Metro Weekly

Faces of Change: 30 amazing people looking to create change in the LGBTQ community

Activism, Donald Trump, and Creating Change in the LGBTQ Movement

In 1987, Urvashi Vaid and Sue Hyde, both working for the then-nascent National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, had a “crazy” idea: Launch an annual national conference. The point would be to provide LGBTQ activists and organizers from across the nation a “space where our movement could convene, and would become more confident, more skilled, more collaborative, more cooperative, and more communicative, more related to itself, and, thus, more in solidarity,” Hyde told a crowd of admirers as she accepted an award for her 30 years of service. The idea was to become a place for the LGBTQ movement to learn and grow. “Because within us,” said Hyde, “within all of our lives and experiences are wisdoms, information, perspectives.”

That first conference drew 220 participants.

In 2018, that number had grown to 4,000. Last weekend’s Creating Change conference, produced by the National LGBTQ Task Force, at Washington, D.C.’s vast Wardman Marriott Hotel, and offered dozens of workshops, social gatherings, and panels, as well as a fashion show and several extraordinarily robust dance parties. For five days, the hotel was abuzz with dialogues, discourses, and discussions, along with a general feeling of warmth, safety, and solidarity. It was as if a giant, reaffirming LGBTQ hug had descended on Woodley Park.

“We could not have imagined 30 years ago the kind of power and strength our movement could have,” Urvashi Vaid, a former Executive Director of the Task Force, told Metro Weekly. “We believed in the grassroots. And the grassroots comes together every year at creating change. That’s what gives it the power, the intensity, and the beauty that it has. I love this conference, and the conversations that happen here.”

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the event, we sought out 30 random attendees and posed a variety of questions to learn, among other things, what inspires their activism, how they feel about President Trump, and what they are doing in their own lives to create change, from sea to shining sea.

Lex Allen

Lex Allen
30, Queer Male
Milwaukee, Wisc.
Singer-songwriter
First Creating Change

Why are you at Creating Change?

I’m here, first, to perform, to show everyone a really great time, and also to connect with other LGBT communities that are around the United States. It’s reassuring to know that everyone’s putting in work for each other. It’s a team effort.

What issues are important to you?

All of them. Right now, everything is on the table. You just pick, choose. Right now, the immigration laws have really been bogging me down because I have a lot of friends who are affected by that.

How much of a threat is Trump to the LGBTQ community?

As much of a threat that we allow him to be. If we’re quiet, nothing is going to get done. I know we got these voices. We’re loud. We can go to the club and scream “Yes!” But use that “Yes!” in your communities. Use it everywhere you have a platform. The more voices that are talking about the issue and confronting it and not allowing it to happen, the better off we’ll be down the road.

Why do you think Republicans became the dominant party in America?

When we’re in divide, insecurities pop up. There’s room for hate. There’s room for fear to grow, fester. That’s how we got here. It was a great divide. I feel like the Republican Party, some of them, don’t know how to think for themselves outside of what they were taught. Don’t even get me started on gay Republicans.

What are you personally doing to create change?

Back home, we’re doing this project, Colors in Bloom. Been working on it since June. My friend, Kathy Flores, she’s with Diverse & Resilient in Milwaukee. Her friend, a guy who did not accept himself, was murdered from his hookup. So that’s why we’re pushing the radical self-love. Know yourself, love yourself, and treat people the way you need to be treated and how you want to be treated. Start the seeds young. Grow into yourself and bloom into who you’re supposed to be.


Carl Anhalt

Carl Anhalt
40, Gay Male
Bronx, N.Y.
High School Teacher
Second Creating Change

Why are you here?

It’s important to me to learn more about what I can be doing as an educator to impact change within my school community, to push the conversations, think about the work that I could be doing and not just be complacent. I’m a gay, white man, but I think being a white man carries a ton of privilege with it, and so being gay sort of cracks open my eyes a little bit to some of the injustices out there. Then just making the effort to listen more about just the host of injustices out there. How can I use my privileges to effect change on all areas of injustice?


Daniel Anzueto

Daniel Anzueto
31, Queer Male
Miami, Fl.
Co-founder of the Maven Leadership Collective
Third Creating Change

What issues are important to you?

The elevation and inclusion and representation of queer and trans people of color in all of the spaces that we occupy. Anything more than just the tokenization. So, not just, “Alright, I have one black person, I have one trans person. We’re good,” but what does meaningful inclusion look like in any of the spaces that decisions might happen, where money might be a deciding factor, access.

What inspired your activism?

I was in undergrad at Florida International University in Miami, and I was coming out and had no space really to engage, there was no student organization on campus, and I met with a bunch of friends, and we kind of kicked it off. And it was really a space to come together just for community needs, and that kind of spurred me into ten years of volunteer action. It’s really just bringing people together and making sure that they feel community in some kind of way.

How much of a threat is Trump to the LGBTQ community?

Something comes out of the White House every day that is a direct attack to our communities. Trump may not specifically say something LGBT, but he might say something about immigration rights, or he might say something about reproductive rights. Understand that all of those are intertwined.

Will the Republican party ever embrace LGBTQ rights?

It’ll take time. There may be some people. Unfortunately there’s always going to be a splinter cell that will consistently come from hate. I don’t want tolerance. I want acceptance and celebration.

