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Pumped-up Equality Forum

May 2nd, 2012 No comments

Here it comes again — Equality Forum, Philadelphia’s internationally known and always interesting cavalcade of events that celebrates, informs and provokes on all (or many, anyway) things LGBT. I’ve been blogging the event for the past three years (here’s a compilation of my entries), and am delighted to be doing so again this year.

If you’re coming to this site for EF updates each year, you might be surprised to see that there aren’t already entries for this year’s event. That’s because the format’s been compressed, squeezed from its traditional, week-long schedule down to four days. It kicks off tonight with a big welcoming party, and then jumps into high gear for a bunch of panels tomorrow, Friday, and Saturday.

This new format makes sense. It’s more attuned to people’s busy schedules — especially the many people who come (many of them, for years now) for the entire event. But it does make life tougher for a blogger, becauseĀ  the highlighted panels for Thursday and Friday run concurrently. I’ll do some combination of running back and forth and simply choosing between the two panels for each session. I might not have any less blogging to do, but I’ll be doing it on overdrive. Highlights from each post will appear here, with links to the full story over at my cyber home-away-from-home, The New Civil Rights Movement. (You should check that site out anyway — it’s packed with information and opinion on LGBT issues. Site master David Badash is nothing if not relentless!)

You can get the full panel schedule here. (All of the Thursday and Saturday national panels are at the Doubletree Hotel.) It’s hard to choose highlights from among so many star-studded panels, but I’m especially looking forward to a few of them, viz.:

  • Tomorrow (5/3), at 7 pm is the National Transgender Panel. It features quite a diverse line-up of subjects of interest to the trans-community, judging from the panelists chosen. In my experience, the TG panels have been among the most reliably interesting, perhaps because, as a community, trans-people have been compelled to think about issues on a level of depth that is not always matched by the rest of our community. (There! I’ve said it.)
  • Also tomorrow, at 8:30, is the Featured Nation: Israel Panel. It features actual Israelis(!), including a city council member and a couple of LGBT tourism promoters. It’s moderated by Mazzoni Center Executive Director, Nurit Shein, who I’ll bet is more qualified than you to be on the panel — she was a career officer in the Israeli Army!
  • Friday at 4 pm, at the National Constitution Center, is the National Legal Panel. Get out of work early and go! Don’t make me repeat myself. They’ll be talking about Prop 8, DOMA, and (apparently) other issues of legal discrimination affecting our community. (I wish they would talk about civil unions, but that’s my axe to grind — and I ground it here.) The panelists are all good — a mix of litigators, policy-makers, and academics — but Bill Eskridge is especially worth the price of admission. He’s really good at explaining legal arcana to those who didn’t invest in a law degree.
  • Right after the legal eagles soar, the National Politics Panel takes the same stage (at 5:30 pm) to talk about the upcoming election and the political landscape. Will appeal to all political junkies of every party (all two of them here in the U.S.).
  • The full Saturday schedule is here. It’s chock-a-block, in part because that’s the day featuring collaborative panels with local organizations and interest groups. Based on my experience, it’s well worth poring over the local options, because you’re likely going to find something of major interest to you — almost every conceivable topic of interest to our community (broadly defined) is represented. There are also great national panels at 1 pm and 2:30 — again, two at each time, so you’ll have to choose (assuming you haven’t already picked a local panel!). Sports, Same-sex Marriage, Military — it’s all here. But perhaps most interesting will be the James Wheeler National Youth Panel, featuring a couple of young men who captured the popular imagination: Chris Armstrong, a U of Michigan student who was harassed by the creepy assistant AG of the state (but who fought back with a lawsuit that resulted in the firing of the jerk) and, most compelling, Zack Wahls. I could go on and on about him, but this will suffice:

There’s also a pretty good play, and more parties than you can shake a groove thing at! (Where…did…I…put…that…groove…thing?) Get busy!