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Creating Change: Chrystos Gives 1st Ever Native American Plenary Speech

Director, Network for LGBT Health Equity
Report from Creating Change 2011
Minneapolis MN


Some plenaries are inspiring, some are difficult, some are sobering and challenge us to really grow, and some are all. With a gathering of her fellow Native Americans, Chrystos took the stage for the latest Creating Change plenary. She tells us how this is surprisingly the first Native American plenary speech ever at this conference. She tells us of her history in San Francisco with the Daughters of Bilitis. Of the beatings, the police harassment, the concessions gender variant people would make to keep eating. She reminds us how many of us aren’t white, we are really Indo-European immigrants. She tells us how she jokes with her Native American brethren that their problem is really a lax immigration policy. She reminds us that this country is built on two fundamental tenets, the exploitation of Native Americans for land, and of Africans for labor. She talks about how she still doesn’t feel safe except among her small Gay Native American group, a group that has only 4 of the 80 founding members still living. She reminds us how the Native American communities recognize the two-spirit people, a lens that separates sexuality and gender, then adds acceptance, in a way that my indo-european mind marvels at. She tells us that Identity Politics is too small a place to stand.

I can’t really convey how funny she was, an amazing reality considering the stories she was telling.

She asks us to think critically. Reminds us that the win on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell allows us to die for a country that doesn’t give us civil rights.

Through her stories she shows us how the Native American people are still being looted by us colonizers. And she asks us to take our hands out of that bag.

And she gives us homework, to read real books. Specifically these four: The Turqoise Ledge; Conquest; Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot; Journal of an Ordinary Grief.

Chrystos leaves us with a wish, “May you find your way to the greatest of all wisdoms, as the Talmud says, kindness.”

February 5, 2011 Posted by | Creating Change, Creating Change 2011, Uncategorized | 1 Comment


by Dean Andersen

Guest Blogger, reporting from Creating Change, Minneapolis 2011

In the last session I attended we discussed obstacles and opportunities when promoting healthier LGBT communities.  We had an interesting discussion about folks who are raised being told they are worth something, verse folks being raised raised being told they are worthless!  Research shows that folks who are raised being told they are worthless have a much higher tendency to make bad choices!  Humm.. go figure!  So maybe an important part of promoting health is promoting positive self-esteem.    Developing a positive self-esteem is not particularly easy if you come from a home where your sense of self-worth has been under attack for the majority of your life.   How can our community help validate folks struggling to overcome the negative effects of persecution at the hands of their own family, church, schools, etc.? 

I’m interested in learning what campaigns others have done to validate LGBT youth.  Especially if these campaigns have been orchestrated across the community, and challenged existing status quo.   If you have information about such campaigns, please post a comment and include information where I and others can learn more about the campaign.   Thanks, I look forward to hearing from you.

February 5, 2011 Posted by | Creating Change, Creating Change 2011, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Project H.E.A.L.T.H. (is awesome)

 Megan Lee
 Blogger Scholar

 Trailblazing for Transgender Health
 Kristina Wertz, Mason Davis, Michelle Enfield

The list of things transgender people need to be healthy is extensive: medical care, insurance coverage, mental health services, substance abuse providers, gender identity specific non-discrimination laws, sexual health education and screenings, case management support, community and interpersonal supports. Oh, and in order for this to all work adequately, all of these things need to be culturally competent, resepctful, affordable, and accessible. Providing healthcare that adequately serves the transgender community is no small feat, but Project H.E.A.L.T.H. is making some significant forays into creating a better system.

Mason Davis, of Lyon Martin Health Services, explains the clinic assessment given to clinics interested in better serving transgender people in their community.

Project H.E.A.L.T.H., which stands for Harnessing Education, Advocacy, and Leadership for Transgender Health, is a trifecta of community collaboration, bringing together Lyon Martin Health Services, Transgender Law Center, and Equality California to address three primary areas: training for medical staff and clinics, education related to legal rights and responsibilies for transgender health care, and community building and collaboration. Project H.E.A.L.T.H. works with clinics either on a short-term (one or two meetings) or long-term (6 months to one year) planning and creates work plans for cultural competency, clinical competency, connections with community, and evaluation. Seriously awesome stuff.

Coming from Columbia, Missouri (and not Los Angeles or San Francisco, California, where the Project is hosted), the work is a little down the road from where my community is. But the greatest take away for me was, as Mason Davis (originally from MO) reminded us: don’t underestimate the one provider or health clinic that wants to more adequately serve transgender individuals in their communities.

I’m stoked and geared up to get back to my community and share the resources from this session. We may be just beginning to look at gender identity non-discrimination policies in Columbia and we may have a long way to go, but there are some rock stars laying a great path for us out in California.

February 5, 2011 Posted by | Creating Change 2011 | 2 Comments



 Megan Lee
 Blogger Scholar

Last night, the Trans Hospitality Suite (#1936, for those at the conference) hosted a screening of some short films by and about transgender, genderqueer, and intersex people/issues/stories from the Los Angeles Transgender Film Festival. From avant garde to hilarious (and sometimes both), the films portrayed reality and fiction with stunning clarity for the humor and beauty that weaves in and out of transgender lives.

