Philadelphia to host Creating Change conference next year

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The 29th Creating Change Conference will take place on Jan. 18-22, 2017 in Philadelphia, the National LGBTQ Task Force announced today (Thursday, March 31).

“For more than a quarter century, we’ve trained more than 40,000 activists and community leaders from across the country and elsewhere in the world,” said Russell Roybal, National LGBTQ Task Force deputy executive director. “Next year’s conference will be bigger and better. As we continue to advance and grow, we look forward to rolling out new changes and improvements. We encourage all who are able to attend to join us in Philadelphia!”

The changes presumably refer to the controversies during this year’s conference in Chicago.

A Jewish group had planned a Shabbat service on Friday night at Creating Change with guests from Jerusalem Open House, an LGBT community center in Jerusalem. After three people complained about the appearance of Israelis at Creating Change because of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, National LGBTQ Executive Director Rea Carey canceled the reception.

The planned reception was then re-instated, only for the service to be disrupted by protestors. You can read Dallas Voice’s story on the incident here.

Protesters also shut down a panel put together by the National Black Justice Coalition featuring cis men who are attracted to trans women. A trans woman who claimed one of the panelists was an abuser instigated the protest. That man doesn’t have any such charges pending against him, and he is about to file a suit for defamation.

After the incidents, Carey apologized and promised changes at future conferences.

For more information about the conference visit Creatingchange.org.

—  James Russell

Israeli guest tells Voice he felt unsafe at Creating Change

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Protest of LGBT Israelis attending Creating Change

Tom Canning is director of development for Jerusalem Open House. He is also the English-speaking media representative for the organization. His English is beautiful, because he spent five years as a child in Houston.

I spoke to him last week while he was still in the U.S. before returning to Israel. He was in this country to attend Creating Change to discuss a murder at Jerusalem Pride last year. He never expected to be the object of protests at the LGBT activists’ conference. Instead of any sort of welcome, the National LGBTQ Task Force canceled a reception planned for him. After counter-protests from Jewish leaders around the country, the reception was reinstated, which was shut down by protesters calling attendees at a Shabbat service “kike” and threatening the destruction of Israel.

Before protesters became openly anti-Semitic, the protests were aimed at the idea of “pinkwashing,” the concept that Israel uses its progressive treatment of the LGBT community as a public relations ploy to cover up its treatment of Palestinians. But Jerusalem House, where LGBT Jews, Palestinians and Israeli Arabs mix, is exactly what protesters, presumably, would like to see throughout the country.

Jerusalem Open House is a 20 year old community center. Unlike its counterpart in Tel Aviv, his organization receives no public funding. The Tel Aviv center is a municipal facility. Although the two cities are just 40 miles apart, Jerusalem is the religious city and Tel Aviv much more secular.

The Jerusalem center has developed a number of programs including HIV and mental health services, programs for youth, seniors, women and trans.

Like Dallas, senior programming is the latest addition to LGBT services. Canning said there were two groups — one for men and one for women. The men’s group is very social and the women’s group is more activist and feminist. Many of the people participating in both groups are from religious communities and were never able to come out of the closet earlier in life.

Jerusalem Open House is a place where all people are welcome, Canning said. While there can be tension between Muslims and Jews in any setting in Israel, in the LGBT community they mix more freely.

“Sometimes issues come up,” he said. “But the center is a safe place for everyone.”

It is a place where two oppressed groups — LGBT Muslims and LGBT Jews — can come together and find common ground. At the community center in Tel Aviv, he said, the two groups mingle more freely. But the different groups mix in Jerusalem too.

Canning couldn’t give a general rule about acceptance of the LGBT community in Israel.

“People born in Tel Aviv? Life might be easier,” he said. “Being born in a religious community can be life-threatening.”

He said the support for the trans community has a long way to go.

“They’re not doing well,” Canning said. “They’re extremely oppressed, but progress is being made.”

Transitioning is covered by Israel’s public healthcare system, but transphobia is rampant among healthcare givers within that system.

Finally, I asked about “the welcome” he received at Creating Change, a conference that provides “safe space” for all sorts of groups within the LGBT community.

“I was very concerned with what was going on,” he said. “We felt very unsafe.”

—  David Taffet

Shutting down d­iscussion

Rather than carry on the tradition of open discussion among groups, Jewish groups were attacked at this year’s Creating Change

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Creating Change attendees protested the presence of two Israelis from Jerusalem Open House and prevented them from holding a reception after Shabbat services. (Photo courtesy of A Wider Bridge)

DAVID TAFFET    |  Senior Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

In the wake of controversy over protests outside a reception for Jewish groups at Creating Change in Chicago, a group of rabbis, pastors and LGBT leaders released a letter on Wednesday evening, Jan. 27, condemning events at the annual conference traditionally known as a place where ideas could be openly and respectfully debated.

“The events of Jan. 22 in Chicago were unacceptable and not in accord with the Task Force’s values of pluralism, inclusivity and thoughtful debate,” the letter said.

