PHOTOS: Creating Change 2014 in Houston

Nona Hendryx performs Sunday at Creating Change in Houston. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

Nona Hendryx performs Sunday at Creating Change in Houston. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

 HOUSTON — Thousands of LGBT advocates departed from Houston Sunday as the 26th annual National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change came to a close.

The annual five-day conference set records for the amount of attendees and workshops in its first year in Houston. And the inspiration of the weekend was all around during the conference, from Houston Mayor Annise Parker’s welcome to trans actress Laverne Cox’s keynote speech and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey’s State of the Movement address. (If you missed any of the speeches, you can watch them here.)

And, like any celebration in the LGBT community, it ended with a bang as bisexual singer Nona Hendryx rocked out on stage on Sunday after brunch.

More photos below.

—  Anna Waugh

Task Force’s Rea Carey says to keep momentum going to create more change

Rea Carey, executiove director of the Natinla Gay and Lesbian Task Force, speaks about the future of the LGBT movement at  the Creating Change conference in Houston. (Jessica Borges/Dallas Voice)

Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, speaks about the future of the LGBT movement at the Creating Change conference in Houston. (Jessica Borges/Dallas Voice)

HOUSTON — Rea Carey expects the momentum from 2013 to carry over and encourage more change and success for the LGBT community this year in areas like immigration reform, healthcare coverage and nondiscrimination legislation.

Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, called on the 4,000 people at the National Conference for LGBT Equality: Creating Change to reflect on the advances last year and fight for more in the coming months during her State of the Movement speech on Friday.

“2013 showed us and this country that the wins of 2012 weren’t a fluke,” Carey said. “The momentum is in favor of progressive change. We are here to stay, our progress will continue and we will not allow this country to turn back.”

—  Anna Waugh

Laverne Cox: Love for trans community will end injustices she, others face

Trans actress Laverne Cox addresses the crowd at Creating Change Thursday evening in Houston. (Jessica Borges/Dallas Voice)

Trans actress Laverne Cox addresses the crowd at Creating Change 2014 Thursday evening in Houston. (Jessica Borges/Dallas Voice) 

HOUSTON — Transgender actress and advocate Laverne Cox has learned to love herself and is pleased to see the rest of the country learning to love trans people.

Cox gave the keynote address Thursday evening at this year’s national Creating Change conference at the Hilton Americas–Houston.

She walked onstage to a standing ovation and loud cheers from the 4,000 people in the audience. But she admitted to them  she was “not used to receiving this kind of love.”

“I have to say that a black transgender woman from a working-class background raised by a single mother getting all this love tonight; this feels like the change I need to see more of in the country,” Cox said.

—  Anna Waugh

Annise Parker touches on importance of elections, unity at Creating Change

Houston Mayor Annise Parker addresses the Creating Change conference in Houston Thursday night. Jessica Borges/Dallas Voice)

Houston Mayor Annise Parker addresses the crowd at the national Creating Change conference in Houston Thursday night. (Jessica Borges/Dallas Voice)

HOUSTON — Mayor Annise Parker was cheered to the stage by thousands of people when she was introduced Thursday evening as Mrs. Annise Parker at The National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change.

Parker married her longtime partner earlier this month in California. She welcomed the applause during her welcome address at the conference, now in its 26th year, which is in Houston for the first time.

“You’re acting as if you’ve never seen a lesbian before,” Parker said. “And, yes, this what a lesbian mayor looks like.”

While conference organizers had hoped to hold the event in Houston when Parker was mayor — she’s now in her third and final term — Parker said she wanted to be a part of the experience that happens when thousands of LGBT activists and advocates converge for the national gathering.

“It was important for me to be here tonight because one, you’re my family,” she said. “Two, it is important for the rest of the United States and the rest of the state of Texas to experience what we do here at Creating Change, and I wanted to be a part of that.

“And I get to home to my new wife,” she added.

