Since 1988, LGBTQ activists around the country have gathered for the annual Creating Change conference, hosted by the National LGBTQ Task Force. This year, on the 30th anniversary of the conference, more than 3000 people met in Washington, D.C. for five days of meetings, workshops, plenaries and social gatherings focused on the needs of the LGBTQ community. For many, Creating Change is a place to find community, to be surrounded by like-minded people and to socialize and organize. Strategies for resisting the Trump Administration’s overall anti-LGBTQ agenda was a theme throughout, with  emphasis on LGBTQ discrimination, the renewed push around religious freedom, and attacks facing the immigrant community and transgender people.

We interviewed ten queer and trans activists of color attending the conference to learn what their priorities are in this political time.

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    Photograph: Miriam Zoila Pérez

    Alicia Sanchez Gill, YWCA-USA

    What is one pressing issue facing queer and trans people of color today?

    There are so many, from housing to gendered violence to HIV and AIDs. But I certainly think that housing for all of us is a human right and a core part of our health and safety needs.

    If you could send a message to people in power, what would you say?

    Give us our power or we’re taking it—particularly young queer and trans people of color.

    What’s giving you hope right now?

    Watching folks—especially young folks of color—organize in big and small ways. And the ways we show up and take care of each other. We are being incredibly loving and trauma informed and that’s really giving me hope for the world we could have.

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    Photograph: Miriam Zoila Pérez

    Jessica González-Rojas, Executive Director, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health

    What is one pressing issue facing queer and trans people of color today?

    [In] the Latinx community, many are undocumented, many are facing uncertain immigration statuses and futures. We really need to uplift and center those most marginalized and those most impacted by these policies. Immigration, trans inclusion, access to health care, safety, access to basic services—it’s all at risk right now.

    If you had one message for the people in power, what would it be?

    We are coming for you. We’re not letting up. The resistance didn’t start with Trump, it started with years and years of organizing in communities of color, with immigrant populations, with women of color, with trans communities. We’re going to keep fighting until we achieve social justice and human rights in this country.

    What gives you hope right now?

    Being in places like Creating Change and seeing the activism and the fierceness and power. I’ve been at the Latinx Institute for years and it started out small and now we’re spilling out of a giant room. That gives me hope.

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    Photograph: Miriam Zoila Pérez

    Sunu Chandy, Legal Director, National Women’s Law Center

    What is one pressing issue facing queer and trans people of color today?

    Just focus on who is not in this room. Sometimes you go someplace and the voice of racial justice is missing and you have to speak up. Or it’s about immigrants, or language access, or disability justice. It can mean about being that voice, even though it’s hard.

    If you could send a message to people in power, what would you say?

    The piece that is really breaking my heart is this focus on pitting religion against the rights of women and queer people. As the daughter of a minister, as a Unitarian, as a Buddhist, as a Christian, I do not believe any of these religions says that we should act out of fear and hate. I want to reclaim religion and spirituality for the love that it requires.

    What’s giving you hope?

    The poets and the musicians. At the plenary session, I heard [Minneapolis city councilmember Andrea Jenkins] say, ‘As a poet, when there is a mic, it’s my duty to perform a poem.’ That’s my kind of councilperson! The social justice poets give me hope in these times.

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    Photograph: Miriam Zoila Pérez

    Salem Acuña, Mijente

    What is one pressing issue facing queer and trans people of color today?

    I think it’s the similar issues that we’ve been dealing with for a long time. Issues of criminalization, policing, rampant racism, poverty and incarceration. The things that impact the most marginalized folks in our communities. 

    If you could send a message to people in power, what would you say?

    There are the folks in power like the folks in the White House—and they can just fuck off. Then there are the folks in power in institutions that are supposed to serve us. What I’d say to them is that they need to listen and pay attention and sometimes get out of the way.

    What’s giving you hope right now?

    Everyone who despite this hard last year is seeking joy, and trying to find resilience and guidance from people around them who also care about having joy and building power.