What are you personally doing to create change?

Ensuring that all of the spaces I occupy as a queer Latino, I am advocating for other people of color, advocating for other people that aren’t represented in the spaces I’m in. Being able to engage with other people nationally about the work that we’re doing at Maven, learning about other organizations that are doing similar work, and understanding that our mission, our goal, is a common thread. We all have a common root and have to support each other in what we’re doing.


Urooj Arshad

Urooj Arshad
42, Queer
Washington, D.C.
Works for Advocates for Youth
Tenth Creating Change

What issues are important to you?

Immigration is a big issue, like the way Trump is targeting immigrants, just across the spectrum. It’s really troubling. And the rampant Islamophobia in this country — it’s always been there, but now it just like it’s just so much more explicit.

And then the other issue is the fact that Trump and many right-wing people think Muslims are anti-LGBT, they’re anti-women, and that’s one of the ways that they advance Islamophobia. To me, as a queer Muslim, it’s very important to make sure that we don’t do that. It’s so important to make sure that the LGBT community doesn’t do that, that the women’s feminist community doesn’t do that. I think they’ve done a good job of standing in solidarity.

What’s an important issue that no one’s talking about?

What really bothers me is that we’re still not looking at the intersectional issues. What I mean by that is that people like me who live at the intersection of being both queer and Muslim, for example, and immigrants. There’s a lot of external solidarity. For example, Creating Change’s opening Plenary had a Muslim person on the panel, but she wasn’t an LGBT Muslim person, she was a straight Muslim person, and everyone else was LGBT. Even though the work she’s doing is amazing, what kind of message does that send to the LGBT Muslims? That they’re still not represented in this bigger context, even though we’re here?

How much of a threat is Trump to the LGBTQ community?

He’s a huge threat. All the appointments that he’s made, at several different levels of the administration, and what he proposes. He’s supporting Christian right-wing folks who think of us as an abomination.

Why do you think the Republicans became the dominant party?

Part of it is a backlash to the Obama years. It’s white supremacy — it’s about being threatened by this country’s demographic shifting. There was a perfect storm that led to what happened in 2016. Trump ran on an anti-Obama agenda and dismantling his legacy. And I think that ultimately when you look at how white people voted, it’s in service of white supremacy. The U.S. as a country has not dealt with what happened and how segregation still exists, and how all of these things are still happening. Because of that, I think that they were able to tap into that white fear of being taken over by people of color.


Sasha Baranov

Sasha Baranov
23, Gay Male
Miami, Fl.
Student
First Creating Change

Why are you here?

I’ve never been here, and I wanted to try something different. I study policies, so I figured this would be a good introduction for me to see how the people here see policies, compared to how I see policies. I was raised a little bit more conservatively, so it’s interesting to hear different perspectives I wouldn’t normally hear.

What issues are important to you?

Healthcare. It affects LGBT people all the time. It’s the really huge issue we need to address sooner than later.

What inspired your own activism?

I’ve always loved politics, and that goes back to that intersection of policy for me. The best way to get through that is going out to events, meeting other people, and seeing interviews and having intellectual discussions.

How much of a threat is Trump to the LGBTQ community?

That’s a loaded question, because I think to say that he’s a threat implies that he could do harm. I would hope that there are enough failsafes in our system that would prevent him from doing real detrimental harm in creating and enacting policies that are discriminatory. I’m a big believer that we need to support a President, whether you are Right or Left. That whole “He’s not my President” — he is. We still need to be constantly questioning actions, and we need to be aware of where we are today. Where we are today was not where we were five years ago. Our stances have shifted significantly. We now are a country that has moved more and more rapidly into isolationism, and America should not be alone.

Will the Republican party ever embrace LGBTQ rights?

They have to. They have no choice. You have the Log Cabin Republicans, which I’m a member of. The old joke is that it’s the “Old white man’s club.” Eventually, those old white men have to pass away and there has to be some new white men or any kind of man, or a woman. But it is going to be our responsibility if we want to evolve and actually create a membership base that is representative of this country. We’re going to have to start getting with the times.

What are you personally doing to create change?

I have something I continue to do, and that is to be open. I tell people, “I’m Republican.” I have no shame about that. I think it’s stigmatized so much, “You’re a Republican?!” And there’s this giant gasp, and it’s like you’re a traitor to the gays. I try to maintain an open dialogue, as long as it’s productive and not harmful. I don’t like being yelled at, so if they’re yelling at me, I’m like, “You know what? Stop.”

The way I create change is by advocating for policies that are humane. It’s not whether you stand on the Right or Left, if it’s humane, then it’s right, and that’s what you have to advocate for. I continue to do that no matter which aisle I’m on.


Resa Baudoin

Resa Baudoin
42, Straight Woman
Charlotte, N.C.
Operations Manager for the Freedom Center for Social Justice
First Creating Change

Why are you here?

As the operations manager, I’m really the behind the scenes person. Part of that is making connections, meeting people. But also really learning more about the LGBTQ community, which I thought I was knowledgeable about, and now I’m realizing I’m kind of not.

What issues are important to you?

People use their religion as a cloak to discriminate freely against whoever they want to. So to put it at the forefront that we can’t use religion in that way is important — and is maybe more important in the LGBTQ community than in other communities.