A Korean transwoman attends a public bath with her sister. The comedic journey of Facial Feminization Surgery (FFS). A cartoon play out of the eternally irritating inquiry: “what are you (Lil Basenji?)”. A surprisingly sweet, touching, and genderific interaction in front of a restaurant bathroom. The answer to how exactly you “TransProof” your apartment. And, ultimately Queerer Than Thou, written, produced, and directed by people who are self-identified as queerer than anyone watching the film. Who is the queerest and how do we decide? Queers and peers – you’re going to want to watch this. Hilarious.

The films are brought to us in part by Reel Boi Productions and, if last night was any indication of the types of films coming out of the TG Film Fest and Reel Boi Productions, there is a whole lot of good coming down the line.

February 5, 2011 Posted by | Creating Change 2011 | Leave a comment

All Sorts of Sexy!

 Megan Lee
 Blogger Scholar

 Mapping Your Desire
Dr. Jaime Grant, Ignacio Rivera, Jack Harrison, Amelie Zurn

Interested in getting 100 queers in the same room, attentive and ready to learn? Talk about sex. Title the session “Mapping Your Desire” and create a workshop designed to create a “life-long journey toward sexual empowerment and a more just world”, and believe me, they’ll be there. I mean, that’s why I went, right?

Desire Mapping is a tool designed to create a powerful and authentic understanding of yourself and your sexuality. As a concept, it sounds easy, but the process is surprisingly complex. As Dr. Jaime Grant explained, the most important thing in creating your sex biography is to tell the

Jaime Grant discusses plotting "points" on a Desire Map.

 truth, which is harder than it might seem. Getting honest about the “points” on your map requires really opening up to your own, well, desires.

Each of the panelists opened with one of their particular Desire Map points – stories from their pasts and the ways that has created the fulfilling and honest sexual experiences they have now. From there, the audience worked through our own Desire Maps. One of the things I appreciated from the session was that all range of sexual experiences were validated and welcomed from self-identified “vanilla” to “kinky switch whore”. As Dr. Grant pointed out, even people who have had no sexual experiences can still utilize and wholly benefit from a Desire Map because no sexual activity is still a concious choice.

The take away message (beyond the idea that open, honest sexual desire is healthy, natural, and good)? Consent and mutual respect are the bedrock of healthy sexuality.

Panelists Dr. Jaime Grant, Ignacio Rivera, Jack Harrison, and Amelie Zurn listen as an audience member desribes a discovery “point” on their Desire Map.

February 5, 2011 Posted by | Creating Change 2011 | 2 Comments

Sodomy to Fare Evasion: Evolving LGBT Criminal Defense and Health Effects


Emilia Dunham, Network Program Associate

by Emilia Dunham

Program Associate, Reporting from Creating Change on “Beyond Lawrence V. Texas”

Sodomy: you may know it’s been decriminalized for the past 8 years, but across the country many LGBT people are still unnecessarily criminalized. Though it’s not technically a crime to be LGBT, LGBT people are disproportionately affected by random offenses like loitering and prostitution (real or perceived). Frankly it was humbling to realize how easy it was someone’s life to be completely ruined by reasons nearly out of their control, how privileged I am, and how many of us no idea how many issues affect our whole community.

You might not be surprised that laws in Louisianna are particularly bias against LGBT people (40% of all cases). The laws are so asinine and extreme that two charges of prostitution could land you on the sex offender list for life! With the offense you have to send postcards to pretty much everyone imaginable. The worst part is that they put a huge orange stamp on your ID so that everyone who sees it knows you are on the sex offender list. Can you imagine how terrible that would make your life?

You’d think New York City would be better, but unfortunately in some precints, 100% of all loitering offenses involve LGBT people. Even fare evasion charges are largely against LGBTQ poor people. NY laws also enforce that trying to talk with strangers, loitering and even carrying condoms indicate an intent to prostitute which is enough to be arrested. As a result, many sex workers and homeless LGBTQ refuse to take condoms despite understanding of health concerns.

So what does this have to do with health? Folks who are dispropriately targetted by these crimes have a very difficult time accessing health insurance through any sort of public aid because of their charges. Additionally, it’s incredibly difficult and often impossible to clear their records, placing a barrier to jobs with health insurance. Thus, when we think about health disparities in our communities and issues of access to care, we should be thinking of  the broader picture. We should do more to include those communities that are most affected by this profiling in our public health research, advocacy, work: low-socio-economic, trans women, feminine gay men and gender non-conforming people. Clearly when folks are refusing to carry condoms because of policy, we should be focusing on deeper avenues of public health work.

February 5, 2011 Posted by | Creating Change, Creating Change 2011, Uncategorized | 2 Comments


What an amazing community we have and Creating Change reminds us of just how amazing we are over and over again.

