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.
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.