For over 30 years, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) has played a crucial role in the struggle for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality. For nearly two decades, the task force has sponsored the Creating Change Conference, held in various cities throughout the United States.

The 17th Annual NGLTF Creating Change Conference was held in St. Louis, Nov. 10–14, ending one of the most challenging years of the equality struggle. Recovering from the disappointments of Nov. 2 and revitalizing the movement’s leadership were consistent themes at the conference, where 2,000 activists, leaders and organizers gathered, participating in over 150 sessions that included training, workshops and panel discussions.

Speakers at the conference included Dr. Mary Frances Berry, founding board member of the Woodhull Freedom Foundation; Keith Boykin, president of the National Black Justice Coalition; Amber Hollibaugh, director of education, advocacy and community building at Senior Action in a Gay Environment; Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality; Clarence Patton, acting executive director of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs; and St. Louis alderman and activist Terry Kennedy, who gave the opening remarks.

This has been a very difficult year for all who value equality, freedom and the acceptance and recognition of diversity. With the re-election of Bush, Republican control in Congress and 13 states passing legislation banning same-sex marriages, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community faces new and difficult challenges in the years ahead.

NGLTF Executive Director Matt Foreman called Nov. 2 “an atomic wake up call.” He said, “The number one priority of our movement must be to support, nurture, embrace and build our state and local grassroots infrastructure.” Foreman called for a community-wide discussion and the renewal of commitment to racial and economic equality, a woman’s right to choose, the end to a society that demands gender conformity and the recognition and legal protection for all families.

In meeting rooms across the country, LGBT leaders and activists are gathering to mount an even greater and more committed campaign in the movement for equality and the recognition of diversity with a sense of hope and vision for the future.

Barbara Woodruff is a member of She Me Equality, St. Louis chapter.