What’s an important issue to you that no one’s talking about?

Microaggressions. It’s interesting when I have a conversation about that with someone and they’re not even aware that they’re perpetrating those.


Andrea Bowen

Andrea Bowen
31, Transgender Woman
Brooklyn, N.Y.
Public affairs consultant
Fifth Creating Change

What issues are important to you?

Economic justice is front and center, along with policing and violence issues. I think if we can create spaces for people to have full livelihoods that are safe from violence then we’ve got a better world to live in.

What inspired your own activism?

I went to D.C. Trans Coalition meetings when I was first medically transitioning, and I had had some experience working with city council through union organizing. I kept voicing my opinion. I’ve been hooked ever since.

How much of a threat is Trump to the LGBTQ community?

He’s an existential threat in so far as he has aligned himself with the nutters who want to destroy us. I think he’s done a remarkable amount to set back the progress we made during the Obama years. I think he proves a point, that I was certainly making in the wake of the marriage equality victories when funders were kind of withdrawing from a lot of LGBTQ spaces, in that we have to keep this fight alive all the time because the enemies always have their claws out.

Will the Republican Party every embrace LGBTQ rights?

I don’t think so in any real way. Always trust Republicans to be Republicans. Some Republicans are fine with LGBTQ people, but when they’re in power, they almost invariably do something against our community.


Ethan Burns

Ethan Burns
18, Bisexual Male
Louisville, Ky.   
High School Student
First Creating Change

Why are you here?

My aunt works at the national LGBTQ Task Force, and my mom thought it would be good for me to go. I came out to my mom last year. I didn’t make a big deal out of it, I was just like, “Oh, by the way, I’m bisexual,” and she was like, “Okay, that’s cool.” She spread that to my aunt, and here I am.

What do you think of Creating Change?

I really like it. It’s definitely not what I expected. There’s a lot more knowledge-building and discussions. It’s also very social. I’ve never seen myself as like an activist, and so just being here and seeing the community and really seeing the problems LGBTQ people face, it’s really opened my eyes. It’s made me want to make a change.

What issues are important to you?

Making sure that legally, on paper, everyone has the exact same rights to things and that people who need help in certain areas can get it, and there’s a document that says, “Yes, these people need that help, they deserve that help. You can’t keep them from getting it because of what you don’t believe in.”

What’s an important issue that no one’s talking about?

I’d say education in schools for younger people, like even younger than high school. When I was in middle school, the “F slur” was a very common thing that everyone just said all the time. Getting to high school and actually learning, “Oh, that’s a terrible thing — you should not say that” was very eye-opening and really just hit my heart. I was like, “Wow, I can’t believe I would’ve said something like that.”

How much of a threat is Trump to the LGBTQ community?

I see him as a massive threat, not just the power he wields, but the people that give him the power. I think he has caused a huge spike in hatred and evilness.

Will the Republican party ever embrace LGBTQ rights?

In a perfect world, I’d say yes. Even though people may not agree on something, they still should be able to treat each other decently.


Ariel Bustamante

Ariel Bustamante
20, Queer Trans
Los Angeles, Ca.
Employed at Los Angeles LGBT Center
First Creating Change

What issues are important to you?

Youth issues. Anything affecting young people is really on the forefront for me. I work around youth and foster care, and other systems of care. So talking about whatever issues are important to them, whether that be education or mass incarceration, you name it.

What’s an important issue that no one’s talking about?

Juvenile justice. I see a lot of different workshops on things like aging, which is popping up into the forefront, and that’s awesome. But I haven’t seen a lot of conversations happening here or elsewhere around LGBT young people who are incarcerated.

What inspired your own activism?

I came out in middle school and ever since then have been wanting to be active in my community. Thankfully, I come from a very affirming, open family, but I know that a lot of folks don’t have that sort of environment. My partner, who I recently married, is transgender and he faced a lot of adversity. Both of us have experienced homelessness. And so, knowing that that is the reality for so many members of my community, whether they’re young or old, is what has inspired me.


Corey Davis

Corey Davis
43, Queer
Miami, Fl.
E.D. of Maven Leadership Collective
Second Creating Change

What’s an important issue that no one’s talking about?

The gap that exists in terms of people who are making decisions about driving the agenda for the gay community, and people who are living the experience. Specifically, I’m talking about people of color, I’m talking about every population that is traditionally marginalized — how is there meaningful inclusion? There’s a lot of talk about it, but there’s not a lot of action around it. There’s still violence against trans people, especially trans women of color. There’s still an HIV epidemic that’s ravaging communities of color in the cities and rurally. People still facing employment discrimination. There’s still a lot of work to be done, and I don’t understand why there’s not a clear path forward.

Is the Trump administration a threat to the LGBTQ community?

Yes, because everything that we care about is under attack. I think they pose a threat to American democracy. All of the protections that we have gained under Obama, and the comfort that we felt, are now receding. It’s time to wake up and move forward and vote and organize. But more than voting and organizing, really find out how we will make individual contributions, because everybody’s not about these industries. So how is it that I can get out and volunteer, or my profession make a difference in support of the LGBTQ community?

Will the Republican party ever embrace LGBTQ rights?

