I had the opportunity to attend the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference for the first time this past weekend. It was incredible, to have the privilege to experience such an indescribable sense of connectedness among so many trans* and cisgender persons. I heard from the grapevine that 3,000+ people were in attendance, which is apparently up from around 2,000 last year.
For instance, I attended the conference with two friends who wanted to learn more about how to become better cisgender allies. One chum is a pastor living in Kansas and the other is a researcher at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). While my researcher friend and I attended the WPATH Graduate Student Research Symposium in Transgender Health, our pastor friend went to a "soulshop" called 'Spark Your Inner Light'. Essentially, during every time slot we all found interesting workshops - including multiple workshops FOR cisgender allies, such as 'How to be a Great Trans Ally'. Cuuuute.
I also came across the table for Original Plumbing (a quarterly magazine focusing on trans men) and this spiffy t-shirt:
... which I did have once before back in the day after receiving it as a gift from my uber cute friend Andrew, but lost after wearing once. ONCE.
After I posted this picture on my Facebook profile, I received a super cute request from my dad via text:
All n' all, we all had a really great and inspiring time. And got to partake in insanely delicious vegan food in Center City, Philadelphia:
|A philly cheeze steak, ranch chikn burger, banana whip with cookie crumbles, carrot ginger lemonade, and sweet potato fries from Hip City Veg!!|
|Yummy adzuki mushroom wraps and ginger pu erh tea from P.S. & Co!!!|
And traveling was cheap. I really appreciate that the conference organizers have made it a priority to keep the cost of admission to the conference FREE, so it's as accessible as possible. Especially to a community that's so disproportionately affected by poverty and various other access issues. My researcher friend found a super affordable place to stay on AirBNB.com, which I had never heard of before. Essentially, it's a website where people can rent out their own lodging - such as their apartments. She found a really nice apartment right in Center City, Philadelphia that a student was renting out to subsidize his income. Which subsequently saved us even more money, having access to a fully stocked kitchen and a fridge to store yums in!
So that worked out mega-great. And it was all worth it. I haven't had time to fully digest everything I experienced and learned at the conference yet, but it was great. And I particularly loved seeing so many cisgender physicians, students, providers, family, etc., there also. And the growing interest in recognizing and addressing the tremendous health disparities affecting trans* persons.
Not surprisingly, all of the workshops related to health insurance were packed to the point that many attendees had to stand. I took a million notes on how to navigate insurance plans, how the affordable care act impacts transgender healthcare, etc. It's all so complicated and specific to individual situations/options that I'm still pretty confused, but I am in contact with the awesome guy who presented. Fortunately, he's SUPER nice and is all willing to help me navigate the labyrinth that is health insurance - specifically, graduate student health insurance - to the best of his abilities. Aww!
Overall, the conference was really inspiring and motivating. On one hand, I was overwhelmed by the vast sense of connectedness and all of the progress that's being made. And on the other, recognizing how far we still have to go. For instance, I teared up in more than one workshop... I remember one moment where a trans woman in the audience expressed that she's presently forced to live in a homeless shelter for men - and that she "has to sleep next to and shower with men" on a daily basis and every day is "a nightmare".
Ugh. So yes, we do have a ways to go on in so many domains (health, stigma, discrimination, civil rights, violence, etc.), but we're definitely getting there.