Among transgender people, the question “Are you going to Philly?” starts to come up every spring, and while we love a cheesesteak as much as the next guy, the reason we get excited about the City of Brotherly Love is because every summer, the Mazzoni Center hosts the Philly Trans Health Conference.
Thousands and thousands of Trans*, gender-queer, gender-fluid people and their allies and loved ones pack into the Philadelphia convention center and take over the entire downtown area.
So what’s the appeal? Well, the conference itself has well over a hundred workshops, dealing from things like “Top Surgery Show and Tell” to “Nurturing your Inter-sex Child” to “How to Successfully Transition at Work” to “Owning Femininity as Trans males”.
And yes, there are a lot of vendors, selling everything from books, to t-shirts, to what I’ll call “prosthetics”, for both FTMs and MTFs, and everybody in between. And that’s BEFORE all the free swag you get at any convention.
Of course, there are the many connections you make and old friends that you only see once a year or so. Thousands of people attend, and pretty much every major LGBT organization and Trans* is represented. There’s business to be done, and if you’re lucky enough to do it while sitting next to Janet Mock, then all the better.
But for me, the real reason I come to Philly is simple: almost everywhere I am, I’m the only trans person there. I’m almost never in a trans-majority space. And after a while, you start to accept that you’ll always be a minority of a minority (possibly of a minority) in any space you go into. The magic of the Philly Trans health Conference is that everywhere you look, there are hundreds, maybe thousands of trans people. Every hotel, every restaurant, every bar, every tourist spot in the city for that weekend is full of people like me, and that’s something I don’t even realize I’m missing until I experience it again. It’s a big world out there, but for one weekend a year, in a small part of Philly, we can almost forget that.
Which is not to say there aren’t other highlights. For example, this year, Aqua Foundation Scholar Jessica Wilson presented a workshop on inter-sex children to a packed room. It was hard not to feel a sense of Pride in the Aqua Foundation when I saw one of our scholars use the education AFW helped her achieve to give back to the community in such a prominent way. In fact, I should say DOCTOR Wilson, as she’s just completed her education and is now a practicing Doctor of Psychology.
Doctor Wilson wasn’t South Florida’s only contribution to the convention: also in attendance were AFW Director Campbell, Lotus House’s Alina Tello, Bishop Makalanee MaHee, LGBT Youth Homeless Liason LJ Woolston, and WIN’s Denise Spivak, among others.
Am I going back next year? I hope to. I love my local LGBTQ family, and have never once felt out of place or excluded. But the sense of community I get from seeing four thousand beautiful trans faces surrounding me is something I don’t even realize I need, until I finally get it.
It’s your hand and your hand alone that will make a difference in our lives this November. Because it’s your hand that will cast the ballot. And those ballots will make a difference.
Especially for LBT women, it is time for our voices to be heard and time for us to make a difference.
Tammy Baldwin said it best: if you are not in the room they will talk about you, but if you are in the room they have to talk with you.
When lawmakers are making decisions about our lives—which they have done, are doing and will do, all the time—we need to have a seat at the table. Not one lawmaker is going to worry about our worries or care about solutions to our problems if we don’t make ourselves relevant to what makes them tick, to the issues they weigh as they consider their policies and priorities.
LBT women in particular need a real and meaningful voice: we must stand up for ourselves and each other politically and support those candidates that support our principles and our equality. (In fact, not all LGBT organizations have quite the same priorities when it comes to issues such as how women are treated, violence against women and economic fairness—and our ability to make our own decisions about our healthcare.)
There are lots of ways to have impact, but the first and most important one is to get out and vote! Make your voice heard, make your voice count. Do not lose that opportunity to make a difference.
Talk with your friends about the candidates and talk about the real, right-now, this-year need to stand up against those who might like to marginalize LBT women and to stand up for those who understand that we count.
Make sure you and your friends are registered to vote, make it the most in thing going, find out where you polling place is and then – go there! Exercise your right because no one else is going to do it for you – and all the rest of us really need you. Really!
IN THE COMMUNITY:
I am currently planning with Aqua for their Emerging Leaders seminar that will take place this August. Creatively, I enjoy sharing my poetry at Panther Coffee’s spoken word every second Monday of the month.
Devoted Flight Paramedic with the State of Florida Emergency Response Team recently promoted to Administrative Officer and Flight Coordinator.
National Disaster Medical System, International Federal Medical Surgical Team Flight Nurse and Administrative Chief, currently being deployed to Washington D.C. for the Fourth of July to assist with our nations Independence Day.
ADVICE FOR CURRENT SCHOLARS:
Don’t plan so much. Peace and tranquility exists in a place where chaos and madness are present but on mute.
I do not know what I want, but I know what I don’t want.
Forgive yourself and others, and never be afraid to be the first of anything. I promise you, you’re braver and smarter than you think!
To each founder, each donor, each member, each volunteer, each scholar, it is because of you that so many, including myself were given an opportunity that would otherwise have been missed. It is because of you that I’ve learned about community, humility, true compassion, and the touch of what unity can provide. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for today, for yesterday, and for all of the opportunities you provide for tomorrow.