Pandemic-related challenges continue to abound for LGBTQ organizations and cancellations of in-person gatherings once again have become the norm. The National LGBTQ Task Force’s annual Creating Change conference, which was scheduled for this weekend in New Orleans, has been postponed for a virtual conference to be held later in the year.

The annual gathering of LGBTQ activists, advocates and organizations – often seen as a rallying point around key issues facing the community, started in 1988, one year after the Second National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. It is the largest LGBTQ conference in the country.

“We know that Creating Change is a unique and empowering experience for our community and everyone who attends brings so much love and passion to the conference but our responsibility first and foremost is caring for each other,” said Kierra Johnson, executive director of the Task Force, in a press statement.

Other major events like the Queer History South conference, which was slated for February 18-20 in Dallas are also being pushed out based on the Omicron variant. “Out of an abundance of caution, and in consideration of health and safety of our attendees, our Queer History South conference has moved to September 30-October 2, 2022,” according to planning committee co-chair Robert Emery. The event will now aptly kick off National LGBTQ History Month that takes place each October.

Early expectations in Spring 2021 were that the COVID-19 pandemic would have subsided and we’d be back to normal by now. But new variants, like Delta and Omicron, have proven to be more contagious and the quick spread has brought new uncertainties.

The Movement Advancement Project, or MAP, has released quarterly reports since September 2020 demonstrating the impact of COVID-19 on organizations providing services and support to LGBTQI people. According to the latest data, released in December, organizations continue to delay or cancel key programmatic and operational goals. “Nearly all (44 out of 50) participating organizations reported clear and challenging impacts from the resurgence of COVID-19 and the emergence of the Delta variant,” read the report.

Despite in-person cancellations, some major projects for the queer community are launching, or continuing to grow, in 2022. Below are a few that caught our attention.

Growing up Queer in the South

Kicking off the list is news from the Greenville Art Museum (the one in Greenville, N.C.) of a new exhibition showcasing artwork that is centered on experiences of growing up LGBTQ in the South. Applications for artists are currently open to “queer individuals who are 18 years or older, and who have spent part of their lives or can identify with ‘growing up’ in the American South.”

The juried exhibition is slated for June 3 – September 24, 2022 and is being curated by Parks McAllister. Art has been a source of healing for McAlister who grew up in a small, conservative town in North Carolina. According to his website, he turned to art to explore his identity after feeling unwelcomed and judged. “Knowing that many people face similar experiences, McAlister hopes to spark safe conversation through the artists and their exhibited work.”

Submissions are open through February 27 and information can be found at gmoa.org.

Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project (BLMP)

Whenever Creating Change does happen, Ola Osifo Osaze will be awarded the Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund Award for Outstanding LGBTQ Leadership for Immigration Rights. Osaze has been a community organizer for years and is the director of the Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project (BLMP). Led by people that have been directly impacted, the organization is housed at the Transgender Law Center.

Osaze migrated from Nigeria and found alienation both at home and in the U.S. “When I looked around me for some type of queer and trans-African or Black immigrant community, I found a community for whom the word invisible does not even begin to describe our reality,” Osaze said in an interview with the Akonadi Foundation. The organization is currently providing cash assistance to Black LGBTQ migrants and first generation people dealing with the impacts of COVID-19. It participates in national organizing, has local networks across the country, engages and supports those detained for deportation and conducts research on the queer Black migrant experience.

The LGBTQ+ Learning Project

“Imagine living your truth, but not being able to tell anyone,” says VideoOut’s founder and executive director, Jordan Reeves. Growing up in small town Alabama, Reeves didn’t have the terminology we do today to talk about queerness or gender.

This year, VideoOut launched The LGBTQ+ Learning Project with support from the Google News Initiative. The first phase of the project introduces the LGBTQ+ Language and Media Literacy Program, available at https://lgbtq-language-project.uc.r.appspot.com/. Working with a team of PhD linguists, the group researched the origin, evolution and current usage of 100 words and phrases used in the LGBTQ community. They will eventually use Google Trends technology to show the popularity of search terms and is aimed at helping journalists and the public navigate the complex world of LGBTQ vernacular.

