A New Ally at the 7th Annual Philadelphia Trans Health Conference 2008

people-painting7th 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 yourSelf

Trust yourSelf

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.]

God bless.



Of Identity, Faith, and Love

Of Identity, Faith, and Love

by Sara Davis Buechner

 As difficult as it is for me to define the music I play in words, so it is with religion. The two are deeply intertwined within my soul, and the expression of both is something that takes me into a realm far different, far higher, than the ordinary experience of daily life. It’s fair to say that my life would, indeed, have no meaning without music, and thus I may say also of a life without God, without spirit, without a daily soulful prayer to the Creator. Since earliest memory I have had the need within, to make a joyful noise unto the Lord.

As a young child, the most joyful times in my life circled around the music played on our home piano, the Mozart Symphonies that came into our living room on the radio, the classical records my mother bought for our RCA turntable, and most of all the piano lessons taken on the lap of one of the most spiritual and loving human beings I know, a then-young Hungarian refugee named Veronika Wolf.  [Read more…]

Not Limelight, but Twilight

Not Limelight, but Twilight

By James Scott P. Pignatella

I am a multifaceted person, as most folks are. One of my facets is photography, which started from a Polaroid camera gifted to me when I finished eighth grade. In the twenty-five plus years since, it’s become a semi-professional hobby. Light completely changes the character of a photo. The best photos are not taken at high noon or in the dark of night. The photos with the most character are often taken in the moments of twilight; sunrises, sunsets, or not far from it.

Some of my other facets include that I am Catholic; a scientist, (an engineer, to be precise); a musician; an actor; an outdoorsman; a literary critic; a mentor; an amateur theologian and historian…a bit of a modern day renaissance man, perhaps. I am also a transman, also known as a female-to-male transsexual. That’s the facet that has tended to be problematic for me and for others. I have always been male, but, when I was young, I was not always consistently seen as such. In fact, there were constant expectations made by those who ‘knew better’ for me to be someone I wasn’t, namely a female. I never met those expectations.

[Read more…]

The Truth About Finding Peace

The Truth About Finding Peace

by Carol Brooks

This is the story of my life’s journey to discover the truth about who I am. I remember being about five or six, and playing with the daughter of my mother’s best friend. Somehow, we started playing dress up and I wore her dresses. It felt so good, and I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t wear them all the time. My parents never knew that we did this. I would wear this little girl’s nightgown and panties. As I got older, I remember riding my bike down to her place and wearing panties and a slip under my trousers. I was both thrilled and nervous.

When I was about nine or ten, my mother would make me wear my sister’s dress so that she could hem it. I complained, but my mother said my sister was too busy doing household chores so I had to do it. Sometime later, my sister found out that I wore one of her dresses, and I was punished for that. I had to wear the dress all day while they called me Susie, and tried to shame and embarrass me. They told my only grandfather, and he too would call me a sissy and a little girl. They taunted me saying that men are strong and don’t cry, and definitely don’t wear dresses. Only sissies do!

[Read more…]

Do we really know by seeing?

Do we really know by seeing?

By Laura Grace Holtsberry

Take a moment and if there happen to be a few people around you, or maybe you can take time to remember the images of those you know, or maybe try this exercise the next time you can be with your friends; stop and study the faces and the bodies of all those you see. It should not take long to discover how incredibly different they are. We may be similar in many ways but there is no mistaking how incredibly unique each and every person is.  This uniqueness even extends into family groups even to those who are identical twins.

However, as you look at them, even upon those voices that are so familiar to you, do you really know them?  As we look upon their bodies, their outward appearance, and as we listen to the sound of their voices, we make so many decisions about a person’s worth, their roles and how we shall treat them. Yet to be honest, what we see tells us very little about who this person really is. We see what they want us to see, and if what we see is what we expect to see, then we will pay scant attention to anything else. I am reminded of the Eddy Arnold lyric made famous by Ray Charles “You’re just a friend, that’s all you’ve ever been, but you don’t know me”

[Read more…]

Henry and Helene: A Transman and His Mother

Henry and Helene: A Transman and His Mother

From Helene…

So much has changed over the past few years. My beautiful daughter with the lithe body of an athlete is now my good looking, sturdily built son with a close cut beard. I no longer see the daughter except in my thoughts or old photos that I try, unsuccessfully, not to look at. In the beginning of Henry’s transition there were times I did not even recognize him. I guess I was still looking for Eve.

Eve and I always had a very close, typical mother-daughter relationship. We’d discuss everything she wanted to discuss, hug, enjoy spending time together, go to movies, laugh, talk about the family. You get the picture. That she didn’t like to shop, get a manicure, sit with her knees together didn’t rattle me. She liked boys, had boyfriends. But she did kind of walk like a truck driver and carrying a purse was something we laughed about since they way she held it made it appear that it was a smelly bag of trash. I dreaded the weekends because she would come home after being out with friends and throw herself on my bed in tears that she didn’t fit in. I attributed this to the fact that she was adopted (she’s Korean, I’m not) and teenage angst in general. I must have been living on another planet.

[Read more…]

Not Going Away

Not Going Away

By David Johnsrud

Being posed for a photograph in a red velvet dress, both the photographer and my mother had difficulty getting me to look up and smile, to hold the phone next to my ear as if I were talking on it. They wanted me to look up, but I kept looking down at the expanse of brightly colored dress, white leather baby shoes, and especially the itchy strangeness on my upper arms where the gathers held the fabric close in bunches. I was aware of one thing: This was all wrong. The date on the photo puts my age at 22 months.

It was a feeling that would become so commonplace as to almost be tolerable at times: The strangeness and humiliation of being literally forced into feminine-appropriate attire and behavior, coupled with the realization that not all girls were uncomfortable being girls, which was my first lesson in gender dysphoria: Not everyone has it. It shocked me to realize that most girls indeed liked being girls.

[Read more…]