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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Trans Conventions: Why Should You Go to One?

Each year, there are opportunities to attend one or more trans conferences around the country. As time has gone by, there are more and more conferences available to attend regionally, providing opportunities to learn more about ourselves, meet people like ourselves, have fun and find out about options for medical and aesthetic care. At some conventions there are also continuing education tracks available to educate professionals such as myself. We are taking the responsibility for finding professionals who can educate other professionals who are interested in helping us and providing these important opportunities. I have both given workshops to other professionals and received a substantial amount of continuing education over the past two years. That has allowed me to solely focus on studying sanctioned curricula by my profession and teach to other professionals. Because of these opportunities, I have completed 73 hours of continuing education in the last two years on top of the self directed studies that I have been engaging in over the past 16 years. That is equivalent to 4.5 semester hours in a graduate program.

Since 2009, I have been attending conferences to offer workshops on the history of mental health treatment of transsexualism and what is the present state of the art in transgender care. I do my best to provide education to other professionals and seek out the best education opportunities that I can find, as well as unravel the misconceptions about the WPATH Standard of Care, and myths that abound in the gender community to the members of our community.

I have not been to all the conferences available to go to, but have been going to Southern Comfort Conference each year. Southern Comfort is the largest conference I have attended and is one of the longest running and largest conferences in the U.S. This year will be my fourth time presenting a workshop there. This conference is the most dear to me because Southern Comfort gave me my first opportunity to present a workshop on my area of specialization.

 I have given a workshop at the Trans Philadelphia Health Conference, which is the largest health conference in the world on the topic of transgender care and last year chaired the mental health workshop selection committee for this conference. I have also attended the Keystone Conference in Harrisburg, Pa., TransOhio Conference in Columbus, and Chicago Be- All and I have to say, I have enjoyed them all. Besides the opportunity to give or get these educational opportunities, I have treasured the friendships I have made at the conferences and the opportunity to spend time with many wonderful friends that I have across the nation thanks to the Internet and through the past four years that I have been a member of Pink Essence. I attended five conferences last year.

What can you expect at these conferences? Be prepared to meet all sorts of people from every walk of life and from all over the U.S. It is not unusual to meet people from all over the U.S.

You will have an opportunity to attend workshops on various topics that include counseling, etiquette, how to move in a feminine manner, fashion styling, medical health issues such as hormone regimens, aesthetic and gender reassignment surgeries, voice therapy, how to transition at work, improving family and spousal relationships, sexuality, spirituality, substance abuse, laser and electrolysis hair removal, legal issues in identity management, advocacy and participating in the legislative process. There are many more topics too. If you are a female to male transperson, there are plenty of topics for you too!

Just as importantly there is time for FUN!! Usually there will be organized activities and excursions to see local points of interest, to shop, and get pampered in salons.

The conferences provide special attention to first time attendees, so they will not feel frightened. For some, this will be the first time she will have had to be in public and this can be very overwhelming. Some conferences will offer a "big sister or big brother" to help first time attendees. There are sad stories about people coming for their first time who were too afraid to even come out of their room and hid the whole time they were there. Often there are 12 step meetings available for our recovering brothers and sisters.

An illustration of the important role conferences play in some of our lives can be seen frequently on the last night. You will see many people who stay up all night that last night with friends who they wont get to see for another year. Most poignant is watching those who are sad that they will not have an opportunity to express who they truly are for another full year. They look so forlorn, it is heartbreaking. That is exactly how important these conferences are.

If for no other reason, this is an opportunity to learn more about yourself and sometimes you will learn a little bit about other people, different from yourself, but in some ways the same.

I hope to see those of you who I have met and meet many of you I have only met through the Internet this year!

1 comment:

  1. Terrific post... I so agree with all that you have said here. There are 100 more reasons to attend and all ofthem lead to better understand of yourself, our community, and greater mental health and happiness.

    I remember my first conference was around 1974 and I was amazed that there were actually other people in this world like me. Mind you, this was long before the internet existed (after BC, AD, but prior to BI. And I found I really liked the people, too, which amazed me. I figured they must all be nuts, and since I was one of them, I must be nuts, too. It was at this first convention that I learned how wrong I was to judge others or judge myself so severely.

    Like you, in recent years I have attended several conferences including SC, TransOhio, Keystone, Philly TransHealth, Creating Change, and probably one or two more I haven't listed. I even stopped by the WPATH meeting in Atlanta last year. What you learn at conventions is far more than what comes in the work sessions. Gosh, I even attended research workshops, helped with research by participating in testing and surveys, and learned more about sex, too. That last worksession is usually packed. I have also presented at conferences and my son and TG and GG friends also helped me out during my presentation at Keystone.

    Conferences are also a great place to buy things from vendors. I can get beautiful rings in my size (14)for about $10 each. I also bought my breasts there. I know gals who bought wigs, got makeup done, tried electrolysis, bought voice CDs or MP3s, etc. What can be better than an education coupled with shopping?

    Lastly, it is a chance to meet in person people who are your heros... people who are making this world a better place for all TG folks; getting free consults from the surgeons who make our lives so dramatically improved and not having to travel to 5 different cities just to have some time withe them; and to know the businesses that respect TG people simply because they see us as they do any other good customer.

    You are so right encouraging people to attend, Sherri Lynne. I hope that many follow your advice.

    Caroline Grace