2014 Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference

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.


I was particularly impressed by the vast spectrum of activities offered. There was youth programming, all day programming with specific schedules (e.g. community space, spirituality space, native/first nations/indigenous gathering space), evening events, vendors galore, a gazillion different workshops, and so on. There was something for everyone!

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:


Twinsies!

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!!!
So good. Ugh. Nom nom nom.

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.

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