The conference was totally awesome. My partner and I attended part of the day Friday, and all of Saturday. In the past, I have gotten really overwhelmed really quickly, and I have felt like I don’t belong (not because of anything specific – I think it’s one of the most inclusive and conscientious events for trans* people from all types of backgrounds – but simply because I couldn’t really handle it, socially.) This year, I did not feel that at all! I even met 6 people! I was networking (sort of)!!!
I’m going to list and summarize the workshops I made it to, and then just write a little more about the experience overall:
Manning Up: No Apology Necessary – This was a guided discussion led by 3 contributors to a new anthology put out by Transgress Press. They first read from their pieces in the book, and then opened it up for questions and others to talk about their own experiences. I liked that this was not at all about what masculinity is, and how to find our masculine voices, but rather about personal growth, however that ends up looking like, in terms of roles and gender presentations. Another blogger wrote some interesting thoughts on this workshop, here.
Community-Building as Self-Care: Building a Movement(s) for Non-Binary Trans* Communities – This workshop ended up being huge! The facilitator said they were only expecting and planning for 20-30 participants, and there were probably 150+ people in attendance. As a result, the workshop was pretty unfocused, really only skimming the surface, but that might be where these topics are at, currently… Things, in some ways, are just getting started in non-binary communities. I think that (or at least I hope) the conference/facilitators will be better equipped for these workshops in the future. It’s true – in past years, I’ve gone to a few about genderqueer and non-binary identities (and there are really only a few offered) and the turnout was not huge. Things are really changing in this area in particular!
Real & Unreal Worlds: A Fiction and Poetry Event with Rachel Gold and Stephanie (Stephen) Burt – Rachel Gold is a young adult novelist, the author of Being Emily, amongst others, and Stephanie Burt is a poet and professor at Harvard University. They both did some readings of published and soon-to-be published works and then opened it up for questions and answers. Stephanie got a little bit swept up in her own work, which resulted in not quite enough time for audience participation in the discussion. It was a great workshop to attend for the morning though, when I wasn’t quite with it yet, to ease in to the day.
2014 Youth Panel: Seen and Heard – This was incredible and eye-opening! There were 4 panel members from very different backgrounds, aged 13-22. They each took turns answering questions provided by the two (also youth-aged) moderators. Then the audience had a chance to step up to a microphone and ask questions as well. The room was packed, and as audience members stepped up to introduce themselves and ask something, it was clear they were here for all sorts of reasons: They were parents of trans* youths themselves, they were pediatricians, social workers, activists, documentary film-makers, etc. They were there because they wanted to hear personal stories from young people, and help make changes in their professions and their communities on behalf of youth. Some of the stories were really heartbreaking; nonetheless, the energy in this workshop was really amazing.
No Longer Transsexuals, Not Quite Dysphoric: Who Are We Without a Diagnosis? – I find this topic to be highly interesting and, again, I left with a sense that we’d only scratched the surface. The guided discussion (when we got around to it) was very stimulating, but quite a bit of time was used up at the beginning of the session going around the room, introducing ourselves, and saying what brought us to this workshop. (I’m talking about maybe half of the session was used up doing this. I understand the facilitators wanted everyone to be involved, and they genuinely wanted to know why we were there, but this approach took too long.) We then discussed diagnoses for insurance purposes, stigmas attached to diagnoses, the DSM and the ICD (the International Classification of Diseases – this was new to me!), and how things are done in different parts of the world. A woman from India stood up toward the end, and talked in an impassioned way about how none of this applies to her and her country. And she went into details about some gruesome conditions in India, where it would be accurate to still refer to modifications as undergoing a “sex change.” I’m glad she had the courage to tell us about it, from her own perspective.
A Gender Not Listed Here – I’m going to do a separate post about this workshop, soon, because I loved it so much. So, this is just a teaser about that. Haha.
We also attended the Blender! Showcase after the conference, on Saturday night. There were some really amazing and intense performances, in the vein of spoken word, dance, and drag.
My networking accomplishments: I actually talked to some people! This is kinda huge for me; I don’t generally do this. I met Rhys Harper, a photographer raising funds to do a nationwide tour, a book, and art openings. I met and talked to two trans*guys from Transgress Press. I met Ezekiel of firsttimesecondtime.com! And I met two other internet friends, something I’ve never before experienced. We even went out to dinner with an internet friend, along with eir partner and another friend, and our friend from Philly. It was cool! We ate dosas.