Among others, the letter was signed by Cathedral of Hope’s senior pastor, the Rev. Neil Cazares-Thomas, Equality Texas chair Steve Rudner, former Rep. Barney Frank, Metropolitan Community Church founder the Rev. Troy Perry and U.S. v. Windsor plaintiff Edie Windsor.

A Wider Bridge, a Jewish group based in San Francisco that promotes pluralism, had planned a Shabbat service on Friday night at Creating Change, with guests from Jerusalem Open House, an LGBT community center in Jerusalem. After three people complained about the appearance of Israelis at Creating Change because of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, National LGBTQ Executive Director Rea Carey canceled the reception planned by A Wider Bridge.

But attacking Jerusalem Open House for the Palestinian issue in Israel is like blaming an interracial couple in Mississippi for discrimination. Israelis and Palestinians mix more freely at Jerusalem Open House than most other places in the country, according to Tom Canning, development director for Jerusalem Open House.

Protesters accused Israel of “pinkwashing,” the idea that the country promotes its respect for its LGBT community to cover up its deplorable treatment of Palestinians.

Where the planned reception had drawn complaints, its cancellation prompted protests from around the country.

Colorado Congressman Jared Polis tweeted, “There should be room for Israel’s premiere #LGBTQ advocacy group in our community.” And Robbie Kaplan, the attorney who argued U.S. v. Windsor before the U.S. Supreme Court tweeted, “Creating Change creates bias. As a Jew, Zionist & lesbian, I can no longer support NGLTF Very sad,” and later, “I don’t get it. @TheTaskForce keeps sending tweets today as if LGBT Jews were not censored yesterday in terror and fear. Not acceptable.”

The planned reception was then re-instated with what some described as a half-hearted apology from Carey.

“When faced with choices, we should move towards our core value of inclusion and opportunities for constructive dialogue and canceling the reception was a mistake,” Carey wrote. “In reversing the decision today, we want to make it quite clear that the Creating Change Conference will always be a safe space for inclusion and dialogue for people with often widely different views. It was not at all our intention to censor representatives of the Jerusalem Open House or A Wider Bridge at Creating Change and I apologize that our actions left people feeling silenced.”

But safe space wasn’t guaranteed when protesters disrupted the Shabbat service and reception. Jews trying to leave the were physically stopped by protesters.

The letter from rabbis and pastors described what happened: “The targeted organizations’ reception was disrupted and shut down by protesters (including people not attending the conference) with such hostility and aggression that speakers and attendees at the event were justifiably terrified and felt physically threatened.”

One witness said people were shoved, one man’s yarmulke fell to the ground, and others were blocked from leaving the reception while some escaped the room down a hallway through a back door.

“What transpired at CC16 was dangerous, deeply disturbing, and given the use of epithets like ‘kike,’ clearly anti-Semitic,” the religious leaders’ letter continued.

Creating Change, which has been held in Dallas twice, is traditionally a place where a diverse group of LGBT activists have a dialogue on every issue affecting the LGBT community. While attendees don’t necessarily leave agreeing with one another, new alliances do form at the conference and many take away a new understanding of others in the LGBT community.

But A Wider Bridge and Jerusalem Open House never got the opportunity at the conference to explain the work they do.

Rabbi Eleanor Steinman, an educator serving the Los Angeles area, is a former board member of A Wider Bridge. She said the organization’s main goal is to connect the American and Israeli LGBT communities.

Many American LGBT organizations have Israeli counterparts. Like many American cities, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv have community centers. Ma’arivim (which means “evening prayers”) empowers members of the trans community. P-FLAG, the support group for parents, family and friends, has chapters throughout Israel as well. And A
Wider Bridge connects Israel’s LGBT youth groups with American LGBT youth groups.

A Wider Bridge organizes trips for American LGBT activists to meet activists in Israel and the West Bank. Steinman said while other Israeli trips are available, trans men and women especially appreciate going to Israel with A Wider Bridge because they can be comfortable traveling with other trans people and will meet trans Israelis.

She addressed the idea of “pinkwashing” by calling it “the claim perpetuated by the radical left to the detriment of the LGBT community.”

Most of all, Creating Change is traditionally a place for discussion between groups that don’t see eye-to-eye. But when those on one side of an issue shut down those on the other without any discussion, Steinman said, that’s equivalent to what happened during the AIDS crisis when ACT-UP warned, “Silence equals death.”

A Wider Bridge Founder and Executive Director Arthur Slepian said that in addition to connecting people from Jerusalem Open House with activists in the U.S., there was a deeper reason to bring them this year — last summer at Jerusalem Pride, there was a stabbing and murder.

“Their community has been through trauma,” Slepian said. “We thought they’d be embraced. Instead, they were part of the firestorm.”

He said what happened to his group was part of what appears to be a “new ethos” at Creating Change. “It’s OK to shut down voices you disagree with,” he said.

