7th Annual Philadelphia Trans Health Conference
May 29 – 31 2008
by a new Ally
Starting the day with apprehension – I hadn’t ridden the train alone for years, and was not familiar with that area in Philadelphia. The Market Street East station was huge, and the Convention Center huge-er. I felt like a small country girl, a bit lost in the city.
Having found the Conference Center, I asked where the Trans Conference was. “Nothing like that listed here, Ma’am. Does it have another name?” I wilted. “No, but this is a conference for people who are transgender.” “Oh yes, I saw some signs out – they are setting things up at 12th & Arch.”
A sigh of relief: it did exist, they did exist, we do exist…
The moment I walked in I felt at home, not because I was transgender (one of the gang) , but because the energy said “welcome, we’re glad you’re here; do come in.” Coffee and bagels and fruit – yes! A woman came bustling in with several more large containers of Dunkin Doughnuts coffee. [There had been a mixup yesterday, she explained, and coffee never came. It was important enough for someone to go fetch some on their own…a sort of host/ess type of thing to do.]
Workshops had not begun yet. Children were running around; clusters of people sitting on sofas talking and laughing as they shared … a quiet hum. Tables were set up with literature and people from various resources in the area. (I was delighted to collect some excellent information for relatives and for friends at home)
Sitting to peruse the workshop descriptions [7 per time slot], I was impressed with their quality and their diversity. Some medical, some for children, some focusing on mental health, some for partners, youth-teen, family, general, and some closed except for trans persons. Something for everyone. Which to choose?? They were all good, eye opening, especially the one for youth/teen – defined as anyone under 20 – where adults could attend, but quietly, so the youth could speak & be heard.
But I found the one-on-one sharing the most valuable. I spoke to (or rather listened to) a trans woman, in her 60’s, in process of transition, deeply mourning 60 lost years, still struggling to find where it was safe to be herself (only places like this to date) and so many places that she still presented as a man – sharing the fears of this tightrope life. We hugged, and although I’d missed a whole workshop period technically, in that hour we had created our own.
I talked/listened to a Mother whose teen daughter has been out as a trans girl for a number of years, of their struggles with a school that turned a blind eye, of her fierce support of her daughter, and how eventually they chose to move. For now, her daughter is safe and accepted. In 5 years, when she is legally able to do so, she will have the SRS surgery. The mother asked if I had a workshop to attend, and I replied “we are in one right now.”
But most precious of all, I attended a seminar given by the surgeon who had performed the SRS on my daughter-in-law. A trans-woman herself, she is passionately committed to the trans community. She spoke of her work as an art form. She spoke of education, of which she has done a lot, as a door opening. During the question period I got to thank her in person for who she was as well as what she does, and to share my story with everyone there. I never really had a son-in-law: he was unavailable to me and others socially. Watching her blossom during the transition, I now have a warm and loving daughter-in-law with a great sense of humor and sense of Self.
The image I get in thinking back is of those in exile, not unlike the Isrealites (and many others, but Christianity is my lineage). You have been in exile, and the Red Sea is parting now, and you are crossing over to the other side where it is safe….not there yet, but on the way. Over history, many have been exiled, many (not all) have found freedom from bondage. Those of us who have found freedom must never forget those still in bondage.
So, my advice and prayer for you – transgender, allies, friends
Know you are Beautiful
A light that has been hidden under a bushel basket
I am honored to know you and to stand for you
[That was in 2008. Since moving to Ohio, I continue to grow in awareness and awe through the sharings and friendships of many in the trans community here.]