Did Any New Ideas Come Out of NGLTF’s Creating Change? Not Really. That Doesn’t Make It a FAIL

Creating Change, the annual activist training and groupthink conference hosted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, wrapped up on Sunday. And while there was live-tweeting through from the two thousand-plus attendees, now that guests have gone home to collect their thoughts, they’re sharing their reflections on the advocacy orgy. So what amazing new things did the Class of 2010 walk away with?

Mostly, the same advice and activism tools as usual. But don’t let this deter you.

The bloggers at LGBT Tobacco Control (a group focused on eliminating the health disparities suffered by by queer smokers) relay some strategy ideas shared at a Employee Non-Discrimination Act panel, which suggest that anyone can exercise influence to get the bill passed. They include:

• Posting about ENDA on your Facebook page
• Following the #ENDA hashtag on Twitter
• Organizing a group of supporters on your college campus to write letters to your lawmakers
• Handing your phone to friends, family, or complete strangers and connect them with their legislator’s office
• Creating a public speaking event to educate people about the importance of ENDA

Well. These are some broad strokes. They’re also recycled ideas. Which doesn’t lessen their importance; reaching out to lawmakers, as Rep. Barney Frank will tell you, is perhaps the singular most effective way of enacting change on Capitol Hill. And the purpose of the Creating Change conference is to continue educating new classes of grassroots activists, and those effort should be commended.

These tactics have been taken up before. By similar groups of people. With the same end goal: securing equality for LGBT Americans. And yet, year after year, there is no passage of ENDA, let alone all those other four-letter acronyms we’ve got on the list. Which stinks. And frankly, posting to Facebook is going to do little else than broadcast your activist plight (but we appreciate your links to Queerty nonetheless).

But what grassroots activists must also understand are the near-insurmountable obstacles to passing equality legislation. And for now, it’s the mid-term elections. This doesn’t make Creating Change a pointless endeavor. In fact, it’s a reminder that we need more people, across all demographics, taking up the fight. Which is perhaps why so many attendees left the event feeling so energized: From 17- to 70-year-olds, with every skin pigment represented, the conference in Dallas reached all four corners of America.

Let’s see if that coverage map includes, sometime soon, the nation’s capital.

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  • Ben

    Yes… what people who expect so much from grassroots organizing entities like the ones supported by the NGLTF fail to understand is that there isn’t any “it” strategy that will be discovered and will suddenly win every battle for us overnight. The strategies that we, as organizations, use, do work but we have to act repeatedly, consistently, and over a long period of time for all the small changes we make in people’s lives to add up. Patience and perseverance are what we need now, as well as the help and support of more and more members of the LGBT community and our allies.

    Community organizers like us are the ones building the local, grassroots support for the issue of LGBT equality and dignity, and we’ve been doing our jobs damn well. I wish I could say the same for policy advocacy groups like HRC.

  • AndrewW

    Same as the year(s) before. Just like our dysfunctional movement.

    The change we need is not re-arranging the programs and seminars, it is figuring out WHEN and HOW we will WIN. Comparing tactics and then engaging in networking is probably helpful, but it doesn’t necessarily lead to victory. That would require a strategy.

    Maybe next year.

    Sure, it’s okay for a group of very sincere people to get together and compare notes and to encourage each other, but to what end? Winning was never discussed.

    This struggle has been going on for too long. At some point the effort to obtain something, actually becomes the something. That’s where we are today. Our so-called movement isn’t about winning, it is primarily about surviving and fighting on. Well, that isn’t good enough.

    I have expressed several ideas and I have offered $100 million for anyone or any organization that has a strategy to win. I believe we can win, but we haven’t figured out HOW yet. That doesn’t mean we can’t. But, doing the same things we’ve done for 50 years – with limited success – is not acceptable. We should not allow that to be our reality.

    Creating Change would have been helpful if it had been about changing our focus and having those meaningful conversations about winning. Many activists and Gay Inc. organizations repeatedly suggest that their isn’t “one way” to win or that we must hope that eventually all the incremental efforts add up to a victory. Hope is not a plan. (It’s also no longer a good reason to choose a President).

    I want a real strategy and a real plan, complete with a timeline and math to determine progress. In my world, that isn’t asking too much. I live in a world of brutal accountability. I live in a world where people get paid to create value, not survive. In that world we value ideas more than efforts.

