Em-URGE-ing Voices

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Creating Change in HOTlanta

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January 31, 2013

Attending the 25th National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change was incredible. Thousands of queers and allies from across the country and a handful from abroad gathered in my city, Atlanta, from January 23 -27. The annual conference, run by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, offered over 350 workshops and training sessions, as well as endless networking opportunities. I was pleased (and surprised, honestly) to see such a strong presence of LGBT youth of color – it made me quite proud.

It seems like the sessions were hit or miss for some, but I didn’t attend a single session that I wouldn’t have written home about – if I wasn’t already home. Two of my favorites include “Queering Hip Hop: Using the Social Message of Rap’s Storytelling to Shift Media Perspectives and Create Alternative Spaces and “Bro-Choice”, put on by Choice USA. Queering Hip Hop was geared toward using hip hop as a cultural tool to create social change within LGBT communities. Bro-Choice investigated the role and responsibilities of masculine identifying individuals in the reproductive justice movement. This was a particularly important session for me. Having a Women’s Studies background, the absence of discussion around the role of men and masculinities in movements that are perceived as “women’s movements” has been glaring to me for some time now. Our own Andrew from Choice USA and the panelists he skillfully chose really debunked that sentiment.

In both of these sessions, it was the panelists who really brought it home for me. All of the panelists seemed to be well-read, thoughtful individuals with a breadth of life experience to speak to. The information being presented was absolutely brilliant; I could look around and tell that people were learning, and people were thinking. The well-researched arguments grounded the presentations, but the personal anecdotes and advice for practical application really sparked a need for conversation in many of us.

I would say this to be true about the conference. For me, it was the people, rather than the activities, that I find myself talking about when friends and peers ask me about the conference. It was the people behind the workshops and sessions and tables who made this experience worthwhile. I left with a contact from the American Veterans for Equal Rights (AVER), a student advocate for Planned Parenthood, an advocate for trans inclusion in the United States military, a grassroots organizer from Kentucky, a Canadian police officer and so many others. It still overwhelms me that so many different people with different perspectives ended up in one place, seemingly with their guards down and hearts open.

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