Tuesday, September 30, 2008

From the Mountain West Conference

Thank you to Jean Hodges, our Mountain West regional director, and the planning committee for planning a wonderful Mountain West Conference! The theme of our conference was an intergenerational call to action, and the conference was truly a fabulously intergenerational experience. The agenda for the conference included choral performances by groups of all ages, spoken word performances by youth in the Boulder area, and panelists of various age ranges and diverse backgrounds.

Judy Shepard kicked off the conference on Friday night by encouraging everyone to work even harder than they have been working before and to not get discouraged. She talked about her own experiences with lobbying in both legislation and education. As an audience member, I was certainly struck by how much work Judy has already done as an advocate and how difficult it must be to share Matthew’s tragedy over and over. If anyone had the authority to tell us all to do more, it is Judy. She is such an inspirational example of determination and strength.

Saturday started with a panel of lesbian, gay, and bisexual voices across generations. People shared their coming out stories through different periods of history. This panel was most encouraging because we were able to see how far we have come in working towards equality.

Then, everyone went to the workshops of their choosing. There were eighteen workshops to choose from in three time slots, on the subjects of activism, faith, growing groups, intergenerational interactions, and transgender issues. A wealth of information was provided! I saw many chapters strategically choosing who to send to each workshop, so they could glean as much information from all the workshops as possible.

On Saturday evening, Jody Huckaby discussed Straight for Equality. All over the country, more and more chapters are connecting to how they first got involved in the LGBT movement, what it would have taken them to act before someone they loved came out as gay, and by connecting to these thoughts and feelings, are implementing successful Straight for Equality programming. The first Rocky Mountain Regional Straight for Equality Award was given to Jean Dubofsky for her outstanding work as a straight ally on behalf of the LGBT community. She litigated Colorado’s Amendment 2 case in 1996 in the US Supreme Court and successfully overturned the amendment. Amendment 2 was passed in 1992 and prohibited anti-discrimination policies for LGBT people in the state of Colorado, legalizing discrimination on the basis of sexuality and gender identity. Jean Dubofsky set a federal legal precedent against such discriminatory amendments and established the fact that LGBT people do indeed face discrimination. She has done so, so much for furthering equality and was very deserving of the award.

Mara Keisling followed this award ceremony by discussing the importance of intergenerational work (everything from safer schools to better equipped LGBT retirement homes) and what a difference PFLAG can make in this effort. She discussed wanting to drive to Colorado Springs and encourage the opposition to “say uncle already!” because we are so clearly winning the fight for equality! As we all left the conference venue that evening, after a lovely concert by Something About Lulu, there was a sense of purpose, that we really can inspire positive change in our world.

Sunday morning concluded with a sermon by Dr. Miguel De La Torre, entitled “Confessions of a Former Homophobe.” Dr. De La Torre was so candid about his feelings towards LGBT equality before he witnessed a gay friend struggling to change his sexual identity. He discussed his own studies that led him to a place of acceptance of his friend’s sexuality, and he has since authored several books as a straight ally on reconciling faith and spirituality. The closing panel was a talked about how one person can make a difference. Jean Hodges, Mara Keisling, Jody Huckaby, and Jessie Ulibarri, all stellar leaders in our movement, discussed this topic. Everyone told moving stories about how the most unlikely people can make the biggest impact, and how with a little bit of determination we can change the world.

The whole conference was such a success and encouraged all of us to be vocal about moving equality forward. Mara Keisling closed her Sunday morning panel presentation by saying, “Speak up, even when your voice shakes.” May well all have the boldness to stand up for the rights of our GLBT loved ones!

-Kim Jones

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