Friday, February 6, 2009

NGLTF Creating Change - Final Summary

Here's the summary of the entire conference. Read individual entries and more personal reactions read my posts from Jan. 26 - Feb 3.

Creating Change 2009
Denver Colorado
Report from Neil Houghton

“The moratorium on intelligence in the White House has been lifted.” - Kate Clinton, the fabulous emcee of Creating Change 2009.

(see also my entry on Mitchell Gold's Book: Crisis)


The first full day of Creating Change was devoted solely to racism and white privilege. This points to the LGBT community's commitment to the ideals of the leaders of the civil rights movement and the concept of interlocking oppression. See Dr. King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail."

Rush Limbaugh's latest: The heir apparent to a Republican Party in shambles latest rant is, "Now that we have a black President, we are supposed to just bend over." Racist and homophobic. What a guy to wrap it all up in one pack and work our fears and division.

What to do: The results of small group brainstorming of tactics that work to overcome racism.
- Name it when you see it.
- Understand your own culture, respect the cultures of others
- Coalition Building
- Learn from mistakes: Self-reflection
- Use the Power of one-on-one; mentoring
- Share space: Make sure that no message is delivered "this is not just for white people"
- Needs assessment
- Continuous evaluation of inclusiveness
- Take risks, make yourself uncomfortable
- Take ownership
- Use the power of the purse

Transgender Inclusion:

The full inclusion of transgendered people was a challenge that was raised at many points through-out the conference.

Lisa Mottet (NGLTF Transgender Civil Rights Project), Jaan Williams (Natl. Center for Lesbian Rights) and Justin Tanis (Natl. Center for Transgender Equality) were among the presenters on transgender rights and inclusion. The publication, "Opening the Door" presents 9 practical keys to including Transgender issues and people in any organization. Justin and Lisa presented an overview of this guide in one session and more complete explanation during a 3 hour Academy session. The publication can be dowloaded in PDF format at:

At a National Religious Leaders Roundtable Lisa and Jaan encouraged the addition of supportive organizations to an already lengthy list at Joining this list establishes institutional resonance with transgender/gender identification in the pending ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act). It also will be used as a vehicle for distribute action alerts. A lobby day for ENDA is scheduled for April 26-28 in Washington, DC. All are encouraged to participate. If you are not aware of ENDA and the issues surrounding the inclusion of transgender it makes for a great google research.

The Bottom Line: Until we are all excluded form discrimination, we have not arrived.

Marriage Equality:

Equality California, Love Makes a Family (CT) and other groups working for marriage equality presented a full day workshop. It highlighted the progress we have made in the past 15 years. Lawyer and Activist, Evan Wilson has worked from Marriage Equality from Hawaii through California. Despite the fact that Prop 8 passed, we are in an unprecedented position. Two states have marriage equality and 7 jurisdictions are knocking at the door: California, Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Iowa, Maine and DC. "Don't ask, Don't Tell" is on the brink of falling. "Regardless about how you feel about marriage or military services," said Wilson, "these are traditionally two tropes of institutional inclusion."

When questioned about DOMA, Wilson said, "Don't call it that. It should be called 'Discrimination in Marriage Act.' But," he said, "we know that the President is opposed to it. To watch the White House website change on January 20 a few minutes after noon was heartening. Not everything we want is there, but what a dramatic change! "

The Binder Report is the first scientific survey of voters who made their opinion known at the polls on prop 8. It unpacks the stats in many interesting ways. Here are some observations from my blog, "Many Things to Say," at

A very small percentage (5% with a +/- 3% margin of error) of LGBT people voted for Prop 8. Presumable some of these people who friends thought "didn't care" really did. Why the disparity? Further conversation revealed, "They never said anything about it."

This is a wake up call to gay people who are out. It's not enough just to be there, you have to have the conversation.

Many states are building web sites to share the stories. One example of this can be found at But the most powerful story is one-on-one.

Seventy-seven percent of the voters had decided how they would cast their ballot on the future of equal access to marriage a month before the vote. As one presenter said, "You don't plan for an earthquake or a hurricane when you are in it." Many laudable efforts were not effective because of this statistic.

The most powerful influence against prop 8 was the church, specifically the Mormon, Roman Catholic and evangelical traditions. A program to target Evangelical and more specifically predominantly Black churches, "Let California Ring," proved very effective. However when initial conceived, it was poorly funded and reached a limited audience. During the late stages of the campaign it was set up as test. Two counties were chosen and one was saturated with the campaign. It was the only county, Santa Barbara, in southern California to vote against prop 8.