Parker, who said she lit up City Hall in rainbow colors for the conference, touched on her citywide elections and how LGBT people can create change by electing the right people to any office.

“I’m here to tell you elections matter,” she said. “And when you put someone in the state house or in the city council chamber or in the mayor’s office, you can make a difference in the lives of people that you will never meet and never see, but you know that you are transforming people’s lives. And those mayors might do something like penning the most comprehensive nondiscrimination ordinance in the United States as their third executive act.”

Parker has said this term she plans to have the council pass a nondiscrimination ordinance similar to those in Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio.

She also said people could elect a mayor who supports marriage equality. Parker is a co-chair of Mayors for the Freedom to Marry, and she encouraged attendees to go by Freedom to Marry’s booth and email their mayors to support marriage equality.

And with such a diverse representation of the LGBT community, Parker ended by encouraging the community’s strength to focus on common goals instead of divisive factors.

“The most important thing that we can do here today, this evening and at this conference, is to look around at who’s here with us, look at the strength we have as a community, recognize that the differences that divide us are so much less than the things that unite us,” she said. “Our strength is powerful.”

—  Anna Waugh

Helping change begin at home

CREATING CHANGE | While in Dallas to meet with supporters, NGLTF Deputy Executive Director Darlene Nipper discussed the Task’s Force’s work. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

NGLTF staffer says national organization focuses on grassroots to help local activists make change at home and nationally

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Change happens one person at a time, and change begins at home. That’s why the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, even though it is a national organization, focuses on activism at the grassroots level.

NGLTF Deputy Executive Director Darlene Nipper, in Dallas recently to talk with local activists and offer NGLTF’s help, said, “Our approach is working to collaborate and strengthen the grass roots community. We strengthen home communities to advance LGBT rights.”

NGLTF held its annual Creating Change conference in Dallas last year, and over the course of the months spent preparing for the conference, the organization’s staff made friends here.

“We spend time in places where we’ve held conferences,” she said, working to continue developing those relationships.

Nipper congratulated Dallas activists on their recent successes with Dallas County, the Dallas Area Rapid Transit board and Dallas Independent School District, and saying NGLTF was available to help as the community continues to move forward.

When NGLTF works with a community, Nipper said, the organization encourages local activists to ask, “What do you need?” and “What do we have?” — and then compare the answers.

The goal, Nipper said, is to build power, to get resources, to fight ballot measures and to pass inclusive legislation and ordinances.

“I’m proud of how we engage with people,” she said.

She called Creating Change the town square of the movement.

“Everyone else, all the groups come [to Creating Change] to strategize,” Nipper said.

She credited the organization’s ability to play that strategic role to NGLTF’s history as the oldest national LGBT organization.

“There’s something about being a little older,” she said — hinting that not only is NGLTF older, but also maybe a little wiser in its approach, although she stressed how well the various LGBT groups work together.

Each of the different advocacy organizations have a role to play, Nipper said, and the Task Force’s niche is grassroots organizing.

“We’re on the ground doing the training and preparing the local folks to do what they need to do to get the local ordinances passed,” Nipper said.

She said that much of the language for local ordinances, especially those that are gender-inclusive, comes from language NGLTF has written. The organization has studied effective anti-bullying legislation and suggests wording to local groups working on the issue.

On the federal level, Nipper said the LGBT community has been very successful recently, noting that, “Monumental change has been going on.”

She pointed to four big pieces of legislation have been, if not passed, at least seriously considered: Defense of Marriage Act repeal, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, repeal of the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell policy” and hate crimes legislation, “which we got and never celebrated. I’m not sure what that’s about.”

Nipper said the community has also been very successful in making concrete policy change at the administration level, stuff that can get done without Congress,” on issues ranging from hospital visitation to the census count.

Having LGBT people counted as part of the census might not seem like a huge advance, Nipper said, but it can have a huge impact because being counted includes the LGBT community as part of the fabric of American culture.

“Every dollar in the federal budget begins with the census,” she noted.

