The power of our LGBTQ+ community was on full display as HRC held its Equality Convention and National Dinner Weekend.
Convening bold, dynamic and powerful voices in a pivotal time for our LGBTQ+ community, a range of events throughout the weekend demonstrated the power of HRC and the LGBTQ+ community.
On Friday, Oct. 13, Delaware state Sen. Sarah McBride challenged the crowd to consider the story of this moment as a period of opportunity for progress and pride. “It will be the story of us coming out, conquering our crisis of hope, finding that light, and building a world where LGBTQ young people — including trans kids — can grow up and know that they belong,” said McBride. “They belong in our communities, they belong in our schools, they belong in our workplaces and, yes, they even belong in the halls of Congress.”
McBride was joined onstage by fellow political powerhouses Andrea Jenkins, Minneapolis city council president and a member of the HRC Foundation Board of Directors; Zooey Zephyr, Montana state representative; Machaela Cavanaugh, Nebraska state senator; Mauree Turner, Oklahoma state representative; Briana Titone, Colorado state representative; and Lorena Austin, Arizona state representative.
At the convention, HRC President Kelley Robinson moderated a panel of progressive BIPOC women leading nonprofit organizations, speaking about building power across coalitions, the potential government shutdown and how leaders lead in this moment of urgency. Maya Wiley, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; Angela Ferrell-Zabala, executive director of Moms Demand Action; and Mini Timmaraju, president and CEO of Reproductive Freedom for All, joined Kelley on stage.
“As I was growing up as a young activist and I went to college, I remember first seeing the iconic HRC logo …. This is an iconic brand. You are an iconic group of people and activists and movement leaders in this room,” said Timmaraju. “You are fueling an organization that has so profoundly shifted the perception and the rights of LGBTQ+ people in this country. It’s an honor to be here with you and I’m just moved that Kelley is your president.”
A few hours later, on Saturday, Oct. 14, we shifted gears to the HRC National Dinner — an event that affords us the opportunity to bask in the beauty of what it means to be queer, but also to clearly communicate to our community, and the world, how we must intentionally show up for the year ahead of us.
Speakers throughout the night talked about how even as we celebrated, we were resolute in pushing for liberation for every single member of our community — without exception.
“Our fight for equality shouldn’t require uniformity. My vision of equality inspires creativity. My equality embraces our diversity as our greatest strength. In this next chapter, we can’t settle for policies that simply add queer folks into the systems that exist and stir. We need to disrupt the systems that don’t work for us, and design ones that do. In this next chapter, we are fighting for freedom without exception. We are fighting for liberation without exception. We are fighting for joy — somebody say joy — without exception. That is the work of democracy.”
Dr. Jill Biden, the first lady, introduced her husband, President Joe Biden, saying “While we celebrate this beautiful community tonight, let’s also remember how lucky we are and harden our resolve to advocate for those who are not. We look forward to a time when all people in all places can feel the freedom and joy that we feel here tonight. But until then, we will fight.”
President Biden told attendees that he was inspired by their courage, hope and pride, and thanked them for defending equal rights and dignity of all people.
“I want all LGBTQ Americans to know the Biden-Harris Administration has your back,” said President Joe Biden. “I’m never going to stand by and watch families terrorized, doctors and nurses criminalized, or any child targeted for who they are. It’s who they are. And our entire administration will always stand with you against hate. Together, we’ll make even more progress.”
Then four young changemakers took the stage shortly thereafter and nearly brought the house down. The organizers of the Trans Youth Prom, Hobbes Chukumba, Grayson McFerrin, Libby Gonzales and Daniel Trujillo, received special recognition at the National Dinner for their roles as undeniable forces for transgender justice in their communities and on the national stage.
“For all the trans folks out there watching and worrying about what’s ahead: Never let them take your pride,” said Trujillo. “Never let them steal your joy, because despair isn’t going to get us free. But defiance — specifically joyful defiance — that is our path to a better tomorrow.”
Entertainment icons Shonda Rhimes, Lena Waithe and Matt Bomer were honored for their prolific work in LGBTQ+ advocacy.
“We need to stop being allies in theory. We need to be allies out loud. We need to be practicing allies. If I say an ally is who I am, then it should also be how I live,” said Rhimes, upon receiving the National Equality Award. “So, you don’t climb a ladder without bringing someone else with you.”
“I also want to challenge us to open our eyes and our hearts and understand that we still have so much work to do,” said Waithe, upon accepting the Visibility Award. “Our children’s future will be determined by how we act today. We are told to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Well I believe that the way we love our neighbors is a reflection of the way we love ourselves.”
And Bomer, who received the Impact Award, told the audience, “The narrative in our industry at the time was ‘Yes, you should compartmentalize your life if you want to succeed.’ But eventually I realized I couldn’t be truly happy unless I told the world who I am fully. I dedicate this award to all those fighting back. We change hearts and minds by continually being who we are and by doing what we do better than anyone else: showing up.”
These were just a few of the standout moments of an incredible weekend. View videos and photos from the event at hrcnationaldinner.org, and don't forget to reserve tickets for next year's HRC National Dinner!