Winding down from the Philly Trans-Health Conference 2015

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.

PTHC logo

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 Rebirth of Paris Documentary – A very well done update of where the ballroom scene has been and is currently, since Paris is Burning.  Directed by Seven King.

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  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.

Gearing up for the Philly Trans-Health Conference 2015

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.

“A Gender Not Listed Here”

I attended the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference back in mid-June and wrote a summary of the workshops I made it to, but I left out the details of one workshop because I felt it warranted a post all to itself.  I stumbled into “A Gender Not Listed here” late Saturday afternoon, feeling a little bit drained, but excited about the topic, which was going to be a summary and discussion of an article that was published in April, 2012.  The information was based on findings of a study completed by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality in 2008.  It surveyed 6,450 T-GNC-GQ  (transgender, gender non-conforming, genderqueer) individuals from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  It is by far the largest sample size of this population to date.

(The presenters commented that they got a lot of flak from peers ahead of time – their colleagues thought it was foolish to put forth a 70 question survey, claiming people would not fill it out in its entirety.  To then see the number of completed surveys that came back is really a testament to how much this community craves to be heard, to share their thoughts, opinions, and identities.)

So, to reiterate, the survey was for anyone who identifies as transgender / gender non-conforming.  Question #3 of the survey asked, “What is your primary gender identity today?  1.Male/man, 2.Female/woman, 3.Part time as one gender, part time as another, 4.A gender not listed here, please specify _________”  This workshop honed in on the 13.3% of people who answered question #3 of the survey with option #4.  Most of the data was about how this statistically relates to other factors such as age, ethnicity, education, region, household income, and discriminatory factors (employment, health and health care, violence, etc.)

It was totally eye opening!  I had no idea this data has been out there, for a couple of years now.  Even just the knowledge that about 13% of people who identify as transgender also identify as neither male nor female (or living part time as such) is mind-blowing.  Not mind-blowing as in it’s surprisingly lower or surprisingly higher than I might have imagined (it’s not).  But mind-blowing as in there actually is a statistical estimate out there, at least for the US.  And why is this study not more widely known?!!

I’m not going to pick apart all the details of the statistical analyses, but I hope you might want to take a glance.  Here is a summary of the report, broken down really nicely:  Check out this modified version!

If you’re feeling ambitious and want to read the full 12 page report, it is here:  Genderqueers, Gender Rebels, and OtherWise!

A general overview might go something like this:  Those people who wrote in their own gender tend to be younger, more educated, less financially stable, and less likely to live in the midwest or south, and less likely to be white than their transgender counterparts.  Also, it has been determined that:

Despite their resilience and ability to define themselves in broader terms and to hold [different] ideas of identity in mind than conventional notions, overall Q3GNL participants face greater discrimination, risk, and violence than their transgender counterparts in most of the survey categories.”

Of course factors of privilege come into play, and it’s so convoluted to suss out what factors may lead to or predict other factors.  It’s simply a large data set from which future research can build from.  That’s part of the beauty of it – this information is public.  So, for example, if you’re a grad student who needs a thesis topic, or you’re just really good at stats and have lots of free time on your hands, there is plenty of work still to be done and conclusions to draw from the raw data.  Hopefully many will work with it in the future.

One other interesting point to highlight is word choice:  Since the question made room to fill in the blank, the range of terms for self-expression ended up being huge.  39% of Q3GNL participants wrote in “genderqueer,” 9.5% wrote in “both/neither, in-between, or non-binary,” 2.2% wrote “fluid.” …

16.8% chose another term all together, and that generated a list of over 100 unique words / phrases, including “jest-me,”twidget,” “best of both,” “gender blur,” “cyborg,” and “genderqueer wombat fantastica” hahaha.  I know I wrote down a list of a lot more, at the conference.  The presenters did a powerpoint presentation and the slide with all these identity ideas generated a lot of discussion.  As soon as I find that list, I will post whatever else it was that I wrote down.

Feels like I wanna get more creative with how I might describe myself!