    Victory for LGBT people is simple – it’s when we’re no longer considered “wrong” by the majority of our fellow citizens. It’s not about winning court cases or passing faux laws to protect us or punish bad behavior. It’s not about permanently defining ourselves as a minority or victims. At some point it shouldn’t matter if anyone is LGBT because we would all be equal. I am focused on the majority of Americans standing with us.

    There is a way for us to win. There is a HOW and a WHEN. My offer stands.

  • thisguyukno

    The problem is all the infighting. Everyone there is fighting for self-serving issues and think their problems are the most pressing, so there is no “unity” on a national agenda. There are too many radical ideologies that just don’t sit well with the America public, who if given ballot initiatives will never go forward with and when there could be bridges that could be made, you always have some separatist skeptic wanting to not let “allies” of any kind participate in the discussion or help in the planning. I was there and my bf and I got harassed @ the people of color hospitality suit because we’re an interracial couple. There were several seminars too where if u didn’t intrinsically match the discussion topic (say, if u weren’t black, Latino, or youth and that’s what the panel’s topic was based on) you were asked to leave. It’s very annoying and makes your typcal lgbt non activist not want to help our own fight because we feel uncomfortable or were made to feel uncomfortable by the same people that are within our “umbrella” (ella) movement.

  • AndrewW

    @Ben: You said:

    “people who expect so much from grassroots organizing entities like the ones supported by the NGLTF fail to understand is that there isn’t any “it” strategy that will be discovered and will suddenly win every battle for us overnight.”

    I don’t think anybody suggested “overnight,” and your comment isn’t helpful. What many of us have suggested is that we do not have a strategy to win. We also have many groups who continue to use tired, old tactics without any evidence that they are effective.

    Simply continuing to do “what we’ve always done” and hoping that “someday” or “one of these days” we’ll win isn’t a strategy – it’s survival, it’s just more of the same.

    We will not achieve full equality until we have the honesty to be fully accountable. Just because we’ve been doing the same tings for 50 years doesn’t mean it’s working.

    It’s easy for you to suggest that HRC is not effective, but you refuse to look at your own ideas/tactics. It is time to look at ALL efforts honestly and objectively – with the idea of winning.

  • pogobock

    This is all Obama’s fault.

  • Mark NOLA

    I was there. Creating change didn’t create anything. For many years it has been the same old rehash of useless tactics. This is the last time I will participate.

    There were NO new ideas. It was just a fund-raising event for NGLTF.

  • 1EqualityUSA

    AndrewW, Start with harnessing all of the different factions under one, huge domain. Create a television program, similar to German news, Deutsch welle, that speaks of the issues honestly and plainly. Intersperse these news programs with intelligent GLBT entertainment, talk shows, musicians, artists, political people, etc. PBS does a ton of fantastic programming for GLBT month so, in the same format, present the gay community as vibrant, creative, solid, American thinkers. Allow very few shows that wallow in self-pity and victimhood. Reputations are easily squandered and once ruined, nearly impossible to make whole again, so with tight reins, don’t allow sleaze to enter into the picture. There are many who relish the sleaze factor, but this programming is for everyone, not just our community and the face presented should not be our undoing. Promote products, such as foods, with the name, “Equality” stamped on it. Every wrapper, can, or bag would have the mission statement of the Queer Union written on it. Nobody wants to associate with a victim. Look for the best that the gay community has to offer and reward that with recognition. No shame, no griping, just creative people being useful and entertaining at the same time.

  • Scott NY'er

    “Group-think.” Ugh.

    I agree NGLTF is just about fund-raising and socializing.

  • ActingUp_ThrowingUp_GivingUp

    It was the same old song. Keep on fighting!

    They have no idea how to finish the job, in fact, I don’t think they want to finish the job. These non-profits make money when there is a problem, not after it’s solved. Therefore, they’ll never talk about winning.

    It’s a huge waste of money and effort. We need to wake up and find some new ideas.

    Protest doesn’t work.
    Lobbying doesn’t work.
    Politics doesn’t work.
    Non-profit advocacy doesn’t work.

    Maybe legal efforts will work, but I don’t like the idea of “ordering” people to accept us. I would rather people just understood we were equal.


    If what THISGUY says is true (and it’s too bad that I don’t doubt it), then I’m glad I wasn’t there.

