Philadelphia Trans Health Conference 2012, Post-Op

Non-Binary Transition Presentation

Success! Aside from not being able to plug in my computer for the colorful presentation I had prepared – which also meant my notes were a bit thrown off – it went rather smoothly I think. Overall turnout exceeded my expectations; I estimate there were 60-100 people (it’s really hard to tell, but the crowd was sizable, and not the empty room that I dreading). Though I was terribly nervous all day, once I get going I am very comfortable speaking. And there is something magical about making 80 people laugh out loud at the exact same time. The participation from the audience was invaluable, since everyone shared their different experiences and added to the wealth of information.

The format I devised worked wonderfully. I noticed most questions in the middle of presentations tend to get addressed later on anyway, or someone gets cut off for the sake of moving on. So at the beginning I announced: “Hold any questions or comments until the end. I promise that at the 60 minute mark – however far I’ve gotten – I will stop and leave the remaining 20-30 minutes for questions.” This allowed me to plow through mostly everything I had planned, or realistically planned to get to, without distractions or derailments (though I did ask for brief clarifications after each section). Most importantly, I kept my promise. Thus, instead of random interruptions throughout, or a stale one-question-one-answer format where others can’t really jump in and engage, what came after was truly amazing. The dedicated open forum at the end turned into a real conversation, prompting everyone to get involved, building upon each other’s concerns, comments, and stories.

Currently I’m debating whether to shorten the presentation itself and open it up to the audience sooner. I had a hard enough time as it is in condensing the information down to 60 fast-talking minutes, since everything seems essential (of course). However, I feel others’ engagement and perspectives brought a different kind of value – in the form of emotional connection and solidarity – that no amount of information or analysis can provide. Ah, the conundrum!

If you attended, feel free to email me with any follow-up questions or feedback or just to connect and say hi.

Legalize Trans* shirt
Bought a purple Legalize Trans* shirt. Rule #1: bring cash. Rule #2: stay on budget! Woops!

Conference Conclusions

As much as I tried, I could not make every session (the deliciousness of Reading Terminal Market sabotaged my first two), but I thoroughly enjoyed those that I did attend. The Global Spotlight on Africa was a definite highlight for me, as it provided me with an entirely new perspective. The Asexual Trans panel was – I’m sad to say – by far the most disappointing. After a while I couldn’t handle it any longer and had to interject, which thankfully prompted others in the audience to speak up with their own interesting quandaries and insightful opinions. Even my girlfriend spoke up! A few people came up to us afterwards thanking us for standing up.

Which brings me to what I felt was missing. Initially, I was delighted to hear that Asexuality would be a featured topic. But since it was lacking, I feel that void still needs to be filled. Having a pretty solid grasp on the concepts I could easily take on Asexuality 101, though ideally this would only make up one slice of a much broader workshop or panel featuring other people who can speak to the intersection of asexuality and transgender issues.There are plenty of excellent asexy trans speakers who could put something together, it’s simply a matter of being more proactive about it in the community.

The second big hole was Significant Others. They seem to have been forgotten, abandonded in the corner, even though they are often foremost in our lives and our transition. My amazing Other Half was there throughout the entire conference, not just as my Roadie but as my pillar of courage and reassurance. She even had the guts to speak up – twice! Mind you, she is very very shy. Her small actions were well received, and had a huge impact on people. We realized that, no matter how much I talk about her and her support and our relationship, it is very different to hear her perspective, from her. So much so that it prompted her to consider preparing something herself for next year. (She even jotted down some ideas, but needs a lot of encouragement – hint hint!)

Living and breathing everything trans, on the surface it doesn’t seem like I learned anything new. However, I left feeling mentally stimulated and emotionally charged, which in itself are powerful takeaways. The mere prescence of so many enthusiastic transpeople and allies working towards the betterment of our community leaves me in awe of how far we’ve come, and how much we have left to do, but with so many smart, passionate people to help with the journey. PTHC has a place near and dear in my heart, since it was a major catalyst to my transition, and I know it will continue to be a major catalyst in redefining society’s gender framework, along with transforming other people’s lives.

13 thoughts on “Philadelphia Trans Health Conference 2012, Post-Op

  1. Maddox,

    Thanks for such a thorough post on your time at the conference! It’s really great to read you thoughts on it, and Tam’s post are interesting as well, and some other folks who all went to the same conference have been blogging as well, but had such different experiences.

    Congrats on your presentation, sounds like it was a smash!


    1. Oh it was not very thorough, I’m sure others have done a much better rundown, but I can’t be bothered – otherwise I’ll just torture myself into doing a really good job and never get it done.

      The conference is so huge though – 2500 people, 200+ workshops – that everyone’s experience is bound to be unique, as well as what you get out of it highly depends on what you bring into it. For example, one of the best workshops was a Legal Documents 101, on how to change your legal name and gender in the US. It was sadly ironic that I already knew 95% of it all, because I am unable to go do anything about it (otherwise I would’ve done it already!) but I was relieved to see someone covering this extensively and with such clarity, and humour to boot.

      As always, I highly encourage anyone to attend a trans* conference at some point in their lives.

  2. Honey! I am really proud of you and of all the information you were able to share with others. I am the proud significant other of a great, caring person!

    And yes, I think that one of the big holes was spaces for Significant Others, two years ago they did have a workshop for sharing concerns with other SO’s unfortunately that time around all people talked about was sex. Call me crazy but being a SO is not only about sex…

    1. (Stripey, get back to work.) You’re crazy, being an SO is all about being sexy! At least that is what my SO tells me 😉

      Yes, much like you are completely OK with my transition and we are pretty far along, like me you still need to talk about it, hear about it, learn about, and most of all, be validated and have solidarity among people who are not me, and ideally people who are going through the same things you are.

  3. I agree about the lack of stuff for significant others. I ran into and met plenty of SOs of trans* people at the conference, so I know there would be an audience for a workshop on SOFFA stuff. I guess the complicated thing (at least what my partner and I have noticed) is that so many SOFFAs are at different places in regard to how they feel about their partner’s transition. For many, it would be annoying to sit in on a session where other people were complaining about their partner’s transition, mispronouning their partner, etc., however there are a lot of SOFFAs who need a space place to vent because they are having a lot of difficulty with their partner’s transition. So really I think there need to be multiple sessions for SOFFAs for all the different stuff they face.

    1. Yes, there were lots of SOs and their concerns span a variety of topics, depending on where their partner is in transition and the status of their relationship (dating vs long term, for instance). However, it has been my SO’s experience that sessions tend to center around sex and sexual identity, and while these are valid concerns all the other needs are still lacking to be addressed. In general though just getting SOFFA on the table would be a big step.

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