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LETTER TO COMMUNITY: How will YOU create change in 2012?

I had the privilege to attend the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's Creating Change conference in Baltimore, Md., as a Blogging Scholarship Winner for the Network for LGBT Health Equity.

The event was inspiring and full of life. I met some extraordinary people from all over the U.S., each creating their own change in their local LGBT communities.

The Creating Change Conference attracted 3,000 LGBT rights advocates from across the US. One of the highlights was listening to the Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan announce new housing policies to protect LGBT people.

My favorite quote from him: “our President and his administration believe the LGBT community deserve a place at the table and a place to call home.”

The conference hosted two dance parties at the Hilton in Baltimore, one for under 24-year-olds and one for over 50. I attended the over 50 considering I am 40 years of age. There was much discussion among everyone regarding this separation. There were many young people attending the over 50 dance party and I got a chance to talk to some. One young woman thought that young and older should be encouraged to mingle. Another slightly older woman said the same thing. Everyone I spoke to wanted inter-generational dialogue.

As I walked around the hotel, random people of all ages and colors would come up to me and share their stories. The feeling in the air was of camaraderie. I felt no shame in approaching someone and saying “Hi! Where are you from and what’s your story?”

I heard from a slightly older African-American lesbian who shared her days when Dykes on Bikes first came on the scene. It had really paved the way for many young women to share their identities openly and without shame.

There was also Justice, a young musician from New York City who went to the conference to celebrate his 21st birthday! Can you imagine that as a 21-year-old you say to your friends, “hey let’s go to a LGBT rights conference to celebrate my 21st birthday.” I asked him what he saw for the future. He would like to see the LGBT experience to be “like no big deal.”

I also got to meet and talk to amazing and inspiring people like Scout, PhD. from the Fenway Institute, who was engaging and charismatic. Kate Clinton is as fabulous and funny off the stage as she is on stage. She strolled through the lobby of the Hilton making eye contact and saying things like “that couch looks comfortable.” God I love her!

One of the highlights for me was to have met and talked to Edie Windsor, who at 81 years of age sued the Federal government for not recognizing her partner since 1967. She looks absolutely fantastic, by the way.

So, the thought I leave you with, what change will you create in 2012?

Hector Martinez
Community Outreach Coordinator
Breaking Down Barriers - LGBTQ Communities
Mental Health America of San Diego County