Thanks to the efforts of the Task Force and other national organizations, we were finally able to be legally married on July 26, 2011, in New York City.
"We've done workshops for many of the Task force's conferences. And today we're using the Task Force as a resource in our course on Counseling LGBTQI people.
"We've come a long way since 1975 and so has the Task Force. We're proud to be members."
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