The best part of the conference has definitely been the queer youth of color panel today. The young people who spoke were on point and amazing in their analysis of the current pressing issues facing queer and trans youth of color today (homelessness, criminalization, incarceration, gentrification, etc…). They called for a shift in the priorities of the mainstream agenda away from marriage and other assimilationist politics toward a liberatory politics in which those who are most marginalized and oppressed within queer and trans communities are centered. They also made a strong push for more youth organizing models that support the leadership development and political consciousness raising/education of young people. I could not agree more with their “spot on” analysis and critique. Word! #cc2010 #qnet
I met some wonderful Trans people at the Trans Hospitality Room. They are all very friendly and welcoming. I was invited to a Drag Show last night at one of the local clubs, but did not end up going, since I did not want to travel alone. The Host Gurlz are planning to take some gurlz out tonight and show them around. I mentioned, I would return and possibly tag along. These Dallas gurlz sure know how to treat outsiders.
I had a very interesting conversation with one of the gals. She talked about, doing fundraisng shows for HIV/AIDS organizations within the Dallas METRO plex. She explained the show, “Dallas.” I was not aware the Southfork Ranch is located in Plano, TX. I was also not aware the Dallas Cowboys Stadium is located near the airport, plus a Disney Park. So much to see, but the State is sooo big!!
The gals made me feel welcome and they are great ladies. Thanks for the snacks and food. #cc2010 #qnet
I attended my 2nd session called Train the Trainer-reaching Transgender inclusion for LGBT orgs. The session was really awesome. The presenters covered employment and Trans employees. It also explained how organizations can try to be Trans inclusion by offering gender neutral restrooms, include Trans non discrimination policies. This session really got my mind spinning, since it taught me strategies to approach my employer to help implement Trans inclusion policies within the organization that I work for (Native Health).
The presenters gave a very good overview of various steps to take to make a workplace more Trans friendly. The presenters were from Transgender Equality and the Gay and Lesbian Task Force. #cc2010 #qnet
About 40 or 50 people gathered to attend a workshop that was originally entitled “Beyond the Meth Monster: Queer Strategies For Ending The War On Drugs.” Due to some travel problems and double bookings, the format of the workshop turned into more of a brainstorming session and really great conversation about the war on drugs, the lgtbq community and intersections, and even prison reform.
Gabriel Sayegh who works for the Drug Policy Alliance said that “the bodies of queer people often become cultural battlegrounds,” especially in the war on drugs. There is a disproportionate amount of impact on the glbtq community from drugs and the war on drugs. The glbtq community has significantly higher rates of substance use and abuse and complications, a lack of good mental health resources, little to no inclusivity in climates for residential treatment facilities and almost no inclusion of substance abuse issues in the policies of national organizations.
We had a great round-table style discussion about the intersections of homelessness, drug use and being lgbtq identified. Many people shared stories of suffering from addiction after being kicked out of their homes for being lgbtq. Others talked about incarceration and how difficult it is to be released from jail with little to no resources to keep from getting caught up with drugs again.
A different need that was discovered when they asked us why we were attending was that many, many college campus activists were at a loss as to how to tackle the issue of students and friends using drugs with zero tolerance policies on their campuses. We have this problem at my school- we don’t have any resources or information to refer people for illegal drug use treatment and we don’t want to get our friends in trouble. If you are caught using drugs on our campus you are arrested by the campus police and expelled from school. How do we help our friends without getting them in trouble? We came to the session hoping to find resources and heard from many of our peers across the country that they are having the same problems.
This was only scratching the tip of the iceberg and we ran over-time in our session. The best thing we could come up with so far was trying to advocate for schools to switch to “harm-reduction” models that focus on providing resources to our students and communities instead of penalizing them for seeking/needing help. Being able to refer people to lgbtq competent drug treatment is really important and would be really great. We ended the session by saying that next year at Creating Change we’d like to do some organizing on this issue.
Listening to the queer youth of color panel… and a few different times they’ve brought up one key point, both DADT (Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell) and marriage are campaigns that really just help adults. As the sharp youth from BAGLY (Boston’s youth group), “That’s for later. What are we going to do until then. We’re not going to get married if we’re homeless.”