“The LGBTQ+ Language and Media Literacy Program is more than a glossary, though at its simplest, it can function that way,” says Reeves. “It’s a way to understand the LGBTQ+ community, and hopefully, it will transform the way journalists – and all of us – write and talk about LGBTQ+ people.”

The project is also meant to inform people who are less familiar. They’ve partnered with Men’s Health Magazine which will host the tool on its website.

News is Out: A Queer Media Collaborative

Another exciting project in LGBTQ media this year is News Is Out: National Queer Media Collaborative, announced in November by the Local Media Association (LMA). The collaborative project will launch this year with an initial seven LGBTQ publishers including Bay Area Reporter, Dallas Voice, Philadelphia Gay News, Q Voice News, Tagg Magazine, Washington Blade and Windy City Times. According to a recent press release, the publishers will look to expand the collaboration as funding allows and will launch a national website and newsletter.

Earlier this month, LMA announced the hiring of Dana Piccoli as the group’s project manager. Piccoli is a writer and entertainment critic who has written for sites including NBC News, The Mary Sue, Decider and Curve; and was a longtime writer and staff editor for what was once the most popular website for queer women’s pop culture. She’s also the former managing editor of the Bella Media Channel, a vertical of Bella Books Publishing that focuses on queer entertainment and pop culture and the founder and editor-in-chief of Queer Media Matters.

“Queer media need our support not only to survive, but also thrive, and I’m looking forward to putting my passion and experience to work to help achieve that,” Piccoli said.

In 2021, QNotes launched the Carolinas LGBTQ Journalism Fund in partnership with the Local Media Foundation to provide support for the work of QnotesCarolinas.com. The Local Media Foundation is a charitable trust affiliated with LMA.

iLead: Grow, Scale and Contract

The National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) announced this week a new program for LGBTQ entrepreneurs and a $500,000 investment in expanding programming established during the pandemic through a grant from Wells Fargo’s Open for Business Fund.

The NGLCC iLead: Grow, Scale & Contract Program will enhance the technical skills and capacity of LGBTQ firms and facilitated as small group workshops over a series of months. “Together we will ensure every LGBT entrepreneur has every resource they need to scale and thrive in this difficult marketplace,” said NGLCC co-founder and president Justin Nelson in a recent press statement.

Companies in the NGLCC Certified LGBT Business Enterprise group will have the opportunity to pitch before corporate buyers and receive overall feedback and critique in addition to receiving executive coaching for a six-month period, building relationships with experts and having access to resources to take their companies to the next level. In addition, the organization’s XLR8 Program will continue, with a focus on businesses ranging from $100,000 to $750 million in annual revenues to help them create sustainable and meaningful growth. Key areas include economic and business recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, management and leadership innovation, access to capital and financial literacy, pre- and post-event mentorship, team development, digital transformation, as well as marketing, communications and branding.

Applications for the program are available at https://nglcc.formstack.com/forms/xlr8application2022

Missing and Unidentified LGBT Individuals

A new Facebook page, facebook.com/missingunknownlgbtpersons/, is focused on helping solve cases involving LGBTQ people who are missing or have died but not yet officially identified.

Lazarus Rise, a transgender man in Colorado, told NBC News that he was inspired to launch the page after discovering a decades-old case where officials originally mis-identified a missing woman as cisgender. According to the report, “the unidentified trans woman was found dead and was believed to have been killed in Clermont, Florida, in 1988. Investigators learned she was transgender after her body underwent DNA testing in 2015, upending the case.”

The page acknowledges that while it is dedicated to finding all missing LGBTQ people, it has a “strong focus on missing and unknown transgender/gender non-conforming individuals.” The page also included a “remembrance post” for Thomas Hardin, a York, South Carolina transgender woman who was murdered in May, 2021 and posts related to the killings of Jaida Peterson and Remy Fennell in April.

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