It is worth noting that members of the national Religious Leaders Roundtable issued a statement pointing to the fact that religious leaders who identified the opportunity to reach out to communities of faith were largely ignored.

Teasing out men and women with children and men and women without children, the results were both predictable and surprising. Both men and women without children fell very close to the population as a whole. The campaign for Prop 8 played the children up big time. "Your children will be taught about gay marriage." It was a lie, but it worked. The group that voted significantly more in favor of prop 8 were “men with children.” Supposition is that they were not only afraid that their children might be "made gay" or "chose to be gay." Perhaps a powerful force here is that men might have to talk to their kids about sex. The counter to that is, it's not about sex, it's about love... and perhaps women got that. Women with children were more likely to vote NO on 8. Here one might presume that motivation was more toward creating a better society for children to live in. Unfortunately their move in our favor was not as strong as the men's move away from us.

Personal Experience:
These are the percentages of people who voted FOR Prop 8:
People who are LGBT: 5%
People who know people who are LGBT: 48%
People who don't know people who are LGBT: 60%

Analysis augmented with anecdotal response is that although knowing someone who is gay helps, it doesn't help enough. Knowing someone who is gay AND knowing that marriage makes a difference to then does. Clearly, some LGBT people were in favor of 8. They may have issues with the institution of marriage and cannot see beyond their personal interests. But more people reported that their gay friends didn't care, so why should they? LGBT people can't just "be there," we need to have the conversation.

Despite exit polling showing 70% of black voters supported Prop 8, the figure was actually 58%. Presumably, this is due to a closer affiliation with the church than the general population.

Taught in School:
A large majority of people who reported voting "yes," even though they thought it was unfair said it was out of fear it would be taught in school.

Marriages on TV:
Seeing Ellen and Portia's marriage or same-sex marriage in a TV show or movie, proved to not have significantly affected anyone's vote.

Targeted Ads:
The survey reported on about 8 ads that were run by various groups to oppose prop 8. On a 2 dimensional grid, they were each place by visibility and impact. The most powerful ad was a man talking about his two daughters, one gay, one straight. His message was simply, "I love both of my daughters and both my daughters deserve the right to marry."

Surprisingly, Ellen's ad was visible, but not effective. Part of the issue is timing. The ad above was aired a month before the vote. Ellen's ad was aired in the final week. As stated, 77% of the voters had decided how they would vote a month before the ballot.

To view the Binder Report as a PDF go to: click on “Equality Summit” and then on Prop 8 Election Findings.

Safe Schools:

I have popped in and out of a number of sessions on Safe Schools with GLSEN folk. They do a great job as most of you know and there was not much new information for me, but it did fire me up to ask groups that can to get these people into schools.

The message needs to be heard, the statistics shared and the teachers, students and parents trained.

Growing up Gay:

Everyone at Creating Change received a copy of Crisis: 40 stories revealing the personal, social and religious pain and trauma of growing up gay in America. Edited and published by Mitchell Gold, who with his partner Bob Williams, created a furniture company known for their family work environment, the book is a personal investment in creating a safe environment for LGBT youth.

Gold talked about an 80 year old woman in Taylorsville, NC, home to the company, who called him crying. “I had no idea what this experience was like,” she told him, “I am going to give this to my pastor.” While Gold’s company is respected, Taylorsville is not a “bastion of progressive attitudes toward the LGBT community. Even there it has changed at least one mind.”

Teenagers growing up Gay, Lesbian and Transgender are twice as likely as other youth to abuse drugs or alcohol. They are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide according to studies. “Homophobia and discrimination are at the heart of their pain. Love support and acceptance – all within our reach – can save them,” says Gold.

Nate Berkus, Bishop Gene Robinson, Richard Chamberlain and John Amaechi are among the contributors. Its intended audience is educators, religious leaders, parents and politicians. “When you have finished reading this, schedule an appointment with a legislator,” suggests Gold. “Give it to a lawmaker and say, ‘please give me the gift of reading this book.’”

Gold concluded, “Religion based bigotry ends in 2009.” Al I could think was, “From your mouth to God’s Ear’s”

I would hope that any group that supports full inclusion, would consider buying copies of the book to distribute.

Intergenerational Communications:

Inter-generational story telling was a project co-sponsored by Hetrick-Martin (Harvey Milk School) and SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elederly). Both organizations are in NYC and this project, based on NPR's Story Corps, brought together 3 older men and 3 youth to share stories LGBT people in different eras.