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    Photograph: Miriam Zoila Pérez

    Leti Gomez, Activist

    What is one pressing issue facing queer and trans people of color today?


    The biggest issue right now is immigration, especially the situation with the Dreamers and with everyone who is under Temporary Protective Status.

    If you could send a message to people in power, what would you say?

    You cannot stop this movement. You cannot stop the youth and the people who are allied with the youth. These are the future leaders of the United States of America, we have to invest in them, we have to support them, whether you like it or not.

    What’s giving you hope right now?


    The power and the voices of the youth that I’ve heard during the whole Dreamer/DACA movement.

     

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    Photograph: Miriam Zoila Pérez

    Victoria Rodriguez-Roldan, Trans/Gender Non-Conforming Justice Project Director, National LGBTQ Task Force

    What is one pressing issue facing queer and trans people of color today?

    Making sure that our movement is progressive enough to keep [being inclusive] now that we are under attack. [To make sure] that the lives of those who are lower income, people of color, trans and non-binary and people with disabilities are centered.

    If you could send a message to people in power, what would you say?

    For all the stuff we have dealt with, all the attacks we have dealt with, we are still here as a community, as people, and it’s going to take a lot more than a bad adminstration or all the forces of bigotry to get rid of us.

    What’s giving you hope right now?

    It’s seeing all the amazing activists that are in spaces like Creating Change, and that instead of giving up, they are still motivated to keep working as agents of change.

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    Photograph: Miriam Zoila Pérez

    Cedric Lawson, Civil Rights Activist

    What is one pressing issue facing queer and trans people of color today?


    I think that the ability to come together beyond our differences is the best way we can really thwart the assaults by the Trump regime. There are so many issues, I can’t name just one. We have to come together across different races and genders.

    If you could send a message to people in power, what would you say?


    To listen and to stand up. The communities who voted you in, that you depend on voting you into power, need you to stand up for us as we seek improvements in our lives.

    What gives you hope right now?

    Seeing people come together in smaller communities to affect big change that ripples across the country. Whether that be Black women voters in Virginia or Alabama, or trans communities standing up and being visible and supporting their family to run for office and to win, or the courts stopping a number of really awful executive orders, seeing the courage of ordinary people every day—that’s what gives me hope.
     

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    Photograph: Miriam Zoila Pérez

    Lisbeth Melendez Rivera, Latinx Activist

    What is one pressing issue facing queer and trans people of color today?


    This absolute total sense of anti-Blackness in our movement.

    If you could send a message to people in power, what would you say?


    Go get your own, leave us alone, don’t get in our way because you’ll get run over.

    What’s giving you hope right now?


    I think there is an amazing group of young people leading this country in a different way. Everytime I enter into spaces like Creating Change I see a glimmer of hope. That memory alone gives me inspiration in the mornings.

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    Photograph: Miriam Zoila Pérez

    Iimay Ho, Executive Director, Resource Generation

    What is one pressing issue facing queer and trans people of color today?

    The tax on our healthcare system and dismantling our social safety nets really deeply impact queer people of color. Because of racism and homophobia we are disproportionately low-income and really need access to this care to survive and thrive.

    If you could send a message to people in power, what would you say?

    We have the solutions for the problems facing our communities, so get behind us or get out of the way. 

    What’s giving you hope right now?

    Joy, connection, music and laughter with my community.

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    Photograph: Miriam Zoila Pérez

    Dr. Monica Motley, CEO and Founder of The Motley Consulting Group, Activist  

    What is one pressing issue facing queer and trans people of color today?


    Being someone that’s from a small rural area, a lot of the times the resources [LGBT centers, health care providers, social centers, trainings] come so slowly to our area. How do we make sure we don’t forget about folks like us? Often times we have to travel hours to find a place to go.

    If you could send a message to people in power, what would you say?


    Don’t ever try to convince yourself that you’re not the one who needs self work.

    What’s giving you hope right now?


    I’ve met so many amazing youth from middle school and high school that are fearless. The adults are the ones that are passing on fear. The youth are ready to stand up, to speak up.