Nipper also pointed out that many agencies have begun takings laws and regulations such as the Family Leave Act and applying them to the LGBT community. The State Department expanded regulations relating to diplomats’ families and extended those to cover same-sex partners.

“HUD has changed the definition of family because of the work that we do,” she added, giving credit for much of that change to NGLTF’s New Beginning Initiative.

She explained that the Task Force approached President Obama’s transition team members before he even took office, presenting team members with about 80 regulatory policies the activist thought could be changed by agency heads or the White House.

“The transition team used that as a strategy for changes they could make,” Nipper said “They took it on because it was so clear. It gave us a jump-start.”

Among the issues the Task Force embraced last year at the Creating Change conference in Dallas was benefits equality for the elderly.

“We have a public policy and government affairs office so we have a person working on aging related issues,” Nipper said, adding that inequality in social security benefits and taxes are at the top of the agenda.

Recently, the Task Force has been working with Transportation Security Administration, saying that new security procedures and equipment can create situations where transgenders might be treated with disrespect and even attacked.

Nipper said that the new technology gave NGLTF new opportunities to talk to federal officials to work out new policies that will respect the transgender community.

The list of issues, regulations and policies NGLTF is working on is long.

“We work on education bills,” Nipper said. “We’re working on ENDA.”

More generally, she said that when the new Congress came into office in January, NGLTF strategizes with other groups about how to get any bills passed over the next two years.

“We need to identify who’s on our side. Who’s willing to stand for equality?” she said.

Nipper said means identifying LGBT-friendly Republicans and working with them, as well as identifying Democrats who are not supportive.

“One of the most exciting things we’re working on to compliment the wide array of leadership development is that we’re doing an on line academy,” she said. “People can get training on line.”

The Task Force Academy for Leadership and Action includes tools, resources, a resource library and a component that is interactive and developmental and parts of the program are tailored to the individual.

Nipper said it’s a good way to feel connected between Creating Change conferences.

The next Creating Change conference will be held in Baltimore Jan. 25, which was moved earlier next year to not conflict with the Super Bowl.   •
For more information about the on line academy and NGLTF, visit TheTaskForce.org.

—  John Wright

White House gate-crasher Michaele Salahi to appear on 'Real Housewives of D.C.'

Kate Clinton at Creating Change 2010
Kate Clinton

Bravo announced that Michaele Salahi, the White House state dinner gate-crasher, will be one of the “Real Housewives of D.C.

The Salahis arrived at the White House in a Hummer with camera rolling. Directly in front of them were Kate Clinton and Urvishi Vaid.

I interviewed Clinton before the Creating Change conference that was held in Dallas in February.

The state dinner was in honor of the Indian prime minister. Vaid was born in India.

Clinton said they got in the receiving line. Vaid, the former executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, shook President Obama’s hand first.

Vaid said, “We appreciate what you are trying to do for the LGBT community, but you’ve got to be harder on the Republicans.”

—  David Taffet

Rea Carey's 'State of the Movement' address

Rea Carey, executive director of National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, delivered the “State of the Movement” address at Creating Change. Here it is in four parts, about 40 minutes and worth watching if you missed it.

Part 1

(three more parts after the jump)

—  David Taffet

Creating Change: Day 4

What an amazing day at Creating Change.

As I walked into the hotel, I met an old friend, Marilyn Bennett. She is the former development director of Resource Center Dallas and now lives in Montana and is working on a video project called Truth in Progress. Well, first we had to catch up and then I helped her with rustling up the gays. So much for workshop sessions 5 and 6 this morning.

I got back on track with an award presentation to Aiden Aizumi, 21, from Trevor Project in Los Angeles.

He said, “I wouldn’t have been able to overcome my problems without my friends in the community.” But I think his mom helped as well. She was there and got as big a standing ovation as Aiden.

