The Up and Coming LGBT Leaders Summit

This Wednesday was the LGBT Up and Coming Leaders dinner at the Vice President’s estate. I could write for hours and hours about the details, but let me sum it up with one word: Amazing! In a few more words, I’d like to share some highlights with my readers!

Early in the morning, I was part of a tour of the White House. It was really fascinating seeing the history and culture of America for myself; to walk through the rooms where diplomats and dignitaries met for almost two centuries. It was absolutely breathtaking. And I got one of those classic activist photos of me in front of the White House, as seen above.

Next, we were brought into one of the nearby offices where several prominent figures in DC politics and policy talked with us about the progress made for LGBT people in America. First, we talked with one of the most senior LGBT people in the President’s administration about the general direction of acceptance and our progress over the past few years. Then there were several presentations by a wide range of panelists, ranging from specialists in HIV/AIDS prevention/study, international LGBT rights, LGBT youth advocacy, and homelessness in the LGBT community. They let us ask the panelists a few questions, though the time was extremely limited. However, I was able to get up and I asked a woman from the Department of Health and Human Services about a subject very dear to me: what is being done to ensure resources that are supposed to help out struggling Americans are there for LGBT people? Specifically, I talked briefly about my experience of being turned away from a domestic violence shelter because I was transgender, and asked what was being done to educate these various groups and shelters of the needs of LGBT victims. Sadly, there wasn’t much to be said about what was being done, but it is definitely an avenue they wanted to pursue, and it became the main topic I talked about with others for the rest of the day.

We leaders were then given a few hours to meet with national LGBT leaders. I went with some others to a brown-bag lunch with the National Center for Transgender Equality and the Gay and Lesbian Task Force. We learned of some of the specific accomplishments of each group, as well as their immediate plans moving forward. More than anything else, this was our opportunity as driven young leaders to meet with the people who will one day pass the torch onto us. During this meeting and a few others I had over the next 24 hours, I was able to actually sit and work with the major movers and shakers in the LGBT community, which gave me a chance to plug in and lend my voice to the movement, and gave me a great deal of perspective on how I can further my activism moving forward. In addition to meeting with NCTE and the Task Force, I was able to meet one on one with people from some other major groups such as the Human Rights Campaign, Think Progress, and Campus Pride.

Later that night, I arrived at the Vice President’s estate, greeted by a huge motorcade of about 10 motorcycle cops and several limos. His estate was absolutely gorgeous, and huge. This was the best time to connect with the other leaders, and I made many new friends and contacts with some absolutely amazing people from across America. Vice President Biden and his wife Jill Biden came and greeted us and each gave a brief speech talking about how amazing it was for them to see so many young, energetic leaders . They took great strives to make it clear, this event was about us, the next generation of leaders in America. VP Biden told us an amazing story about how he believes the work of the LGBT community is critical for America, not just because we fight for the rights of queer people, but because we fight for the soul of America itself. If not for the LGBT movement making the straight community question it’s values, America as a whole would still consider beating/humiliating/killing queer people “alright.” Because of the work the queer community has done, the straight community has been enriched and is wiser, and we can move forward as a freer, better, and more enlightened society. I cannot even begin to express how amazing it was to have one of the most powerful people in the world look me in the eye and say “Thank you, your work has made America a better place.”

This event was an amazing opportunity to make connections, to further my work as an activist for the LGBT community, but even more so, it gave each and every one of the leaders gathered a chance to see the bigger picture; to see the fight that we as a people face, not just the fight that we people face. While the event is over, the friendships made and the message left will stay with all of us for a very long time. This was the first time the US Government has ever done something like this for the queer community, and I was incredibly honored to be there. If any of the coordinators of this event happen to read this post, I just want to say thank you publicly. Engaging young leaders in such a positive, productive way was absolutely amazing, a new way to pull talent into the larger movement, and I truly hope more events like these happen in the future.

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