This week, we continue to share share stories from the students who attended the 26th National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change that was held on January 29 through February 2, 2014. Our third reflection is by VDS alumnua Alex Salfer-Hobbs. (Read the first blog post here and second here.)
This past January, I was the fortunate enough to be one of the students selected by the Carpenter Program to attend the Creating Change Conference in Houston, Texas. This conference is the largest annual gathering of activists, organizers, and leaders in the LGBT movement (and is sponsored by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force), so needless to say, I was ecstatic to be going. My fellow Divinity School peers and I flew in on Wednesday evening and started the conference Thursday with our respective day-long institutes. I chose to attend an institute titled Recentering and Reclaiming Sexual Freedom as Fundamental Human Rights which was presented by the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance. This institute was particularly engaging for me as it tied in my interests in reproductive justice with issues more specific to LGBTQIA-identifying persons. After our day-long sessions, we spent Thursday evening graced by the lovely and brilliant Laverne Cox, who delivered a moving speech.
The next three days were a blur of breakout sessions and mind-blowing conversations, surrounded by some of the most passionate and dedicated activists and scholars I have ever met. I went to sessions and panel discussions on topics such as polyamory, butch/femme culture, providing equal health care access for transgender persons, navigating faith and LGBTQI issues, critically looking at the intersections of race and sexual orientation/gender identity, and many other equally intriguing and vitally important issues. The conversations both inside and outside of these sessions prove to be continually overwhelming and simultaneously enlightening; I couldn’t take it all in fast enough! For a majority of the weekend, I did my best to become a sponge, absorbing every thought and concept I could while forging ahead on little sleep (and lots of coffee).
It’s hard to summarize all of the highlights of this conference in a single blog post, but if there is anything I would like to emphasize it is this: the sense of shared community and purpose I found at Creating Change was the most inspiring and fantastic part of the journey. Everyone I met shared stories and ideas that built into a larger narrative of justice-oriented praxis. I was at home. Between the gender-neutral bathrooms (which were MY FAVORITE), the long conversations about sexual ethics and consent, and the continuous hum of positivity that could be heard in the halls and rooms of the conference, Creating Change did exactly what its namesake would suggest—inciting changes in myself and other participants, as well as a renewed sense of purpose and hope in the face of heterosexism, transphobia, racism, and sexism.