    The infighting and PC BS are truly boring and I want no part of it. There are other ways, I’ve picked the one’s that work in my area and I’m not really seeing anything being talked about in these confabs that address the needs of folks who don’t live in the big coastal areas and actually have a decent relationship with their fellow citizens. I keep being tortured with things that just won’t work where I live and then being treated like a sellout because I say so and won’t participate in them.

    Unfortunately, we are the most diverse faction in the nation and we will all have competing agendas, however, I hope we see that we can use that as an advantage and figure out ways to help one another without imposing our various agendas on another.

    Btw, a message to my fellow activists of color. We have every right to be upset at the traditional LGBT power structure. However, excluding folks because they aren’t of color or have a mixed race relationship is DumbFuckery of the highest order. The white people who want to come in and experience what we’re doing are doing their best to understand where we are coming from. Don’t be a bunch of Dicks and push them away.

  • Keith Kimmel

    @ActingUp_ThrowingUp_GivingUp: They will never accept that we are equal. I am pursuing the legal approach right now. I am fine with ordering them to accept us. They wont volunteer to do it, so that makes ordering them a necessity.

  • Brian NYC

    @Keith Kimmel: You don’t have any evidence that the majority of “the people” won’t support us. We’ve never tried that.

    The Civil Rights Act of 1964 “ordered the people” but it didn’t work. Recent polls show 30-40% of Americans are still racist. What makes you think the courts can change minds – they never have. Only understanding changes minds – something we’ve never actually tried to do.

  • Victor

    I went to Creating Change. There wasn’t anything about change. I met some people, though. I think it’s really just a networking event.

  • Keith Kimmel

    @Victor: Its networking plus its a motivational thing. When you come out of those kind of conferences, you feel ready to change the world. That makes it more likely that you’ll try. These conferences do serve a purpose and are worth the money we spend on them.

    If you are anything more than an armchair activist in this community, that position can be very stressful and unrewarding the majority of the time. These conferences provide a break from all that, let you meet fellow activists and share ideas over cocktails and put you in touch with and give you access to folks you might not otherwise run into.

    Thats worthwhile.

    @Brian NYC: You must have missed all of the times we have stuck gay marriage on the ballot?

  • Brian NYC

    @Keith Kimmel: “gay marriage on the ballot” is not the same as the possibility that a “majority of the people would support us.” Those ballots are highly-charged campaigns with very low turnout. The Maine SSM had a 20% turnout. We don’t know what the other 80% think – we’ve never asked.

    There is no need to over-sell the Creating Change Networking event. Nothing more than some motivation and socializing came out of it. It’s probably a worthwhile gathering of like minds, but it is without any valuable purpose.

  • Victor

    @Keith Kimmel: It wasn’t really worth it. You know that.

  • Lukas P.

    Conferences and workshops in any field I’ve worked in consist of about 5% spewing new ideas, 20% reworking old ones, 30% networking, 30% getting your batteries recharged or some fire in your belly to keep doin’ what you’re doing, 10% sight seeing and 5% gettin’ laid!

    Did that = 100%!?

    Getting us BGLQs fired up is one thing, but learning lessons from what works and what doesn’t is quite another. The very best conferences I’ve ever attended concerned domestic violence, and brought in results from various grass-roots efforts. What emerged among other solutions [and seems obvious but hadn’t been on too many peoples’ radar screens] is that we need to reach women before they seek help [NB:conference sadly overlooked that men are battered too]. Some of those pilot programs trained beauticians and salon owners and hairdressers] to notice signs of abuse: physical marks, statements about the bf/husband, and to provide the potential victims with a tiny card [size of a business card] with local phone numbers and people to contact.

    It’s not perfect, but it works. Women were shown to get help earlier than they would otherwise. Not the only solution of course, but one that works.

    Message to the GLBQ community? Let’s figure out what works and SPREAD it.Let’s learn how to get our friends, colleagues, family, neighbors to do something –ANYTHING–that works, be it locally, countywide, across the state or nation.

    Grand gestures are lovely, but when my Aunt Karin writes a letter to her congressperson about ENDA from Bumblefuck North Dakota, it means more than an email from John and James Smith-Doe. When my Admin stands up to her School Board about supporting GLSEN [sp?] being allowed to hang NO HATE signs in the school, it matters. Suddenly, people realize that the “Queers” have allies.

    Getting our str8 allies on board shows that our issues aren’t limited to gays/lesbians only. People who care about justice and equality can get involved, but we still don’t reach out to them or provide them with the tools.

    Can we? Will we?

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