I had the honor and privilege to attend this years 22nd annual Creating Change conference in Dallas, Texas. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) succeeded, for the 22nd time, in putting on an amazing conference designed to help educate and network those who fight for lgbt equality across the nation.
While there were many panels, sessions and academies on a wide range of topics like race relations, gender identity, organizational building, lobbyist training and fundraising… My dance card was full of sessions on social media and network building. Go figure, lol.
GLAAD put on an all day event on the subject, The New Media Training Institute. It was split between two rooms… the beginner and the advanced. I noticed, as I thought it would be, most of the people attending were on the beginner side. Honestly, there were people in the advanced side that should have been over in the other room… Just sayin’… If you don’t know how to create a Facebook fan page… You are NOT advanced. (I’ll give a full review of the NMTI and the Social Media sessions later)
I sat next to my buddy Mila from Trans-Ponder. We talked about twitter, our blogs and dug up dirt on one of the presenters…(PS if you are there to give your advice on the benefits of incorporating a platform for something like… oh I don’t know…. SMS texts… into your social media campaign… Please don’t just hawk your system and talk bad about other solutions) As we were chatting and learning (?) I asked if she would be going to the Blogger Tweetup that Friday. By the look on her face you would have thought I had just pissed in her juice! “That’s hosted by Bilerico… No! I can’t stand him…”
I couldn’t believe my big ears… “What? Why?”
With out going into the back and forth too much, it’s like this:
Awhile back, a Contributor on the Bilerico Project did a series of articles focusing on each segment of the movement… but didn’t do one on the Transgender community. When asked about it in the comments… The Contributor said some really awful and transphobic things. I mean really fraking awful. So bad and disgusting even I wont repeat them! This started a bloody and vicious battle between the Bilerico Project team and the Transgender community.
Throughout this exchange there were many serious death threats sent to the editors and contributors. Bil Browning, the founder of Bilerico, was singled out for attack. He received threats against his life and family. All the while people on both sides would throw hateful comments about the other… a never ending cycle of mistrust and hatred was forming.
What people out side of Bilerico seemed to forget is… Bilerico is a team blog and sometimes things get through that maybe shouldn’t. One thing I learned during this, was that the original contributor of the feud was a long time transphobic. No one knew that at the time.
Anyways, I tried to convince Mila that Bil, a long time friend, was not Transphobic. That he reacted in a way that he thought was best for dialog. Yes he kept everything up… so that people could talk about it and learn that this type of hate is out there. Not to spread the transphobic message. But Bil has always been an ally to the Transgender community… He fought for an all inclusive human rights bill in Indiana. He was the lone voice for this bill, every one else wanted to drop gender identity protections for a “smoother” passage. Bil fought for the inclusive version and WON!
Mila still said no. I could understand… If I was in her shoes I wouldn’t want to go to an event hosted by some one who I thought truly hated me. But I knew in my heart that Bil and Mila could resolve this.
Friday night came… I met up with Bil and a few other bloggers. After getting my $5 drink ticket for my half a can of soda (I am still pissed about that by the way) I saw Mila walk in to the room. She came with another Transgender community leader. Before long Mila and Bil were face to face…
They had a some what heated exchange… They shared how each of them was personally hurt by this and how it has built fear and mistrust on both sides. They talked about the things that each of them had done both the rights and the wrongs. How it could have been handled different and ways to move forward…. together. By the end of the talk, both could see eye to eye. They had respect for each other and had found a common ground to start a foundation on. They parted not with the exchanging of cards or a handshake… but with a hug.
So, what did I learn from 22nd Creating Change? That though we have found many ways to divide and separate our selves… That our enemies have driven wedges between us…. That we are all still hurting. When we are ready… all it will take to heal is honesty and a willingness to see and hear each other respectfully.