I don’t know. They have yet to really resolve who they are. It’s easy for us to paint Republicans with a broad brush. But I grew up in a state and in a time where you can be a northeast Republican and still not be part of the lunatic fringe. But I don’t see how anybody who’s queer at this time can vote for the GOP. I also see that there’s a huge schism within the party. And they have to figure out if they’re going to let the party get hijacked or not.

Why do you think the Republicans became the dominant party?

It is a whitelash. It is a last gasp of this feeling of entitlement. And when we hear people talking about taking back our country, it is this feeling that it’s becoming too brown, too black, too urban, too whatever, and they feel like there’s no space for them.

This conversation about the white working class, that’s a myth. There is never a part where I want to appeal to really what was at the root of that victory. And I think that really the appeal should be to engage in people who have been disenfranchised, whose vote has been suppressed, who have never felt that there’s a meaningful place at the table. Appeal to those people, with hope, as opposed to the bitterness that exists on the extremist’s side.

I think that sometimes we get caught up in the distraction of the latest [presidential] tweet, and all of the horrible revelations that are coming forward. But really, if you think about the stories of queer people, people of color, our allies, it’s stories of resilience and hope. As long as we focus on what is possible, and making sure that we’re harnessing all available talent to find a solution for the path forward, we’re on great footing and will ultimately be successful.


Gabriel Garcia-Vera

Gabriel Garcia-Vera
28, Queer Latinas
Miami, Fl.
Executive Director of GetEQUAL
Sixth Creating Change

What issues are important to you?

Focusing on race and racism in LGBTQ spaces and combating anti-blackness. For me, in particular, lifting up and supporting Latinas communities and having that conversation. Also looking at the intersectional issues, because we know we don’t lead single-issue lives. And so, also focusing on reproductive justice and health in relationship to LGBTQ communities.

What’s an important issue that no one’s talking about?

This year the Task Force decided not to accept any panels around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the occupation of Palestine. I would love to see the Task Force take more of a forward-leaning stance to provide room for that conversation. I think by not accepting any panels, what they’re actually saying is that they’re not willing to engage the community and seek a peaceful dialogue.

How much of a threat is Trump to the LGBTQ community?

The threat is ever-present and very clear. The administration can hide behind lying, but at the end of the day, the policies that the administration is putting forth not only put our lives in jeopardy, but puts the lives of our families in jeopardies and create clear systematic barriers and violence.

Why do you think the Republicans became the dominant party?

For me, it’s really clear. Racism is a disadvantage based on race. The reason why we’re seeing so much white, right-wing supremacy is because white supremacy is being challenged in America. People of color in this country are on the rise and unapologetically coming out to the streets and saying, not only do our lives matter, but our communities and our families matter.


Edward George

Edward George
21, Pansexual, Polyamorous, Male
Sonoma, Calif.
Works in Pet Industry
First Creating Change

What issues are important to you?

Equal rights and protections against discrimination. I personally know people who have gotten in trouble, or been fired, or been homeless because they are queer or part of the LGBTQ community. I have a transgender friend who was kicked out of their house and homeless for a long time. I know people who haven’t been able to get jobs or have been fired because they’re gay, or identify as queer in some way. I know more than one of each of these people.

What’s an important issue that no one’s talking about?

Until I got here, I didn’t hear much about the intersections and how people of the queer and black community are so much more discriminated against. I haven’t heard much talk at all about violence in the sex industry, especially against people of the LGBTQ community. I hear about LGBTQ stuff every once in a while, like when we have queer people elected into positions of power. It’s really exciting, but that’s the only time I really hear about it in the news anymore. With everything going on, and all the breaking news, and all of the bombshell things coming out of the White House and coming out of our president, there’s so many things, especially in this community, that have just been swept under the rug.

What inspired your own activism?

I have been a very passive person for most of my life. I have also been very excluded for most of my life. I don’t do sports. Growing up as a cis white male, I was still a reject. When I discovered my sexual identity and the LGBTQ community, I was very excited to be accepted by someone, to feel like I belonged somewhere, to have friends who related to me and I could feel comfortable talking to. Feeling that made me want to protect it.

What are you personally doing to create change?

I am learning. I am going out and trying to take up as many opportunities as I can to learn what I need to fight for, what is worth fighting for. I’m learning how people are being discriminated against, how people are being hurt, and how I can change the system, how I can work within it. The system is set up to be controlled by the people. The country is founded on the people being in charge. The government is ruled by the people. We put the government into power. We put the officials into power, and we have the power to change them or replace them with ourselves or with someone we believe in. So, I am going out and learning what I want to believe in, what I want to fight for, and how I can put people into power that believe the same thing, and how I myself can change my community, and be a leader in my community.


Monique George

Monique George
51, Lesbian
New York, N.Y.
Executive Director of a non-profit
Eighth Creating Change

What issues are important to you?

They all sort of affect me, whether directly or indirectly. As an out lesbian, I’m concerned around safety issues, I’m concerned around reproductive rights issues, things like that. But I’m also concerned around issues relating to transgender, queer, and gender nonconforming folks. Even though they don’t directly impact me, they do impact the community that I’m a part of.

What’s an important issue that no one’s talking about?

There is a need to have a national conversation around housing and homelessness. As big cities across the country undergo gentrification, the amount of homelessness is increasing, and a large percentage of them are part of the LGBTQ community.

Is Trump a threat to the LGBTQ community?

