The 24th National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change took place in Baltimore, Maryland, January 25–29. With more than 2,700 people present from all over the United States, this five-day program featured over 350 workshops and training sessions, as well as plenary sessions, dances and networking opportunities.
We also had the most visible bi presence to date. The conference program included a statement on Bisexual/Pansexual/ Fluid Etiquette. We had a full-day Bi/Pan/Fluid Organizing Institute that drew 46 activists from 17 states, the District of Columbia and Canada.
In addition to the institute, we had a Bi/Pan/Fluid hospitality suite that was open throughout the conference and served as safe space for all who identify outside the confines of cis-, hetero- and homo-normativity. Organized by a small team of amazing volunteers, the suite also provided meals for low-income folks across our spectrum.
Bi-focused workshops at the conference included: Bi Compared to Mono: What We Can Do About Bisexual Health Disparities (Amy Andre); Understanding Bisexuality (Robyn Ochs & Paul Nocera); Beyond Binaries: Identity, Sexuality and Movement Building (Robyn Ochs); Make the Invisible Visible: How Your Group Can Become Bi Inclusive (Ellyn Ruthstrom) and a well-attended Bi/Pan/Fluid Caucus, brilliantly facilitated by Ellyn.
Here’s one participant’s take away from the Conference:
Creating Change One Letter at a Time
By Bridget Siegel
Creating a community that never in my life did I expect that I needed or even wanted to create.
Reaching out to people who have reshaped my outlook on life, especially being a part of the Bi/Pan/ Fluid institute on Thursday, and feeling my life change without even having to open up my mouth. There is so much I could say about how wonderful this Institute was: It changed me and how much I accept myself and others. I was able to hear stories, and find strength in the entire community. It was an honor to be able to feel so comfortable with a group of strangers who are now my friends.
Experiencing and learning new things, like what it truly means to fall outside of a binary, and embracing them as a valid part of my identity.
Accepting myself and others for exactly who they are, and who they want to be.
Three thousand people, from different walks of life, all with one purpose: to change the word and make it a better place.
Intertwining our lives at the bi/pan/fluid institute by making a web of yarn to show how much we learned from each other and just how much we care.
Never feeling the need to walk out of the room because there was so much love and acceptance everywhere.
Going to workshops on the intersection of faith and sexuality, and learning strategies for making my campus more LGBT friendly. By Bridget Siegel
Capitalizing on my time and taking every moment to do something I wanted to do, not what I thought people from home wanted me to do.
Happiness coming from everyone.
Always saying “Yes, I will go do something with you!” because whatever new experience that brought was bound to be good and exciting. Advance planning was never really in the cards for me at Creating Change. I preferred the thrill of walking into a room and learning about something new.
Noticing the things going on around me, and taking them in. Being able to have amazing conversations with people, that lead to being a part of communities I hadn’t known existed!
Gorging on cake, because it was always a dream of mine to eat a piece of cake from Charm City Cakes!
Engaging in conversations that have opened my eyes and showed me that be both a Rabbi and an activist at the same time, fighting for the same cause and same rights that I have longed to fight for since I jumped out of the closet.
Bridget is 20 years old and attends the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida.
Featured image: Chiquita Violette, Paul Nocera, Robyn Ochs, Amy Andre & Ellyn Ruthstrom, this year’s Bi Institute faculty