And one more message from this great panel really resonates with me, “What are you doing to support LGBT of color youth leadership now?” Good question, gotta sit with that. What about you?
Exciting!!!! Folks are commenting on the Health Equity Plan at the Network’s booth. At times, we have had all three computers with people adding their voice on this important national plan that has left behind our community. People are offended when they hear that in this 200-page, LGBT is only mentioned twice, and one of them as a footnote. It moves them to take action. Not sure how many entries we have had, but with so many comments, I expect this Action Plan to include our community. Let’s see what happens!!!!
Friday, February 5th brought shine and opportunities with new conference sessions, working at the Network’s exhibit booth, meeting new people, and sharing my experiences as a gay Latino man. I went to several sessions but I must tell of my time while at Story Telling for Social Change. A small room in the 37th floor at the Sheraton gathered about 25 people who shared their experiences as LGBT folks and allies with those in the room. Without a doubt, my favorite session so far. We always talk about bringing the issues to a personal level, to bring personal stories and make it relatable to an issue. But, how do we do that? How do we capture that story and relate it to the realities we face? How do we offer a space for people to tell their stories without our personal biases and experiences?
The speaker focused on simple questions like “what happened to you?” and “anything else you want to share?” She stressed on the importance of listening and the ability to relate someone else’s story as key elements for social change. I felt tears in my eyes as a woman at the session shared with me her personal story as a Latina woman, and how she felt that she may not fit in with Latinos/as because of the way she look, like a Caucasian woman. At the end, and after listening to her story, I told her that she was a Latina woman simply because she felt like one. It did not matter what she looked like and how others perceived her but that in her heart and her ethnic background were enough reason for her to be proud of her Latina heritage. She smiled back at me and I left with the satisfaction of focusing on her versus thinking of judgments or ways she was suppose to fit it.
Good workshop Exploration of Power, Gender and Class. Well Done
Gender for me is a fluid. I have always been Butch, Stud ,masculine of the center gender, and now Daddy. When gender was less of a concern I was deemed a tomboy by family and friends.
Tobacco relates to gender issues for me especially in terms of trans friends and family, who smoke or use other tobacco products because of the damage it does as folks transition, especially for those who do the surgery paths. Tobacco tears down the skin grafting and makes the healing process slower and more prone to infection.
Last night I got plenty of sleep yet this morning I woke with my head hurting. Couldn’t figure out why. Luckily I got on the evator with a brilliant person who works in LGBT health.
The problem: dehydration
So simple! Water! So stay hydrated by stopping by the water coolers that are everywhere & carrying a water bottle.
Last night’s biggest think piece here at Creating Change came late… I was hanging out with friends and Andres ducked out then returned with a new buddy to add to the mix. I ask the new man what he does for work, joy or fun and he says he works at NAACP. I jokingly say NAACP, who’s that? But then say I was just joshing, I actually just became a lifetime member. His ears perk up, really, when did I do that? Oh… you know, after the National Equality March last fall. You see Julian Bond was the keynote speaker and I was floored at his amazing speech. While a certain elected official had recently talked about LGBT rights at the HRC dinner the night before in carefully measured words, Dr. Bond went so far beyond that, his speech was truly historic and deeply moved me. I’ll talk more about it later, but I encourage you all to watch it on youtube here and here. So you know, I tell our new friend at the table, the guy who introduced Dr. Bond told us all to become members, so I did. The new person stops, turns to Andres next to him and say “He just disproved what I said at the racial justice workshop.” Huh? Well, the story unfolds and it turns out… the new man at the table was Maxim Thorne, Senior VP of NAACP. He introduced Dr. Bond at the March. He calling for us all to please show our support by becoming members of NAACP. But after one of the most amazing speeches of welcoming and commitment to LGBT civil rights I’ve ever heard, given by a straight man who is the head of NAACP, Director Emeritus of the Southern Poverty Law Center, who has a wall of praise for his work in the civil rights movement… almost no one of the tens of thousands of LGBT and allied people who were listening followed Maxim’s urging and became a member of NAACP.
More on this later, but for now I’ll simply leave with Maxim’s thoughts on the subject… “We have a lot of work to do.”