Forty-five is not at all a friend of the LGBTQ community. If you look at his practices and his words — even his words via Twitter finger — you can see that he’s not a friend to us, and not a friend to women. We, as a community, have to figure out ways to really address that, and grab back some of the power that I think we’ve forgotten we’ve had.

Some people were like, “Yeah, well, he held the rainbow flag.” But that’s not a symbol of support. The support actually comes with the actions that you do, especially when you hold the highest office in the world. Anybody can hold up a Rainbow flag. And anybody can stand there and say “Yeah, I love the LGBT community,” but if your actions don’t actually support your words, then your words are just words. To support legislation that takes away our rights, that takes away our right to marry, that takes away our right to love, does not make you a friend.

Will the Republican party ever embrace LGBTQ rights?

Maybe if more of them came out and actually lived their truth instead of being caught in hotel rooms with young boys.

Why do you think the Republicans became the dominant party?

We had eight years of a black president in a country that says it’s not racist. “Oh, we’re not racist, we’re not prejudiced.” This country was built on racism. It was built on prejudice. Clear, there was no way that they wanted the “N-word” to be president. So now, the whole sentiment of taking the country back, is just code for deep-seated racist, KKK rhetoric. Now, it’s like, “We can dig in, because now we got our own in office. He knows our way, he knows the white way.” Not the right way, the white way.


Brian Goings

Brian Goings
32, Bisexual Male
Raleigh, N.C.
Public Health Educator
First Creating Change

What inspired your own activism?

My own personal stories of not having a voice in things, or not knowing that I had a voice to use at one point. At one point in my life, I was in a dark place where I was facing depression and I felt like, hey, if I died, I died. There were times when I felt like I wanted to disappear. And it was because I felt like I wasn’t being heard, nobody was listening to me, that I had a voice, that no matter how much I said it, people still ignored it. But then it got to a point where when I got thrown into situations that were, I would say, I was in a good place but I learned that this was what I needed to do to get X, Y and Z done.

It wasn’t until then that I got the real life education that I needed to progress forward. And because of that it was like, how many other people are going through what I’ve gone through, but they don’t have access to this information, to the knowledge that I have? So, anything I learn, I always put it back into the community. Anytime I hear someone say, “Oh, well I want to do this or I want to do that, but I don’t know how to navigate, or I don’t know the direction I need to go to,” I point them in the right direction so that they can get to where I’m at.


Monique Hall

Monique Hall

36, Lesbian
Wilmington, N.C.
Communications Field
Tenth Creating Change

Why are you here?

I’m the Chairman of the Task Force Action Fund, which is the C4 organization that does all of the lobbying, and all of the ballot measures, and all of the action that you see from the task force. It’s a volunteer position.

Would you be here if you didn’t work for Task Force?

Yes. This is probably one of the most diverse spaces that you can go to of people who actually care about LGBTQ issues. You can see everybody from twentysomethings, college students, and even high school students, all the way to seniors who are still active and focused on making sure that our community has a role and is not invisible to the rest of the world.

What issues are of particular importance to you?

Now that marriage is over, there are all these other things, from economic justice to what you do with your bodies. I think transgender issues are extremely important today, partly because people try to stigmatize and outcast the trans community. I think that’s one of the most important issues of our lifetime at this moment.

What’s an important issue that no one’s talking about?

Voting rights for LGBTQ people. We focus on voting rights in such a granular way that we’re not necessarily focused on making sure that people who identify as LGBTQ have a space to let their voices be heard. That’s a space that definitely needs to be focused on for the next twenty years.

How much of a threat is Trump to the LGBTQ community?

Trump is a threat to the very democracy that we call America, and so with that in mind, he is a threat to the LGBTQ community.

What are you personally doing to create change?

What I hope I’m doing is supporting the day to day activists who are out there each and every day focused on making sure that people, no matter how they identify and no matter who they are, can live their best lives. And for me, that means being on the board of the Task Force.


Donte Hilliard

Donte Hilliard
46, Queer Male
Baltimore, Md.
Executive at a Nonprofit
Eighth Creating Change

What inspired your own activism?

I see it as my vocation and my duty. I think it’s an extension of my own faith. I’m a queer person of color, Unitarian, and I believe that doing justice is how we should live our lives. Not because I think we’re going to win, necessarily, but because I think we should try. So I work intentionally to live my life so that every day I get up, I contribute something to try to create a vision of justice in this world.

 

 


Troy James

Troy James
46, Gay Male
Atlanta, Georgia
Clinical Psychologist
First Creating Change

Why are you here?

Because of the emerging needs of the LGBTQ community and the increase in violence and sexual assault among the transgender community, TNGC community. And the need for the practices to be trauma informed. Trauma is a very complex clinical phenomenon in and of itself. The effects of it upon a marginalized community compounds the issue, and I’m not sure that enough clinical professionals are aware of how much more resources we need to pull into mental health for them. I’m here to find out exactly what those needs are and how we as a psychology community can better serve them.

How much of a threat is Trump to the LGBTQ community?

What the President is doing in general is a threat to humanity. The LGBT community is often marginalized and aggressed upon, and I think what he’s doing poses a real threat to not only our existence, but also the ways that we may or may not thrive. Because we are in peril, we need all hands on deck.


