"You must be the change you wish to see in the world."
It's 2015 and the world is not the homophobic place that it once was. Our most popular talk show host, Ellen DeGeneres, is an "out" lesbian. One of our most popular and award-winning TV shows, "Modern Family," features an openly gay couple. Better yet, same-sex marriage is now "official" in 37 states and the District of Columbia. We've come a long way since the days when homosexuals were arrested for holding hands or even just dancing together, with their "crimes" published in the next morning's newspaper so that everyone, not just the legal system, could shun and vilify them.
Nevertheless, despite all of these wonderful social and legal advances, there are questions to be answered and problems to be solved. For starters, in many locales (even within the U.S.) the LGBT community is still denigrated. And even in places where we are less oppressed, we must deal with the lasting effects of early life non-acceptance and internalized homophobia. Plus, there is that omnipresent question: What comes next? After all, this whole out-and-equal-yet-still-dealing-with-the-issues-of-the-past thing is new, and we don't exactly have role models to show us how things are done. Instead, we're forging our own way, picking the pathway as we go, and most of us could use a bit of advice and guidance, or at least some intelligent discussion that tells us we're not alone.
To this end, from June 1 - 5, coinciding with the first five days of LGBT Pride Month, there is an online Global Pride Summit, free to anyone who wishes to participate, hosted by Mark Anthony Lord, founder of the Bodhi Spiritual Center in Chicago and author of Thou Shalt Not Suffer: Seven Steps to a Life of Joy. The purpose of this online summit is to supplement city-by-city pride celebrations with an international look at self-worth, freedom and happiness for LGBT people worldwide and their allies. The ultimate goal is to create a more connected and caring world.
How It Works
There is no in-person venue for the Global Pride Summit. Speakers (five to seven each day) will talk on their chosen topic, via webcam, for 20 to 40 minutes, with a live Q&A webinar each evening featuring one of the day's presenters. It's like a bunch of LGBT-themed TED Talks presented over a five-day span, with the added benefit of a moderated discussion each night.
Over the course of the summit, 31 nationally and internationally renowned speakers will cover a variety of topics, clustered into the following five categories:
• Passion, June 1
• Responsibility, June 2
• Intimacy, June 3
• Dare, June 4
• Empowerment, June 5
In case you're wondering, I'll be speaking on June 3, talking about the challenges we face as LGBT people in living our lives openly, honestly and in ways that nurture rather than prevent intimate connections. (Here is a complete list of speakers and topics.)
Did I mention that this is free, and that all you have to do is sign up? Once you are registered, which takes about five seconds, you will receive a confirmation email explaining what's to come. Then, each morning of the conference, you will get an email giving you access to that day's talks and webinar.
Why This Summit Is So Important
When I asked Mark why he made creation of this event such a mission, he told me, "I spent many years dealing with my own internalized homophobia and shame, and the varied ways in which those issues played out in my life -- low self-esteem, unworthiness, addiction, fear, lying about who I really am, etc. Now that I'm on the other side of that painful way of living, I feel called to help other LGBT people experience the same freedom. ... The laws of the land are changing, but does that mean we are suddenly healed from all the religious and societal wounding we have endured? No. That's our work to do."
Mark has chosen a wide variety of speakers, ranging from such celebrities as Greg Louganis and Chaz Bono to spiritualists like August Gold and Darren Main to entertainment industry icons like LeGrande Green and Bria and Chrissy to clinicians like myself and Dr. Lauren Costine. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. As Mark told me, "I have worked in the world of self-empowerment and spirituality for over 20 years, and this has given me access to some of the most brilliant thought leaders, coaches, healers and teachers. That is the resource that I tapped into when speakers were selected."
Unsurprisingly, the Global Pride Summit has been a vision of Mark's for years.
"My mission is to help LGBT people feel amazing on the inside," he says. "Yes, society is changing for the better, but there is still much to accomplish, and a large part of the work that LGBT people still need to do is on ourselves. When we really, really know that we are perfect as we are, we will be able to stand up to our oppressors, not in reaction and anger, but in responsibility and compassion. That's what changes the world. As LGBT people, we must change on the inside and become free of the internalized homophobia we were fed as children (and that many are still being fed). That's what this summit is for."
Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S is Senior Vice President of Clinical Development with Elements Behavioral Health. He is author of numerous books, including Cruise Control: Understanding Sex Addiction in Gay Men and Always Turned On: Sex Addiction in the Digital Age (co-written with Dr. Jennifer Schneider). For more information you can visit his website, www.robertweissmsw.com.