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The National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change is underway in Houston. The five-day event includes more than 250 workshops and film screenings. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force organized it.

The conference has grown from 300 people in its first year in 1988 to 4,000 attendees expected to attend this year. Television star, actress and activist Laverne Cox served as the keynote plenary speaker. Cox plays Sophia Burset, a transgender woman, in the hit Netflix series, “Orange is the New Black.”

Cox is the first trans woman of color to have a leading role on a mainstream scripted television show. She is a renowned speaker, writer and advocate, taking her empowering message of moving beyond gender expectations to live more authentically. CeCe McDonald, whose story inspired Laverne's portrayal of Sophia on OITNB, will attend the conference with her. 

Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, is one of the most prominent leaders in the U.S. LGBT rights movement. She will present the annual State of the Movement address, in which she will present a vision for the year ahead in the struggle for LGBT freedom and equality. The speech is one of the most anticipated events of the conference.

Carey will also address critical legislative issues specifically affecting the LGBT community, including passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and fair immigration reform. Other broader areas of focus will include the need for access to quality/affordable health care and racial and economic justice-related issues.

A record 16 workshops on HIV/AIDS are also slated for this year’s conference, and the topic will be discussed during a panel discussion on entitled “Why We Can’t Wait: Let’s End AIDS Now.”

Panelists include Michael Kaplan, president and CEO of AIDS United; Phill Wilson, president and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute; Cecilia Chung, present of U.S. People Living with HIV Caucus; Elicia Gonzales executive director for queer Hispanic organization GALAEI; and writer Charles Stephens, who’s written about racial and HIV issues. On-site HIV testing will also be available throughout the five-day conference.

For more information or to watch part of the Creating Change conference, click here.