Henry Maticorena

Henry Maticorena
35, Gay Male
Washington, D.C.
Public Relations
Third Creating Change

Why are you here?

I felt this year was key due to the fact that it’s taking place during a very unique administration at the White House. And I wanted to see what millennials had to say, in terms of how they feel about their rights and privileges being represented by the current administration and environment of the spaces where they live.

What issues are important to you?

Homelessness. I think our youth experiences unacceptable rates of homelessness. And I believe that a lot of the funding that takes place by non-profits should be going to ensuring that LGBT youth are not without a home. I have, myself, experienced homelessness, and the institutions that were in place in the communities that I lived in really provided me with the tools and encouragement that I needed in order to get back on the saddle and find a viable platform to be self-sufficient.

How much of a threat is Trump to the LGBTQ community?

Well, as we know, he has actively kept the LGBTQ community out of the conversation and the dialogue by uninviting LGBTQ members of the press to the holiday celebration at the White House, and by pulling down the White House LGBTQ sub-page. There’s something to be said about the advancements that we have achieved and met in the last eight years of the past administration, and see it being taken away at his whim. I think it’s quite hurtful.

What are you personally doing to create change?

In my everyday life, I look for opportunities within the community to engage in being an active component of creating change, whether that is participating in a food drive or participating in an initiative that attends the needs of the homeless in the city, and providing meals or clothing or medicine if needed, or medical attention they may not be able to access. I think that’s how I create change. Change has to come from within the community, and through those acts, then you create a movement.


Brianna Mundorff

Brianna Mundorff
23, Gender-Blind Pansexual
Little Rock, Arkansas
Undergrad Student
Second Creating Change

What’s an important issue that no one’s talking about?

We need to talk about what we can do for our homeless youth, because out of all the homeless youth in America, about half if not more of them, from the statistics I have read through my research, are LGBTQ. That’s frightening. And I feel like, hey, we need to do more about this because actually those youths can’t go to housings, because they’re run by churches who kick them out or treat them poorly. A lot of them will end up deciding, “This isn’t worth it,” and they do drastic, horrible measures to end things. We need to bring that up.

Is Trump a threat to the LGBTQ community?

I do think of him as a threat. I do not like him on many personal levels, and he scares me on the personal levels. I feel like he’s pushing us backwards instead of moving us forward. And anybody in his administration who wants to speak up is frightened because they’re like, “He can get rid of us.” And then he’s promoting more and more of those people who are for him, who agree with him to speak up louder and louder. I look at that and I’m like, “That’s frightening.”


Katherine Ott

Katherine Ott
Queer
Washington, D.C.
Historian
First Creating Change

Why are you here?

Because I do LGBTQ history and it’s here in town, so I figured, yeah, I’ll come check it out, find out, learn, because there’s so much I don’t know about all the many communities.

What issues are of particular importance to you?

Disability rights. Intersectional issues. Conversion therapy. I’m working on a project right now on the history of conversion.

What inspired your own activism?

When I was a little kid, I was an angry, pissed-off child about having to conform. I was just a questioning child. Then I’ve just known people over the years. People have loved me and I’ve loved them and learned. That’s motivated me to want to know more.

The Republican party is now the dominant party in American politics. Why do you think that happened?

Oh, that’s a long time in the making. It’s an expression of dissatisfaction, of many people’s dissatisfaction with government and how things are going. I think it’s a whole set of issues and people feeling disenfranchised and not listened to. Then, there’s this embedded racism in our country that we’ve never really dealt with in a successful way.

What are you personally doing to create change?

I go to work every day. I get out of the house. Someone said yesterday, “Existence is resistance and it’s change.” If you are out and you are authentically yourself, that is the first step.


Mel Pace

Mel Pace
32, Queer
Boston, Mass.
Pastor
Fourth Creating Change

What issues are of particular importance to you?

Sexuality and spirituality is something really important to me. I do a lot of education and programming in that area in my ministry. Creation care — caring for the environment, caring for the earth, environmental justice — is something that’s really important to me.

What’s an important issue that no one’s talking about?

Environmental racism. Our president is an environmental racist. It’s largely white folks of a higher income who are doing the most damage, and it’s harming most communities with people of color.


Olivia Page

Olivia Page
20, Trans Woman, Lesbian
Rochester, N.Y.
Works for Out Alliance
First Creating Change

How much of a threat is Trump to the LGBTQ community?

That depends on who you talk to. I know a lot of people are worried, and I know a lot of that worry is very well-founded. I’m more worried about the people that put Trump in the position that he’s in, and less Trump as a whole. The GOP has been complicated in regards to LGBTQ issues. It’s a systematic issue with the party.

 

 


Andrew Palomo

Andrew Palomo
35, Gay Male
Bethlehem, Pa.
Social worker
Third Creating Change

Why are you here?

It’s one of those conferences where like-minded people get together. Especially being in rural Pennsylvania, there’s very few people that are out there as advocates and being out there for the LGBT community. I like being able to get inspired and being able to say, “Wow, we’re not alone in this fight.”

What issues are important to you?

Racism within my own LGBTQ community. Segregation, income inequality, all of that. Within that we have this underlying racial tension. So being able to hear at Creating Change what other people are doing as strategies is important to bring back.

Will the Republican party ever embrace LGBTQ rights?