Writer Kai Wright moderated a panel of youth from across the country. The guys from Youth First Texas, Cynthia and Jesus, did us proud. What was interesting was that some of the lack of services and problems faced by LGBT youth elsewhere have been well addressed in Dallas.

And favorite Kate Clinton line of the day. She reminded us how Cheney attended Obama’s inauguration in a wheelchair. The story was he hurt is back carrying boxes. “Oh, please,” Clinton said. “He shredded everything months ago.”

Then I met Yousif and Nawfal. They’re two gay Iraqis who escaped to Syria and then to the United States. They’re currently living in Houston and seeking asylum. More about them in this week’s paper.

I attended a workshop on intergenerational storytelling. Yes, I was one of the old people, for any of you who were going to add a snotty comment.

Had lunch with Alex, my KNON intern/”Lambda Weekly” helper. We went over to the food court at Plaza of the Americas where it was all queer. What fun. Had dinner with the Bi’s. BiNet’s hospitality suite kept us well-fed and where people of all colors had a spirited discussion about whether or not Matt Goodman was a person of color. I settled the argument by explaining that green was not a color.

Trans slam poet Kit Yan (powerful) entertained and so did New York comedian Vidur Kapur (hysterical). But the hit of the evening? Youth First Texas put on the pre-show. Two of their members were Lady Gaga and Beyonce. They and their backup dancers were incredible. The entire house was on their feet.

Creating Change ends Sunday morning with Vogue Evolution. And our guests from the Philadelphia and Washington areas (and there are lots of them) may be here for an extended stay. Because of snow, their airports are closed, American Airlines has already canceled more than 500 flights today. And Creating Change may just continue.

—  David Taffet

Creating Change: Rea Carey calls out Obama in annual State of the Movement Address

(David Taffet/Dallas Voice)
NGLTF Executive Director Rea Carey delivers her State of the Movement Address on Friday afternoon during the Creating Change conference at the Sheraton hotel in downtown Dallas. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, called out President Barack Obama today during her annual State of the Movement Address, delivered at NGLTF’s Creating Change conference in Dallas.

Speaking to a crowd of thousands at the Sheraton hotel downtown, Carey recalled that a year ago, the LGBT community was filled with hope following the election of Obama and a new Congress.

But Carey said Obama has failed to live up to his campaign promise of being a “fierce advocate” for LGBT equality.

“We were eager to see what a fierce advocate could do, but now it’s a year into this new administration, it’s a year into this new Congress,” Carey said. “There have been glimmers of advocacy, but certainly not fierceness. Speeches aren’t change. Change is more than words. Change is action.”

As an example, Carey pointed to “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the military’s ban on openly gay servicemembers.

Obama has repeatedly said he favors repealing the ban, including during his recent State of the Union Address. This week, the nation’s two top military commanders told Congress they’ll conduct a yearlong study to determine how the DADT repeal should be implemented.

“Let me be clear — a yearlong study does not a fierce advocate make,” Carey said Friday. “A year is far too long to wait, and it’s time the president used the executive branch to stop these discharges now, while the military and Congress move to bring this shameful and discriminatory chapter of U.S. history to an end. Mr. President, the ball’s in your court. You have the opportunity to go down in history as one of the few presidents who acted decisively to move human rights forward.”

Carey added that Congress should be held “equally if not more accountable” than Obama, and she said it will ultimately be up to the community to “create change.”

“We thought we were finally going to have leadership that would stand with us, work with us and for us, but that hasn’t fully happened yet, and so it’s still up to us to push and in fact, to lead,” she said.

To read a full transcript of Carey’s remarks, go here.

—  John Wright

Scenes from Creating Change

Census

Encouraging the LGBT community to be counted in the census

Sue

Conference director Sue Hyde

Grace

Transgender activist Grace Sterling Stowell received the Sue J. Hyde Activism Award for Longevity in the Movement.

Kate

Comedian Kate Clinton is serving as Mistress of Ceremonies for the plenary sessions

—  David Taffet