Creating Change

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The “Creating Change Conference” took place on January 25th to 29th in Baltimore, Md.

I, along with roughly 3,000 other LGBT activists gathered to receive training, hear about the state of the movement, and attend peer-led workshops. The attendance of the conference was incredibly diverse, with all spectrums of the community and every demographic being represented.

Most pleasurable about this conference was meeting my counterparts in other parts of the country to compare notes on the challenges and opportunities of running a gay and lesbian community center. It’s also enlightening in that the event seemed to collectively motivate all of the attendees to help advance the LGBT movement.

Compass CEO Tony Plakas and our Communications Director were my conference buddies during this jaunt, and we made sure that Compass had a voice on the national stage.

One of the most moving parts of the conference was an open forum on the state of gay rights throughout the world. The panel consisted of LGBT rights activists from Uganda, Malaysia, and Guyana. The activists shared their experiences of fighting for equal rights in countries that criminalize homosexuality and whose citizens face certain danger for expressing themselves.

Right now, the Ugandan parliament is considering a bill that would impose the death penalty for homosexuals. Hearing Ugandan activist Val Kalende speak about the intimidation and violence that occurs just for standing up to make her voice heard was really difficult in that they don’t even have the most basic rights of recognition in their country.

We also had a visit from NAACP President Benjamin Jealous who lent his support to our cause. He stated that both of our movements run parallel and we should embrace each other in the proverbial trenches. United States Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan was also on hand to recommit his support for equal housing. He stated that the federal government had a vested interest in seeing that all persons are free of discrimination and committed his office to achieving this goal.

The conference was amazing. We were able to talk to people all over the country and get a bird’s eye view on local issues from facing all parts of the globe. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and am thrilled that I was able to represent Compass.

Julia Murphy is the Program Development Director at Compass Community Center. She can be reached at