In addition to the PTWC and Gender Odyssey, The TIC is a well established, long-time running, trans- and gender specific conference that happens every year at the University of Vermont in Burlington. I went once prior, in 2005, but I can’t remember a whole lot – really just attending a workshop led by DRED, drag king, actress, etc. about gender expression and clothing as play.
This year, my spouse and I decided to check it out and make a trip of it. In addition to the conference (which is packed into one day, this year, November 3rd), we, walked around Burlington a lot, and we also took a ferry across Lake Champlain into Plattsburgh, where we met with some friends.
Here’s a rundown of what I got out of the conference!
We eased into the day by going to Fluid Identities Within the Classroom and the Workplace: A Dialogue Toward Trans Liberation in Binary Spaces. It was an interactive structure where we spend time talking with the people around us and then reporting back to the whole group, and also writing our own thoughts on post-it notes that were then displayed out in the hall for the rest of the day. It was pretty basic, information-wise; what felt worthwhile was hearing about others’ experiences.
I then went to Q&A: Queens and Activism. This was a presentation led by two local, politically active drag queens, in character, which was pretty entertaining. It was framed as, “Here’s us and what we’re doing and all about us,” which could have been limiting, but they’ve been involved in so much that although it was Vermont specific, it was a great way to show both the people behind the queens, and the range of avenues to help LGBTQ people and causes, making it fun along the way. Such as Drag Queen Story Hour.
Next up was lunch, which was provided at a subsidized cost, within the same building as all the workshops. That was totally awesome!
Next I went to Take Your Top Off: A Top Surgery Information Session and Show and Tell. This was just like the show and tells I’ve been to at the PTWC, but on a much smaller scale, and with more general information provided up front. I decided pretty much on the spot that I was going to participate, which is a huge deal for me because I’ve only been topless in front of other people (excluding my spouse!) on 2 other occasions. I mostly decided I felt comfortable because is was such a smaller and more intimate group of people and because I thought I might likely be the only one up there who could show an example of the periareolar procedure. And I was right on both counts – there were about 12 people up there taking their shirts off, as opposed to upwards of 40-50, at the PTWC. And I was the only one who hadn’t had DI (double incision). Each person took a turn on the microphone, talking about their surgeon, their experience, nerve sensation, cost, and overall satisfaction. Then people could come up to talk to us individually. One person came up to me to say, “I have a consultation with Dr. Rumer [my surgeon] next week. I already paid and everything. Should I just scrap that and cut my losses?” This was based on me not having all that much positive to say about Dr. Rumer. I think I did a pretty good job talking it through with this person, trying to open them up to as many possibilities as I could, something I never really was able to do for myself. I feel like I have a lot more to say about this, but it could easily take up way too much space, so I’m going to stop here for now. Maybe a separate future blog post!
I went to Trans in the Workplace Panel. I always like to go to at least one panel – it’s a good way to just sit back and hear personal experiences from a good cross-section of different perspectives. This one featured an agender person who works in bars and also is self-employed as a sex educator, a trans-woman who is an EMT and also works in an urgent care facility, a trans-man who works for the state as an advocate for those who are incarcerated, and a non-binary trans-person who is a gym teacher and also makes and sells bow ties.
Finally I went to Transmasculine Caucus, a safe space set up in a circle, with a mod, to talk about whatever anyone wanted to bring up. I was one of the few people older than 22, it seemed, which made it tougher to feel motivated to speak up, but I did manage to talk on 2 occasions. Topics ranged from name change and being carded before a gender marker change, to always appearing much younger, sexual orientation shifts after hormones, and much much more.
The final event was the keynote, with CeCe McDonald, a transgender prison reform activist who had been sentenced to 41 months for manslaughter. (Laverne Cox of “Orange is the New Black has said she plays her character as an homage to CeCe, and she is producing a documentary about her story.) It was very off-the-cuff, informal, and full of energy.
Compared to the PTWC, this conference was much smaller, which came with a lot of benefits! People seemed much more friendly, just striking up conversations with those around them; it just had a more intimate vibe overall – I felt more comfortable speaking up, participating, and just people-watching / feeling a part of things. I’d definitely go again!
I had a really great time; it went better than I thought it would. I was doing better. We were there for all 3 days for the first time ever, which allowed us to space out our time differently – not spend the entire day there and feel burn-out, yet still get to a lot of workshops.
This post is going to have a lot of links because lots of exciting things are going on!
I met some people! I got to meet Jamie, Lesboi, and Captain Glittertoes. I also saw Nathan again after meeting him last year – he’s putting together an anthology through Transgress Press called Voices of Transgender Parents. If you know anyone who is a trans-parent, direct them here to find out more: Call for Submissions. I met someone named Elliott (if you’re reading this, I’d love to connect online but am not sure how to find you…) It’s a surreal and rare experience to meet someone who’s blog you’ve been reading for a long time, especially if you have no idea what they look like in real life!