Why are inter-generational programs of value?
- Provide opportunities for sharing, like the one above.
- Help develop and help train leadership for the future.
- Youth learn history
- Demystifying the other. Older folks perceptions of youth, and youth perceptions of the older LBGT community
- Intentional. This won't just happen organically.

Another program highlighted was "M-squared: Movement and Masculinity." Choreographer, Rita Jaroslow, at 60, decided that she wanted to extend her work with movement at SAGE to an exploration of masculinity with younger and older members of the community.

Abstinence Only Sex Education:

AOSE is the only FEDERALLY funded sex education. It is woefully out of touch with reality and statistics.

A twenty-something leader opened by telling us that in Alabama, where he went to school there was nothing but Abstinence Only Sex Education. Now he is HIV positive. He’s hoping he can stop some others from being in the same position.

The most prevalent reaction was, “It’s out touch with reality.” The stats are this: 46% of all high school students and 68% of seniors are sexually active, 95% of the population of the US have sex before marriage. AOSE has not turned the rising trend. And these are not the only statistics that are ignored. In Sweden where CSE (Comprehensive Sex Education, which includes abstinence) is mandated K-12, for instance, teen pregnancy rates are dramatically lower than in the US. For that matter, the percentage of people that report they have not had sex by the age of 21 is also higher.

For queer youth specifically sex education, as it exists, offers no role models. There is no presentation that responsible dating is an option, as opposed to casual hook-ups. In 48 states marriage is not an option. AOSE sets marriage as gold standard of relationship that is not available to queer youth. Sex Ed is focused on behaviors and acts, not identity, further distancing queer youth.

Nationally organized through Advocacy for Youth, various inclusive curricula are available. The Unitarian-Universalist curriculum, OWL (Our Whole Lives), was specifically mentioned.

What can youth leaders do?
- Talk to legislators.
- Look for loopholes; when you talk about safer sex, which is mandated in many states, you have to have to talk about sex.
- Teachers must be trained. (This came from attendees!)
- Make it clear that CSE includes abstinence…
- Peer-to-peer sexual health ed: It usually has to be off campus and not sanctioned.
- Provide Sex Ed 101 in other established group meetings
- Make tie in with World AIDS day, National Coming Out, Day of Silence.
- Many Youth Centers have their own programs
- Find out what IS being taught
- Partner with GSA
- Meet with teachers and TEACHERS’ UNIONS.
- Talk with doctors… Don’t try to do it on your own.
- Use anonymous peer surveys to highlight the problem.

There are good online resources, but they must be vetted. Find the ones that support CSE, Here are some that were recommended:
Youth Resources
Go Ask Alice
Scarlet Teens
Teen Wire
Mysistuhs (Women of Color)

The Queer Youth community needs to talk with a focused message:
- Abstinence only sex education “makes us feel invisible,” and not a part of society.
- Sex education, like all education needs to be inclusive and reality based. “We feel ‘different’ and not in a good way.”

President Obama has been a supporter of CSE in IL. As a US senator his record was not so good. Supporter of CSE must call him to task need to keep on him.

Labor Support:

Labor unions, especiailly teacher's unions (beaming with pride here) have been the largest single source of marriage equality funding in CA and CAT

Dolores Huerta's Keynote Speech talked of the support we need to give to immigrant workers, reminding us that, with the exception of the First Nations, "we all came form somewhere. In 1920 the majority of Americans were foreign-born." These workers are contributing billions of dollars to Social Security.

“I am praying for Ted Haggard,” said Huerta. “I pray for him to get the courage to come out. He is disgraced? By what? For having sex with a prostitute? No! For having THOUGHTS of attraction to a man.” Something is wrong here.

“We must get rid of the ignorance,” she said. According to Huerta, that ignorance is not only dangerous to LGBT youth, but also to our nations mental health.

The KKK recently held a press conference boasting that their membership is up40% thanks to their opposition to immigrations

Now that we have returned to science, Huerta asked the crowd, “What are human beings called by scientists? Homo-sapiens. And where did the human race begin? “ The crowd responded “Africa,” Recounting the migration of human beings across the face of the planet, she talked of some that had to travel far to the north. “They went were it was colder and their skin became pale. Now they have to use tanning beds.”

To those who would divide us I say, “We are all Africans. Get over it!”

- Neil Houghton

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