Can I share a short story…  Early this evening I accidentally left my cell phone at the cyber cafe!  AAAAAH!!!  You may be familiar with the gut wrenching feeling you get when you think your tether to the world is suddenly missing with all your crazy information onboard.  Well, that was the feeling I was having.

But someone from our community turned it in!!  It was gone for only 30 minutes!  How validating to know that folks you have never even met are willing to step up and get your back! To whomever returned my phone, THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!  I am more proud than ever to belong to this diverse, creative, talented, hardworking, socially-conscious, honest and caring community!

February 4, 2011 Posted by | Creating Change, Creating Change 2011, Uncategorized | Leave a comment


by Dean Anderson

Guest Blogger, Reporting from Creating Change

It is time for LGBT folks everywhere to realize:

We have a right to good health and good health care…   health care that is culturally competent, and wants to make you healthy.

-What we do to support health, makes our lives better for EVERYONE!
-Improving our quality of life is good for everyone!
– Healthy LGBT Folks are Happy LGBT Folks!
-We deserve just as many resources directed to promote health in our community as is directed to promote health in mainstream communities!

Each of us has a duty to our community to promote healthy decision-making and break the cycles that legitimize addiction.  We all can be a voice positive change.

February 4, 2011 Posted by | Creating Change, Creating Change 2011, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Running the Right Way on a Moving Sidewalk

Megan Lee

Blogger Scholar

Walking Our Talk: Applying a Racial Justice Lens in Our Organizations
Gita Gulati-Partee, OpenSource Leadership Strategies, Inc.

In her book Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria, Beverly Daniel Tatum explains the roles we play in structures of systematic racism and white privilege as walking on a moving sidewalk with essentially three choices: walk forward, stand still, or turn around

Outlining organizational activities that (1) actively perpetuate, (2) passive collude, or (3) resist/interrupt systems of racism.

and walk the other way. The forward motion of the sidewalk is ultimately progressing towards the same end and whether you’re walking briskly in that direction or you’re standing still, things are still moving in that direction. Thinking about racism, individuals can fall into these three camps: moving briskly towards upholding systematic racism (Actively Perpetuate), passively “going with the flow” (Passively Collude), or working to dismantle the systems as they exist (Resist/Interrupt). Most folks identifying as progressive are likely working to find themselves in the latter.

The trouble is that the movement between these three camps is exactly that: movement. Action. Intentionality. Working to create an intentional movement towards racial equity and organizationally embodying not just diversity, not just cultural competency, and not just inclusion, but full, radical, racial equity is crucial to the success of any organization working to serve communities. This work does come from merely talking about race, it comes from taking a hardline look at the policies, procedures, structure, and approach of your organization and calling out passivism for what it is: passive compliance.

This morning’s academy was a fantastic opening to the weekend. The group was small, but it only allowed the conversation to get that much deeper, and I definitely walked away with tangible ideas to begin moving away from passivity and towards racial equity. It’s not just something I want to do, it’s something we need to do.

Rev. Rebecca Voelgel and Gita Gulati-Partee discuss the multiple approaches to moving our organizations towards racial equity.

Things are moving fast here. Last count I heard was pushing 2000 folks here at the conference (which is a lot of gay, trust me).

More soon.

February 4, 2011 Posted by | Creating Change 2011 | Leave a comment

Designing a Survey Using Data to Gain Protections for LGBT People

Emilia Dunham, Network Program Associate

by Emilia Dunham

Program Associate

Reporting on Creating Change

This morning I attended a workshop on what has become an important but broken record in our community: LGBT data collection with Cristy Mallory, Jody Herman, and Masen Davis. 

They discussed some of the best practices for developing and including questions on sexual orientation and gender identity. You may be familiar with recommendations of the Sexual Minority Assessment Research Team (SMART) for instance.

In this workshops the presentors discussed the survey process in the form of questions to ask your research team when planning surveys:

  1. what is the goal?
  2. who is the target?
  3. what resources are available?
  4. how will you reach people? (what is your promotion strategy?)
  5. how to get high response rate? (incentive: start with money; next is community based appeal)
  6. how do you design your survey and what questions do you ask? (consider existing surveys, define terms, do not use jargon, add “don’t know/refused to answer”)
  7. how will you collect and analyze the data? (clean data to remove non-target)
  8. how will you write-up and distribute the results?
  9. how will you utilize the results to achieve original goal? (to advocate, improve programs, etc)

California Case Study

Masen Davis of the Transgender Law Center discussed their study of trans Californians. The strategy was to use existing strong networks, effectivelymade practical use of staff time and volunteers, incentives and many other means. Fortunately the results of the survey was very successful as it can show what’s needed for other surveys and more importantly it gives you data you need. For instance it showed that among CA trans people, there are significant issues of homelessness, income gaps, health disparities, etc.

The need for data may be familiar to most of us: It’s hard to show proof of discrimination, unemployment, health disparities without data, even when that is known in communities. The end goal being that data can be used to access funding from government.

The California State Trans Study Report is a great example of what can be done to successfully achieve research, data and policy goals.

February 4, 2011 Posted by | Creating Change, Creating Change 2011, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

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