Slepian added that groups that demand “safe space” are the first to take safe space away from those they disagree with, and he called Carey’s statement since the conference to be a good first step.

“She talks about people being encouraged to bring their whole selves to Creating Change,” he said. “I don’t know that anyone who identifies with Israel ever felt comfortable bringing their whole selves.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 29, 2016.

—  David Taffet

‘Creating drama’

Longtime trans activist angry over interrupted panel discussion at Creating Change

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Monica Roberts

DAVID TAFFET    |  Senior Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

A panel discussion featuring trans-attracted men was shut down by protesters at the Jan. 20-23 Creating Change conference in Chicago, the same conference at which protesters shouting anti-Semitic slurs and chants disrupted a reception for Jerusalem Open House.

Monica Roberts, a longtime trans activist from Houston, was at the panel discussion when a group of about 20 people entered the room and disrupted the event. She said this year’s conference should have been called ‘Creating drama.’

Roberts said a group of younger transgender attendees at this year’s conference — and at other recent conferences she’s attended — “think direct action protest is the only way to go,” and that they’ve forgotten Martin Luther King’s model. While protests were going on in the civil rights movement, Roberts pointed out, so was discussion and behind-the-scenes work needed to pass laws.

The panel discussion, put together by the National Black Justice Coalition, featured men discussing pressures and difficulties they face because they are attracted to trans women.

Roberts noted that if you look on Craigslist, one of the most popular categories is men looking for pre-operative trans women.

Because many of the murders of trans women have been a result of intimate partner violence, Roberts said, she hoped to hear a discussion about how to remain safe during the panel. “But we didn’t get to have that conversation,” she said.

She also said she had hoped to learn “what goes on in the mind of folks who claim to love us” and that it would be nice to hear men say publicly, “I love trans women.”

The protest was instigated by a trans woman who claimed one of the panelists was an abuser. That man doesn’t have any such charges pending against him, and he is about to file a suit for defamation.

Roberts said the divide was not just between older and younger trans activists. Many hoping to attend the panel live in cities without protections in place based on gender identity and expression. Protesters, she said, came from places with laws protecting the trans community from discrimination.

While Creating Change is about diverse LGBT groups coming together to discuss how to work together, Roberts said one protester summed it up: When the executive director of NBJC tried to say something, a protester simply demanded, “Sit down and shut up.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 29, 2016.

—  David Taffet

Registration open for 2016 Creating Change Conference

Screen shot 2015-08-31 at 1.45.18 PMRegistration is now open for the 2016 Creating Change Conference, taking place Jan. 20-24 at the Hilton Chicago. Go here to register.

Early Bird, limited income/student, presenter and age waiver registrations are available now. The Early Bird rate of $325 is available only until Oct. 31, when registration cost increases to $400.

Conference organizers are also accepting workshop proposals through Sept. 30. Submit those proposals here. The deadline to apply for the Eric Rofes Scholarship to cover registration fees is Dec. 1. Those who live in the Chicago area and want to register to host a Creating Change attendee can do that here.

You can reserve your hotel room here or request community housing placement here. Register to be a volunteer here.

Creating Change, held each year, is presented by the National LGBTQ Task Force. The Task Force, founded in 1973, is the country’s oldest nonprofit organization advocating for LGBTQ equality.

Creating Change, started 27 years ago is an organizing and skills-building conference for LGBTQ activists and allies working for equality. It was started one year after the 1987 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay rights as a way of giving activists the skills needed to carry on the battle for equality.

—  Tammye Nash

Rea Carey lays out agenda at Creating Change

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Rea Carey

National LGBTQ Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey spoke today (Friday, Feb. 6), at Creating Change in Denver, setting out an agenda as the movement achieves one goal: marriage equality.

Among the top items on the agenda is to secure nondiscrimination protections that protect our lives without broad religious exemptions.

“I don’t become less of a human if your humanity is recognized,” Carey said.

Ending policies that criminalize our lives, such as criminalizing people with HIV or using condoms as evidence that a trans person is a sex worker, is another Task Force goal.

Carey also called racial profiling an LGBTQ issue that must be stopped. She spoke about Ty Underwood, the trans woman killed in Tyler, and called hate against the trans community an epidemic.

—  David Taffet

Frazier to receive Leather Leadership Award at Creating Change

Mark Frazier Creating Change award

Dallasite Mark Frazier, longtime leather community activist and co-owner of Dallas Eagle, will receive the Leather Leadership Award during the National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change beginning tomorrow in Denver, Colo.

Conference organizers said Frazier is being recognized because he “helped build Dallas’s leather community and is a passionate educator and leader. He’s helped organize fundraising events by the leather community to benefit several charities, and has served on numerous organizational boards, including being the former president of the National Leather Association. He’s been the recipient of several other awards for his dedication to the community and is always humbled by them.”

Read about other Creating Change award recipients here.

—  Tammye Nash

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.

—  Dallasvoice

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.”

—  Dallasvoice

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.

—  Dallasvoice