Posted: November 24, 2018 Filed under: coming out, mental health, top surgery | Tags: bottom surgery, conference, gender, gender identity, genderqueer, lgbtq, media, mental health, Philadelphia Trans-Wellness Conference, queer, trans, transgender
I’m waaaay behind on this post (the conference was Aug. 2-4), but I had a lot of notes and always meant to type them up. I was clearing off our dining room table and unearthed them, so here we go!
It’s been a couple of years since my spouse and I attended, and this time around, we made it a part of a bigger vacation, which I definitely am going to want to do again in the future – this time, we stopped in the tiny town of Narrowsburgh, NY, for 2 nights and went on a lazy river tube ride down a 5 mile stretch of the Delaware river. Then we continued on to Philly, where we reconnected with friends we hadn’t seen in a while. Fortuitously, they happened to be dog-sitting / house-sitting at a really swanky and spacious condo that was only a 20 minute walk from the conference center. Way more convenient than all those times we walked in the heat and humidity from South Philly, in the past.
The first workshop I attended was called Trans Community in Crisis: Mental Health and Peer Support. It was led by IV Staklo, who is the Hotline Program Director at Trans Lifeline. This was totally worthwhile because before attending this workshop, I never seriously considered volunteering for a hotline. And in the process of learning about it, I could completely wrap my head around that possibility – I actually do have what it takes. (All it takes for Trans Lifeline is: you yourself have to identify as trans, you need access to a phone and internet, you need to have follow-through and accountability and be active in the online group.) I’ve been going through the online training to become a volunteer operator. It’s about 32 hours of self-guided slides and webinars; it’s going way slower than I anticipated, but I’ll get there eventually. The workshop itself was a lot of distressing statistics – things like 60% of trans-clients have had to educate their therapists. 53% of trans-people have avoided going to the hospital when it was necessary because of past trauma and harassment. 88% of trans-people have had suicidal ideations throughout their lives… (All of these statistics are coming from the 2017 National LGBTQ Task Force Survey – I’m only isolating a few of the more alarming ones…)
Next, I went to Token: The Role of Trans POC Within the LGBTQ Community. The presenter was Giovonni Santiago, a transman living in northeastern Ohio. His style was more of a motivational speaker, full of energy and personal stories to accent his points. I especially liked the Q and A, where people asked him about burnout and how best to say, “No,” when to know that you need to say, “No,” etc.
Friday, I started out by going to Top Surgery Show and Tell. It was my third time at this particular workshop – it’s always crowded and full of anticipatory energy. I didn’t participate (but stay tuned for my summary of another conference, in which I did participate!) These types of workshops are sooo important because the info that’s out there online is fairly sparse, and this is one of the few chances to take a close look in person, at real people’s bodies.
Then I went to Let’s Talk About Our Junk, led by Dalziel Leone, a transman from Kenya. He started out by talking about his own path and then opened it up so that it was more of a group discussion. An older person who just recently started his transition talked about choosing celibacy out of necessity, and how incredibly, he was starting to reassess all of that. Someone else talked about transitioning within a long-term relationship, and really got into the nuts and bolts of how that played out in his case. A younger person shared about how their parents are immigrants from Liberia, and they can’t even accept their kid being gay, let alone trans. They said their parents’ reactions have been that Africans aren’t gay, and maybe you need to get in touch with your African roots, go back to Africa to find yourself, etc. I found the immediate assumption of intimacy in this audience to be pretty extraordinary – oftentimes people need a long time to gear up to tough and frank conversations like this.
After that, I then went to FTM Bottom Surgery Show and Tell. I’ve considered going many times in the past, but I always felt too intimidated. This time I just went for it. It was just like Top Surgery Show and Tell, but with far less people actually standing up there. I think there were 5 guys, whereas with Top Surgery, it’s more like 40 or so. This led to just more time to hear more from them afterwards, as audience members kind of clustered around, asking questions and getting a closer look. At this time, it did not lead me to feel more motivated to pursue bottom surgery, but the experience was still invaluable.
I ended the day by going to Trans On Set, a panel discussion among trans media makers. We watched 15 minutes of footage first, film reels and portfolios of sorts, from the panel members. Then we heard about how they’ve navigated disclosing their status or not, dealing with transphobia in the workplace, stuff like that. For me, this felt like a more passive workshop, a good way to end.
Then we didn’t go on Saturday at all! We enjoyed time with our friends more and just had a much less anxiety-inducing time of it, overall! Another thing that was new – my spouse attended a bunch of workshops in the “professional track” cluster and learned a lot of pertinent stuff for their future career!