Here’s a breakdown of the workshops I attended and a brief summary of what I got out of them:
Non-Binary Talk: Let’s Make Friends – This was an informal space for people to share their experiences and connect by raising their hands and taking turns. The room was packed! It was really hard to hear a lot of what people said, and unfortunately no one suggested using the microphone on hand. Someone near me said something I’d never heard before – they said they identify as demi-gender, meaning their gender expression matches their gender assigned at birth, they just don’t totally feel that way internally.
Below the Belt: A Frank Discussion of Trans Male Genitalia – This workshop was led by Trystan Cotten, the founder of Transgress Press. He led the room in generating a long list of topics and concerns, and then we picked a few to discuss further. There was a huge range in what was brought up – it was only minimally about genital surgeries. We talked about hysterectomies and the options within that, reproductive issues, how trans-men relate to or don’t relate to their junk, menstruation, etc. It was really well organized and facilitated.
Results from the TransYouth Family Allies Research (TYFA) Study – This is a groundbreaking collection of data that illuminates what’s going on for trans-youth and their families. Unfortunately, I walked in late and missed the segment talking about the results, but another blog writer sums it up here: Results from TYFA study. I did learn that another survey is in the works to glean more information. The first online survey was 117 parents, mostly white moms (only 6 dads). They are planning both a longitudinal follow-up from the first study, and also a 2nd cohort to touch on gender fluidity and non-binary identities, delve further into self-harm and suicidality, and harassment and discrimination.
The Future of Gender Queer – This was the first of two non-binary-related workshops that I went to, one right after the other. They were very different. This one was moderated by Ignacio Rivera, who I look up to as someone doing amazing research in the field of non-binary identities. Last year, I was blown away by their presentation of “A Gender Not Listed Here.” They are currently working on a 2nd, follow-up survey at the National Center for Transgender Equality. It is going to be available mid August at http://www.ustranssurvey.org/ We should all take this survey! They led a panel with two other people, but also made sure to get lots of audience participation. We started by mapping out our individual gender journeys over the years, divided by how we felt vs. how we were perceived by the world. We then meandered through how we felt as genderqueer people, navigating the world, by raising our hands and speaking as one big group (with the help of a microphone this time). Feels like we only touched on what could be talked about.
Non-Binary (In)visibility: Empowerment and Self-Determination: – This was facilitated very differently and was more of a self-exploration and small-group sharing workshop. These can sometimes feel intimidating (talking to strangers in small groups), but I felt fine and liked my group. We first wrote down three ways we celebrate and share our non-binary identity in the world, and we also wrote 10 different answers to “Who am I?” We were then prompted to cross out 3 of them, then another 3, then another 3. At this point we got into small groups and talked about how we determined which ones to cross out and which one was left. We also did “2 truths and a lie” based on how we present ourselves or would like to present ourselves if we could. We wrapped up with discussing ways we can sustain support in our own communities after leaving the conference. Some of this felt a little self-indulgent and 101-ish, but the small group discussions really made it worthwhile.
I am the T: an FTM Documentary – This is an ongoing project to film 10 FTM people in 10 different countries. The film crew presented a rough cut of the first segment, Isak from Norway. It was really well done and I can’t wait to see more from this project. After the first film is complete, they have plans to continue with trans-feminine experiences and non-binary experiences from around the world.
In two days, my partner and I will be on our way to this annual amazing, informative, free conference. It’ll be my 5th time going, and we’ll be staying with friends in South Philly like we’ve done in the past.
I’m a little fearful that I’m not well enough to make this trip and be engaged with the activities. I am definitely improving from this long depression, but I have to admit it’s been rare that I’ve been getting enjoyment out of anything. I’m worried that the stress of traveling and socializing and being present for workshops and people-watching will be too much. On the other hand, it’s an awesome opportunity, and we’ve gone before, so it’s not like going into something brand new. And I’ll be with my partner; we can check in with each other. There was a day or two where my partner was unsure if she’d be able to go, due to work. She told me to start preparing to go without her – maybe catch a ride with some friends we know are going. I thought about how this would play out in my head and was definitely less sure this was do-able. Fortunately, she got the work stuff squared away. I am super glad because I need her for emotional support right now.
We’re going for a day more than we have in the past, so we’ll have opportunities to go to all three conference days (Thursday through Saturday). We will have time to do other things (not sure what exactly yet) and still get in plenty of conference time.
I’m excited about a few of the workshops. Looking forward to one facilitated by the founder of Transgress Press. And a film about FTM people from 10 different countries. And especially, a couple of workshops about non-binary identities. One called The Future of Gender Queer, and another called Non-Binary (In)visibility. Over all, there seems to be less programming about non-binary topics than last year, and I wonder why this might be. Just how it happened, I guess. I have to admit that while looking at the schedule, I’m not getting that same feeling of excitement and limitless resource potential as I have in the past, but I think that’s more about where I am emotionally. I hope I do get a lot out of it. I hope I can feel present and engaged.
My partner and I are so excited/anxious about the trip that we already picked out some outfits, did some ironing, and packed our bags!
Is anyone else going to the conference? I’d love to say “hi” in person. I’m not the best at facial recognition, but I do hope to recognize some people! I’ll be wearing turquoise shorts (if you want help spotting me). Don’t worry – I have a couple of pairs of turquoise shorts; I won’t be wearing the same clothes every day.