By Dawn Wolfe
FERNDALE – Affirmations Lesbian & Gay Community Center’s Program Director Michael Larson and Executive Director Leslie Thompson are among the Michigan LGBT community leaders who will be attending the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s Creating Change Conference in St. Louis this month. “Creating Change” is a gathering of LGBT and allied activists, advocates and community leaders who come together to network, share ideas, and learn strategies to further the causes of service to and advocacy for the community.
The event is such a valuable opportunity for the LGBT community nationwide that the Triangle Foundation is sending 34 people, according to Director of Policy Sean Kosofsky.
“We’re probably the biggest group in the nation going,” he continued.
Triangle is sending such a large group because, according to Kosofsky, “The opportunities that are available are incredible for networking, learning new skills, gathering resources – and especially supporting Missouri after they’ve been through such a horrible ballot proposal – and to have those resources come back to Michigan.”
The conference, which will be held Nov. 10-14, offers a large variety of workshop categories including “Sexual Politics,” “Spirituality & Faith,” “Transgender Issues” and “Bisexuality.” At least one, and frequently several, workshops are available in each of the categories.
“Leslie and I don’t go to the same workshops, that way we can bring those resources back and share them with everyone else,” said Larson.
Plenary speakers for the event include community leaders Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, NGLTF Executive Director Matt Foreman, and Mara Keisling, the founding Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.
Larson and Thompson find one workshop of particular use to their work for Affirmations.
“One of the most important things for us,” Larson said, “is that there is an all day workshop for all of the community centers throughout the country.”
At last year’s conference in Miami, “We spent the whole day with folks from all of the various community centers, and it was cool to see the diversity among the different community centers in size and how long they were established.”
“It gives us the chance to talk about all aspects of running a community center,” Larson continued.
In fact, perhaps the most important gift participants receive from attending “Creating Change” is the chance to learn from the successes – and the mistakes – of their colleagues.
“Sometimes we think we have to reinvent the wheel, and we don’t,” said Larson.