On a chilly Saturday morning hundreds of LGBTQ politicians, advocate, and representatives from all over the world discussed the future of those they represent. Here attendees of the 2016 International LGBT Leaders Conference—hosted by the Victory Institute—discussed issues of health care, discrimination in the workplace, social media, and more under President elect Donald Trump.
“Now more than ever it’s critical that we really empower and embolden our LGBT leaders to lead on behalf of all of the communities that are in the cross hairs of the Trump administration,” said Aisha Moodie-Mills, President and CEO of the Victory Institute. “This conference at this moment in time has been so critical because it is the first gathering of LGBT leaders since the election and we have used this as a real strategy session and call to action to figure out the steps of what we’re going to do next.”
I was not sure what to expect since I had never attended the conference. The crowd was relatively diverse, with people all over the LGBTQ and ethnic spectrum mingling and desperately searching for a phone signal. However, there was little diversity within the panels. Both the “Making the Case: The Business Community and the Fight for LGBT Non-discrimination Laws” and “LGBT Health Under a Trump Administration” panels were moderated by women and featured three or four white men.
Despite this lack of diversity, some good ideas were brought to the table. From the non-discrimination session, solutions such as motivating millennials to vote affect policy, with the goal of making forward changes. Another member suggested that the LGBTQ community speak with their money, only supporting companies who “do the right thing.”
The health session was decidedly less hopeful. Since no one knows what Present-elect Trump plans to do with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) once he is in office, this panel found it challenging to answer questions. Wayne Turner of the National Health Law Program (NHeLP) informed his audience of a pending litigation in Texas over a clause in section 1557 of the ACA. “The complaint is based on the belief that the section overreaches because it redefines gender identity and sex,” said Turner.
The closing reception was held at The Living Room DC, where an open bar and free food definitely brightened spirits. The final speeches were given by Senator Tammy Baldwin and Moodie-Mills, encouraging everyone to keep hope alive and fight the good fight towards equality.
“We have been here before. We’ve seen dark political days,” said Moodie- Mills referencing the loved ones lost to HIV/Aids in the 80s, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in the 90s, and bans on marriage equality voted into law in 2004. “We always come back on top. So I want people to remember that we have been here before and it’s because of our LGBT leaders who have rallied and literally led for our community and drove state and local solutions to continue to piece together and push forward LGBT rights that we enjoy the rights that we have today. This is just yet another setback. It feels like a breakdown it the system for us but it’s really a breakthrough opportunity. I think we’re going to seize this call to action and continue to drive equality forward.”