Big, young and liberating — Creating Change workshops on sexual liberation opened the eyes of younger activists, reminded older activists of forgotten lessons and could be helpful indeed for the ‘hetero-normative’ population
Unless you were hiding under a rock, you probably knew about Creating Change, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force conference that was held in Dallas last weekend.
If you didn’t have the chance or the funds to attend (it was not a cheap conference), I would like to give you what might be called the 30,000-foot view.
First, it was big.
More than 2,000 folks attended, and the action was frenetic. The vast ballrooms of the Sheraton Conference Center were often packed to standing room with eager attendees. More than one workshop I attended found people sitting on the floor or leaning against the walls, juggling their notepads and laptops.
Second, it was young.
It was encouraging to me to see so many young people with the kind of energy to participate in activism. It takes a lot of energy to stay engaged and not become a cynical bystander.
Third, it was alphabet soup.
There were so many acronyms I found myself making notes so I could translate without stumbling onto any verbal landmines. I was familiar with LGBT and even pretty used to some folks adding a Q for queer. However, I found a challenge deciphering the additional letters being tacked on recently.
For example, I was confronted with this mouthful in one workshop: LGBTQQIA. For the unenlightened that means "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex and allied."
The most interesting thing I found was that the track devoted to "Sexual Liberation" seemed to be the best attended of the conference.
For those who may have forgotten, a big part of who we are is our sexual orientation and that implies that we actually have sex! Apparently, this was big news to some activists a few years ago, and so the NGLTF added a series of workshops to help people understand that the kind of sexual expression we have is different from the "hetero-normative" world (another new term I learned this weekend).
The "Sexual Liberation" workshops were dedicated to the late Eric Rofes, a proud gay leatherman who was committed to not forgetting how important queer identity and sexuality is in our movement and our lives. He was not content to assimilate into the vanilla world in order to gain equal rights and respect.
I only wish I had known him; I think we would have had a lot in common.
Many of these workshops were about the inner work each LGBTQ person does while fully realizing their sexual identity. For many of the younger folks in attendance, it was a revelation. They had never considered the need to incorporate their sexuality into their political activism.
For some of us who were older and might have forgotten the incredible energy released when people claim their sexuality, it was refreshing.
All in all, the weekend was exhilarating, intense and absolutely exhausting. By the time the final brunch was held, I was ready for the relative calm of my everyday life.
But I still had one last thing to do, and that was accepting the NGLTF Leather Leadership Award. I didn’t know it would be such a moving experience for me.
It is a brave act to give this award. The right wing delights in using pictures of people dressed in leather to scare their followers and open their pocketbooks. They unfortunately fail to see sexuality as a God-given gift.
They continue to live their lives in neat little boxes that allow them to remain in a state of cognitive dissonance. Occasionally, these boxes spill over and you get the Larry Craig or Ted Haggard experiences, and they are faced with the choice to either go back into their neat confining boxes or live full authentic lives.
Perhaps NGLTF should offer their "Sexual Liberation" courses to the general public? There is a good chance that could create some serious change in the "hetero-normative" community as well.
Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 12, 2010.