I am at Netroots Nation today, the annual political convention for American progressive political activists. The convention actually starts tomorrow, but today Netroots Nation hosts the LGBT Connect program, the brainchild of Mike Rogers, a seasoned political activist, managing director of Raw Story, the investigative powerhouse, and a Bilerico colleague.
Netroots was originally organized by readers and writers of Daily Kos, and this is the 7th annual convention. Its mission is to implement programs that teach and empower Netroots communities to effect change in the public sphere. My first one was in Las Vegas, which prompted my Hunter S. Thompson-esque post "4 AM In Vegas."
Stuff does happen here. In 2010, Majority Leader Senator Harry Reid accepted Dan Choi's West Point Ring as a pledge for ending Don't Ask Don't Tell. That actually happened, and then Don't Ask Don't Tell was repealed. Well, GetEqual had to chain Dan and several others to the White House fence, twice, but it did happen. And last year Joe Sudbay hosted a panel on marriage, where the President's 'tude was discussed, and then Joe's #evolvealready twitter meme happened, and President Obama evolved. What will happen this year?
This is my third year at Netroots, thanks to Mike. I have come to look forward to this conference every year to meet online friends and make new connections with the people who activate our progressive politics in this country. I've already met one new person last night, by chance at dinner. I learned something about Funders For LGBTQ Issues, an organization new to me, but which recently celebrated 30 years of mobilizing philanthropic resources for the LGBTQ community, as well as the Johnson Family Foundation, an important philanthropic organization, which has awarded more than $7.8 million in grants through its LGBT program since its inception in the areas of youth, mental health and movement building.
Today, we're learning more about each other, making connections, and hearing about the different outlooks and viewpoints about how to blog. So far, about 30 people have spoken, many of them well known bloggers and activists, and the insight into the simple concept of "blogging" is really useful. I learned from Alvin McEwen, for example, that he analyzes the things anti-gay people say and looks for opportunities for "truth telling," places where they a not telling the whole truth or making something up out of whole cloth, which makes for pretty interesting reading. Joe Jervis says that one key to his success is an unmoderated comment field, in which he liberally participates to question racist, classist or transphobic statements.
One note: Netroots Nation is having its first trans-themed panel ever this year, among its list of 70 or so sessions. It is Friday at 10:30 am Eastern Time, and you can watch it here on Bilerico, or hear it on Sirius XM Left. The title of the panel is "Blogging for Transgender Equality: History, Challenges & Progress," with myself as moderator, and panelists Jennifer Levi of GLAD, Monica Roberts of TransGriot, Jos Truitt of Feministing and Autumn Sandeen of Pam's House Blend.
Here is the description of the panel:
Transgender advocacy has exploded in recent years. Online organizing has been crucial to creating a visible transgender community. It's also been crucial to creating offline change on the ground. One example is the outcry against the 2007 stripping of gender identity protections from the federal Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA), which was reversed in 2009, demonstrating this community's online power.
The panel will talk about the role of online activism in securing a place at the table for the transgender community, despite the prejudices, and how trans bloggers and activists translated their online efforts into offline political and policy results, despite the political forces in opposition. We will also explain why political allies should connect with trans issues in their blogging and activism.
Presenters will share examples of the powerful role this online community plays in moving progressive rights forward, while also examining what is missing from the conversation.
More about that panel in my post on Friday.