Yes. I’ve seen it. Being from the rural part of Pennsylvania, I’ve seen Republicans change their mind because of getting to know me or getting to know some of my colleagues and friends. The power of human connection is huge and I think that’s something that we need to continue doing. How do we reach across the aisle, per se, and make people who have different opinions about us actually realize that we’re human, that we’re just like them, that we are just here just trying to live and love each other.


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Trystan Reese

Trystan Reece
35, Trans Male
Portland, Ore.
Trans educator
Eleventh Creating Change

Why are you here?

For me, having told my trans pregnancy story publicly last year, it has felt a lot like we’ve been sort of out on our own, being the face of trans reproductive justice. And I didn’t want to feel like we were on our own. I wanted to feel like we were surrounded by community, surrounded by other people who have been down some of the same roads we have, and to just have a place that felt like a family reunion.

What issues are of particular importance to you?

Making sure that the trans community has everything that we need just to survive — health care, lack of harassment, abuse, discrimination. After that, I want us to be able to have families. To create a circle of love around ourselves, and to leave something behind after we’re gone.

What’s the most important issue to you that no one is talking about right now?

Trans reproductive justice. Most of us, when we transition, are literally physically choosing between having a family and living our truth. And most people do not know that there are a lot of options available to be able to build a family before you transition or to save some of your reproductive elements for later use, if we choose. And that fostering and adopting in many states are totally possible for trans people. And I worry that as we all start to get older, and then there’s more trans youth, that we don’t have a lot of models for the way that trans people can have kids and build families.

What inspired your activism?

When I was 11 years old, my middle school biology class tried to make us dissect frogs. And I said I wouldn’t do it. And the school said they were going to give me an F in biology. I decided to picket the school. And my parents supported me. And then they changed the curriculum for the whole school district so we weren’t dissecting frogs any more. So at that very, very early age, I learned that a tiny voice can really make a difference, and can really change hearts and minds and policy.

Is Trump a threat to the LGBTQ community?

Yes, Trump is a threat to the LGBT community. But any of us who are connected to our LGBT elders, any of us who are connected to trans folks of color, undocumented trans folks, know that Trump has never been the worst threat to this country. The ingrained systems of homophobia and transphobia and racism have always been the greatest threats. And they feel more real to some of us who are not on those fringes now than ever before. But I think we’re just getting a bit of a taste of what other people have already been experiencing.

Will the Republican party ever embrace LGBTQ rights?

There have been many times throughout my lifetime when lots of Republicans have realized that, in fact, LGBT people are no more a threat to their values, or vision for what this country could be, than anybody else. Unfortunately they have been willing to sell out those beliefs in favor of other political gains.


Diego Sanchez

Diego Sanchez
61, Trans Male
Washington, D.C.
Director of Policy at PFLAG National
Twenty-fifth Creating Change

Why are you here?

I attended Creating Change this year because I think that more than ever we are more intersectional. I’m sure intersectional is defined differently by everyone, but I’ll give myself as an example. I’m a trans man. I’m Latino. I’m adopted, and I’m a naturalized U.S. citizen, which also makes me an immigrant. I’ve been very poor, and I’ve had a lot of money, and now I have middle money. But all those different identities are a part of who I am, including being seen as female for some part of my life. All of those things come together, so when I express a view or listen to others, I am filtering it through all of those different lenses.

So not everyone has the same experience, but intersectional is where you take into account all of the different pieces that make people whole, and hold up those pieces of the community to see where the gaps are in equality, and finding ways to bridge the needs that may be invisible to you if you’re not of that community, but that you harbor in your heart to want to help.

How much of a threat is Trump to the LGBT community?

The actions that this administration, including this person seated in the White House, has erased — or risked erasure of — an awful lot of hard work over decades that we’ve worked to achieve together. I think the experience of us learning to work together, and loving each other, and thinking together is an advantage, but I don’t know that, in this particular administration, it can be a winning advantage.

We are our best advantage. Our resilience, and our refusal to give up — and the fact that we’ve experienced what almost equality looks like — is one of our tools in our toolbox. You can’t be a winner unless you know what winning looks like. We already know what winning looks like.

What are you personally doing to create change?

I am making sure that I listen to people of all ages more than I speak, because the learning is the lesson. And those people my age who’ve been doing activism forever, we bring what we bring. Every plant needs food, and every plant needs water, and we are those plants. And we get that plant at places like Creating Change, so that we hear voices that aren’t ours, and, where appropriate, provide guidance and lessons where it’s welcome and needed.


Alicia Sanchez-Gill

Alicia Sanchez-Gill
34, Queer
Washington, D.C.
Works for a Non-profit
First Creating Change

What issues are important to you?

My primary focus is always on trauma and the impact of trauma on LGBTQ folks. And lives and how to undo some of the trauma that’s happened in people’s lives both from state violence and interpersonal violence. But I’m also very aware that state and interpersonal violence and trauma intersects with race, class, and gender identity. And so it’s often LGBTQ folks of color who bear the burden on that trauma and that disparity.

How are you creating change?

My primary work has been around gender violence and power-based intimate power violence. And so in everything that I do, I really want to bring our most intersectional lens to that work. And I so I think that being here at Creating Change allows me to get tools to impact various communities in different ways. So it allows me think about how we make domestic violence shelters accessible to queer folks.


