Creating Change Co-Chair Q&A: Lilianna Reyes

Jason A. Michael
By | 2018-12-28T15:57:42-04:00 December 28th, 2018|Michigan, News|

Creating Change will be held at the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center from Jan. 23 through 27 in 2019. More information its included events, speakers and programs can be found online at creatingchange.org.

Creating Change is an annual LGBTQ conference put on by the National LGBTQ Task Force. Hosting hundreds of workshops, caucus sessions, keynote speakers and more, the more than 30-year-old event tours across the U.S., every year choosing a city in which to showcase the LGBTQ community’s local and national community. This year, Creating Change 2019 is coming to Detroit in January. In advance of the event, BTL has reached out to interview four local co-chairs who are involved in putting on this Detroit-specific event. This interview is part of that series.
Lilianna Reyes is the former interim executive director of Affirmations and is currently serving as Ruth Ellis Center’s Second Stories director. She is a proud transgender Latina woman and a public administration graduate of the University of Michigan’s Rackham Graduate School. Reyes has worked with many state and national civil rights organizations including Planned Parenthood, the Detroit Police Chief’s LGBT Advisory Council, Transgender Michigan and others. In 2017 Reyes was recognized by USA Today as a leader in their Faces of Pride report. Reyes also serves as co-executive director of the Trans Sistas of Color Project – Detroit.

What does Creating Change mean to you?
Creating Change, for me, feels like a family reunion. A space with many attached within it that feels safe and reconnecting. It’s a means to continue family togetherness and advocacy beyond borders. I have made what I feel will be lifetime friendships with people and we usually come into connection again at Creating Change every year. It’s a safe place that I feel fully welcomed and engaged with my advocacy. Creating change is the first conference that really allows me to bring myself in my entirety. That’s a beautiful space.

What are you doing to create change in your own life?
I live every day authentically and unapologetically. Living as a trans woman of color openly and even in the public eye can be scary due to the high violence against people like me. Showing others that living in your truth can save your life is me creating change.
I also believe my leadership in two separate organizations show that I’m making changes personally and professionally. I work to bridge communities so that we can all work together to minimize discrimination.

What made you feel you had to be a co-chair?
I knew a trans women of color needed to be. I didn’t think it would be me, but when I was asked I couldn’t turn it down. When they chatted with me I was weary because of my schedule. But my dynamic fused with the other co-chairs worked perfectly.

What are you most looking forward to about Creating Change 2019?
I am looking forward to seeing the Detroit and Michigan communities welcome others into our space. I think it’ll be beautiful to see so many national and international community members coming into Detroit to work on building better and inclusive spaces is very exciting.

 What is your take on Gay Rights in the Era of #45? Where are we as a community and where do we need to be?
I think for some communities, we’ve seen things like this before. But, now, people who have had more privilege are seeing them flee. There’s a bittersweet nature of seeing them realize how hard it can get but also not wanting anyone to feel that. We need to focus on the most marginalized so that everybody reaps the benefits. We need to be working together but understanding our own power, privilege and oppression. Without it, we’re doing nothing but create more trauma and distance.

About the Author:

Jason A. Michael
Jason A. Michael earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Wayne State University before joining Between The Lines as a contributing writer in 1999. Jason has received both the Spirit of Detroit Award (presented by the Detroit City Council) and the Media Award from the Community Pride Banquet & Awards Ceremony for his writing and activism. Jason is also an Essence magazine bestselling author having written the authorized biography "Strength Of A Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story," which he released on his own JAM Books imprint.