Chicago hosts 'Creating Change' queer conference this week

Mon. January 18, 2016 2:33 PM by Anthony Morgano

Queer activists will gather at the Hilton Chicago for the National LGBTQ Task Force’s 28th annual conference

Chicago, IL - Thousands of queers are prepared to descend on Chicago for the National LGBTQ Task Force's 28th annual Creating Change conference from Wednesday, January 20 through Sunday the 24. For those five days, Chicago plays host to the largest gathering of leaders, activists and organizers in the LGBTQ community, all gathered to grow, connect and learn with the goal of building the LGBTQ rights and liberation movement from the ground up.

Beginning in 1988 with just 300 attendees, Creating Change has grown into "the pre-eminent political, leadership and skills-building conference for the LGBTQ social justice movement" and helped inspire 50,000 burgeoning community leaders.

"We've been wanting to come [to Chicago] for a long time and finally the stars aligned," Russell Roybal, the Task Force's Executive Deputy Director, told "Creating Change really has something for everyone and I always say it's like 360 degrees of the LGBTQ community... It is the most diverse space in the GLBTQ movement --I like to characterize it as the movement's town square and family reunion. There's nothing else like it -- there's truly something to experience and take advantage of when it's happening in your own community."

"Whenever you have 4000 queers in one place, it's bound to be a good time!" he added.

The conference's schedule, which is available for viewing at, consists of a combination of 90 minute workshops, day long institutes, trainings, receptions, plenary receptions and more, with lots of fun activities sprinkled throughout. Roybal expects this year's Creating Change, hosted at the Hilton Chicago at 720 South Michigan Avenue, to be the largest in the conference's history, with participants both looking back at the movement's recent accomplishments and forward to where it still has to go.

"There will be a moment to reflect and celebrate on all we've accomplished over the last year, including the decision by the Supreme Court to make gay marriage the law of the land," Roybal said. "But as we saw in Houston in November, our rights are still being put up for a popular vote. It's important to recognize a win like marriage, but part of our message is that there's a lot more work to do and we should all roll up our sleeves and get back to it -- not to mention protect what we won."

These issues include everything from empowering LGBTQ folks in a diverse array of communities, youth homelessness, the inclusion of trans* folks and their rights, immigration and more. This year's first plenary -- or general -- reception focus on Black Feminism and the Black Lives Matter movement. Saturday's plenary addresses the gap in HIV/AIDS care amongst black and brown gay and bisexual men and the closing brunch on Sunday features Chicago's own Youth Empowerment Performance Project closing out the conference.

The 90 minute workshops, day long institutes ("which really allow folks to get into the meat of the issue," Roybal says) and Leadership Academy trainings address a range of other important issues facing the LGBTQ community today. These range from "Bi+: Self-Care and Intersecting Identities" and "From Stonewall to Stop and Frisk: Policing and criminalization of LGBTQ communities" to "How to Engage Your Local Community to Take Political Action" and "How to Effectively Serve Young People Experiencing Homelessness."

These sessions are put together by a variety of organizers and activists -- some are part of the Task Force staff, but a vast majority of them are their grassroots partners. These folks are leaders in their own communities, doing the very work for local organizations everyday that Creating Change is all about.

"There's an interesting mix of people and ideas and conversation to be had," Roybal said. "Some of the best things that happen at the conference happen in hallways, or at the bar or in restaurants where people connect. What I remember about my first conference is that for the first time I felt not alone in the work I wanted to do and saw that there were people from all over the country doing the same thing that I could talk to and learn from, that I could call on for support. It was a very transformational experience for me."

Chicagoans who are interested in participating can do so in two ways. Online registration has passed, so anyone wanting to attend can register in-person at the registration table, located in the lobby of the Hilton Chicago. The Task Force is also looking for Creating Change volunteers -- 500 in all! In exchange for every four hour work session, volunteers will be allowed to attend the rest of the day's programming for free.

Either way, don't miss your chance to be part of this big, queer tradition happening right here in Chicago this week.

"I have been coming to the conference both as a participant and now as a staff member since 1995...this is the thing I look forward to every year," Roybal said. "To me it doesn't matter who's speaking or what's on the program, it's about getting together with all of these other amazing activists doing important work in their community and it's a shot in the arm to continue to do work and press forward for the liberation of LGBTQ people."

For more information, check out