Hannah Simpson

Hannah Simpson
33, Trans Woman, Bisexual
New York, N.Y.
Writer/Educator
Third Creating Change

Why are you here?

I’m here to learn from the best of the best when it comes to meeting other activists, influencers, and people who have won over hearts and minds time and time again, often before I was even born. All I can do to thank some of these people who’ve sacrificed so much for me to have the freedom to even contemplate my existence is pay it forward. And the best way I can pay it forward is by knowing my history, knowing what’s worked in the past, and being able to let that influence how I approach the future.

What issues are particularly important to you?

One of the ones that to me is most important right now is advocating for positive portrayal of Israel, and also seeing the Palestinian narrative from actual Palestinians being brought to the forefront in the context of queer identity. It is still, unfortunately, a community that doesn’t have a lot of resources for LGBT people coming out, being accepted by their families, having resources in case they aren’t. A lot of them are subject to violence. Meanwhile, what I want to show is that both countries — Israel and Palestine beside each other — have so much to gain by improving and working together.

How much of a threat is Trump to the LGBTQ community?

Administrations come and go, and what we do, being here, being visible, is reminding people that the difference between transgender people and Santa Claus, is that my existence is not dependent upon whether or not you believe in me.


Aaron Tax

Aaron Tax
42, Bisexual Male
Washington, D.C.
Director of Advocacy at SAGE
Sixth Creating Change

What’s an important issue that no one’s talking about?

HIV and aging is an issue that does not necessarily get a lot of attention. Right now, one in two people who are HIV positive are over the age of 50 in the United States, and that number is 70% in New York City. At the same time, there’s not a large effort from our federal government to promote testing and services and support to this population. So, there’s a disconnect between the aging HIV population and the degree to which we’re making sure to care for this population.

How much of a threat is Trump to the LGBTQ community?

I think the full story has yet to be told, but what we can see so far whether it’s through the appointments he’s made or the policies he’s implemented is that he is a tremendous threat, and I think a perfect example of that is one of the very first things his administration did is that it tried to erase an LGBT demographic question from a key federal aging survey. And this is a question the Obama administration had originally included in 2014, and then in 2017 the Trump administration announced one change and one change only to this more than 100-page questionnaire and that was to remove the LGBT demographic question in an effort to erase LGBT older adults. So, we fought back and successfully got the re-inclusion of LGB in that survey, but unfortunately not T.

What are you personally doing to create change?

By working at SAGE, I’m hoping that we are able to successfully raise the profile of the elders in our community. We know we have a lot to learn from them, especially in tumultuous times like these. They’ve fought the fight before, and we can learn from them on how to more effectively advocate for change today.


Ruben Tarajano

Ruben Tarajano
18, Bisexual Male
Miami, Fl.
College Freshman
Second Creating Change

What issues are important to you?

I’m really passionate about immigration reform, immigration justice, healthcare, being that I’m a public health major, and general queer Latinx liberation.

What’s an important issue that no one’s talking about?

One of the things that people aren’t talking about is the rural south. I feel like the media, especially in big cities, demonizes the south as this all-white conservative space — but the rural south is home to many, many marginalized groups and we kind of forget about the small person. For example, the black belt is one of the largest concentrations of African-Americans living in the U.S., and they are the most disenfranchised politically. No one, in my opinion, is talking about that.

What are you personally doing to create change?

I want to do some sort of podcast of some sort for queer people of color to lift up those voices, so students who freshly walk onto campus can find role models that they may not easily find otherwise.


Justin Toliver

Justin Toliver
24, Queer, Non-binary
Detroit, Mi.
Graduate Adviser
Third Creating Change

Why are you here?

There’s a lot of different reasons, but I think really what it boils down is that as queer folks, we only get four days out of the year we’re able to be in full community and full authenticity and full space with each other. It’s a place where we don’t have to navigate even just the simplest little day things, where we’re just constantly thinking or having to feel what it feels like to be queer in whatever way that we show up queer. Being here allows us to do that.

I definitely think the content, too, like learning from people who are doing such powerful advocacy work across the nation is important so that we share, we uplift each other, so we can do justice to the path forward wherever we’re at.

What issues are particularly important to you?

That’s a very large question, but when I look at data and I look at how often, specifically, black trans women and trans women are murdered in this country, that is something that I’m very passionate about.

How much of a threat is Trump to the LGBTQ community?

I think that he’s a threat in the way of policies that affect our lives, and our protections. I think it’s a direct threat to our existence all the time, right? A lot of the times you’ll see these big uproars of things media-wise, of things happening, and then if you really pay attention you’ll notice that there’s three or five bills being quietly passed that are direct threats to our existence. But I don’t know that I would give him enough power to say that he’s a threat enough to us as a community, because I believe that we are powerful. I think that we have handled this same extent of harm, always, every single day.

What are you personally doing to create change?

Continuing to make people feel uncomfortable, continuing to push conversations that center on the most marginalized folks in the community where people don’t think about them or take time to acknowledge their existence. I think it’s always my responsibility to speak up in those spaces or to take over those spaces or whatever it is. I think I’ll continue to do that. I’ll continue to develop and work with the students that I do, and make sure that they’re being developed into critical thinkers. Because I think that’s what we’re missing — people with that ability to critically think.

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