January 15, 2016
Connecting the Dots at Creating Change
By: Ben de Guzman

Next week, our friends at the National LGBTQ Task Force are holding their annual Creating Change conference, the largest LGBTQ social justice conference in the country. With a mission of advancing LGBTQ liberation, Creating Change is expected to bring 5,000 activists from around the country to Chicago this January 20-24th. As a longtime participant in this conference, which has taken place annually for 28 years, I look forward to this yearly opportunity to reconnect with friends and colleagues from around the country, to meet new people, and to continue learning about the great work happening in communities everywhere.

This year, I’m excited to be part of ground-breaking programming at Creating Change specifically geared to a unique intersection of constituencies served by members of the Diverse Elders Coalition: elders who are both LGBTQ and people of color. On Saturday, January 23rd, in collaboration with Serena Worthington and Aaron Tax from DEC member SAGE, as well as consultant Vega Subramaniam, a longtime activist in the South Asian community, and Maria Glover-Wallace from Affinity Community Services, an African American LGBTQ organization in Chicago, we will be holding what might be the first ever session specifically focused on the unique needs that LGBT elders of color face as they age. Bringing together policy, community, service, and advocacy lenses, we look forward to centering the perspectives of these folks who face compounding problems associated with both racism and homophobia, not to mention xenophobia and transphobia. Later that evening at 6:30pm, Vega, Maria, and I will also be holding a caucus to bring together LGBT elders of color in a unique space to let them bring their own voices to the table.

Black transgender activists on stage at Creating Change 2015

Black transgender activists on stage at Creating Change 2015

I am also pleased to support the Institute entitled “LGBT Elder and Ally Advocacy and Movement Building: Toward Equal Treatement for All” that SAGE is running. Serena Worthington does a great job every year in hosting a fun and educational space for the elders and allies that attend this day-long session, and I’m looking forward to helping facilitate discussion around collaboration with our diverse elders.

Another yearly feature of Creating Change is the annual SAGE Advocacy Award for Excellence in Leadership on Aging Issues. This year’s awardee is Katherine Acey, who served as the Executive Director of the Griot Circle, an intergenerational, community-based, LGBTQ elders of color organization that works closely with SAGE. She and I first met when she was at the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice through an innovative movement-building grant to support LGBTQ people of color. Astraea’s vision, which Katherine and I share, of weaving together multiple movements to address the disproportionately devastating impact multiple forms of oppression are having on our communities is one that I continue to bring with me to my work.

I was asked the other night to reflect on how many times I’ve been to Creating Change and realized that this will be the 11th time I’ve come to this conference. Much has been made of the changes that have occurred in the landscape of the LGBTQ community since my first time at the conference in 2005. From a time when the first states were beginning to establish marriage equality to it becoming the law of the land, this particular aspect of our lives as LGBTQ people has experienced a complete 180-degree turnaround. But as someone who has never evaluated our progress as a movement solely on one issue, what has been most encouraging to me is how far we’ve come in terms of new strategies and initiatives that embrace a broader notion of what constitutes “LGBTQ issues” and recognizing how different types of bigotry like homophobia, transphobia, racism, xenophobia, and ageism affect our communities in multiple and overlapping ways. It’s that kind of intersectional analysis that the Diverse Elders Coalition has built into its work from the start, and we owe our understanding to the kinds of conversations and collaborations that can happen in spaces like Creating Change.

The conference program book for Creating Change is available online here: https://www.creatingchange.org/sessions-speakers/schedule-at-a-glance/

DEC sessions are described on pages 134 and 158, and SAGE’s Institute is on page 84.


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Diverse Elders Coalition.