Recap of the 3rd annual GLBTQA Statewide conference in North Dakota


Gustavo Torrez
Program Manager
The Network for LGBT Health Equity


I had such a great trip to North Dakota and was pleased to be asked to present and sit on the closing panel: of the 3rd annual North Dakota GLBTQA conference.ND GRoup

My session Truth: Social Justice and Health explored our work for equality and basic rights, as well as other social justice issues, such as health access and equity, which is often left out of the LGBT movement. While taking an expanded look at LGBT health disparities within the historical context of the equality movement, the presentation concentrated on tobacco use within our communities. As one of the most attended sessions, I was pleased to see the amount of support for a tobacco centered presentation at an LGBT conference. I opened the presentation with a brief history of the LGBT movement, and was surprised to find that very few of the participants knew what the Compton cafeteria riots were or even the Stonewall riots. There have been many pioneers that have shaped the future for us all and this rich history should be discussed more. Overall the presentation went really well, and I showed a video that really had people thinking about where we been and where we are going with our movement which I would like to share with you all:

The Gay Rights Movement

I always love to hear how grateful conference participates are to have national support at their “small little conference”. Our work in North Dakota would not be happening if it was not for the dedication and commitment by not only the local Department of Health, Tobacco Control Programs but more importantly the allies working tirelessly to partner with local community groups because they understand the importance of comprehensive LGBT tobacco control efforts in their state. With a focus on cessation and community partnerships, Neil Charvat, community Health Specialist with the Chronic Disease Program at the Department of Health has worked to build relationships with community groups, which led conference organizers to dedicate a workshop specific to health with a focus on tobacco control. This is a prime example of how beneficial it is to partner with local LGBT groups and organizations. I want to commend Neil and the many others for their passion for tobacco control and as allies they are shining examples of how one person can make the world of difference. I don’t think we thank the allies enough for their support as they stand in solidarity next to us working to combat tobacco use within our communities.

Left to Right: Neil Charvat, Gustavo Torrez, Rep. Kayie Overson, Rep Josh Boschee, and Krista Headland

Additionally, while at the conference I attended a morning workshop presented by Josh Boschee and Kayie Overson titled Get Engaged: Political Activism in North Dakota and Legislative Update. The workshop was an informal open discussion about how to advance issues of importance through legislation and grassroots action. While they shared their experience in political activism, opportunities for leadership development and lesions learned during the 2013 North Dakota legislative session.

I initially meet Josh a little over two and a half years ago when I was in North Dakota conducting Cultural Competency trainings for Department of health grantees, and at their annual substance abuse conference. Josh is now the first openly gay representative in North Dakota to secure a seat in the House of Representatives, representing District 44. It was great to catch up with him, and to meet District 42 Representative Kayie Overson at the conference. I am proud to see Josh in his role, as it provides hope for other LGBT young people who are interested running for public office.

I always enjoy speaking at conferences such as this. It’s so great to hear from the community on the ground, they are so grateful to have someone from a national group care about their state of North Dakota. The Network is focused on creating sustainable change; we are steadfast in supporting our states, and community groups no matter the locality.

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