National LGBTQ+ Task Force holds first virtual Creating Change conference

The 33rd annual Creating Change conference hosted by the National LGBTQ+ Task Force held its events virtually over the weekend for the first time due to the pandemic.

The country’s largest LGBTQ+ activist conference brought participants from across the U.S. to connect and share knowledge, skills and mutual dedication to ensuring equity for LGBTQ+ people and other marginalized groups. Hosted by comic Sandra Valls, the multi-day event emphasized the importance of togetherness and intersectionality.

The conference featured special guests like Adrienne Maree Brown, a Black feminist author and women’s rights activist; and American rapper Big Freedia. Dominique Jackson, who plays Elektra Abundance on the hit-TV show “Pose,” also attended.

“The past election has shown us that when we stand together as a force, we will win,” Jackson said at the event. “But you can’t just show up for (an) election and then sit back.”

Topics covered at this year’s conference include the intersections of LGBTQ+ people and immigration, transgender activism and recognition, aging as an LGBTQ+ person and fundraising tips for small and large advocacy organizations. The conference also introduced Kierra Johnson as the Task Force’s new executive director.

“As difficult as these last few years have been for us, I think they’ve also given us a map,” Johnson said in Saturday’s “State of the Movement” speech. “I think it’s undeniable how fragile our democracy is. And we’ve got work to do, right? And it is work that the task force is committed to being a part of.”

Rea Carey is set to step down on Monday after 12 years as executive director.

Johnson served as the Task Force’s deputy executive director since 2018. She served as the executive director of Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity for 10 years before working with the Task Force.

Johnson spoke on her excitement for taking on the role and the strength of the “collective power” of LGBTQ+ people.

“It is precisely because of this collective power that we have a conference that looks the way it looks. It is because of our collective power that we are seeing changes that we never thought possible 10, 15, 20 years ago,” she said.

New policy changes under President Biden’s administration and additional legislation the Task Force and other equal rights organizations are continuing to push forward were highlighted in a variety of webinars.

Task Force Policy Director Liz Seaton in a workshop highlighted the work the organization aims to do in 2021 that includes a focus on police reform, inclusive sex education, promoting economic justice and expanding nondiscrimination protections. Seaton also recognized the several executive orders focused on equity that Biden has signed since the inauguration.

“We are literally in a waterfall of progressive policy change right now,” said Seaton.

Awards were also given to those leading in LGBTQ+ rights, including Lisbeth Melendez Rivera, a self-described Puerto Rican butch dyke labor organizer, and leather leadership awardee Gayle Rubin. Mama Gloria won the SAGE Award for Leadership in Aging.

Carmen Vázquez, who passed away on Jan. 27 from coronavirus complications, won the SAGE award at last year’s conference. The Task Force this year paid tribute to Vázquez in the “in memorial” portion of the conference.

More than 2,000 people attended the virtual conference.

They were able to interact with one another on the virtual platform, as well as ask questions during webinars and workshops. The Task Force also hosted inclusive caucuses for a variety of identities across religions, occupations and gender identities.

Game nights were held at night, as well as variety shows, where attendees could present their talents.

This article was originally published in Washington Blade on February 1, 2021.