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Sunday, September 30, 2012

I'm Back From Southern Comfort Conference: Reflections and Observations

I'm home again from the Southern Comfort Conference. Well, actually I came home a week ago last week on Sunday. I was quite tired, had to work the next day and I've gone to bed fairly early each night until last night night when the Gods of Football television decreed that the University of Alabama begin their game at 9:15 P.M. local time, so I find myself tired again this morning and did not participate in my intentional community's service. Perhaps I will get back on track with that next week. I hope so, as I always feel better for having attended.

As always, I truly enjoyed my time at the conference. The Crowne Plaza Ravinia in the Perimeter area of Atlanta is simply a gorgeous venue and conveniently located across from a very nice mall and several very fine restaurants. Other shopping is convenient as well in the area and you won't get lost.

My workshop was well received and I'm always both flattered and humbled that people enjoy my presentation and I always give an historical context for the present state of the WPATH standards of care, as well as what the standards actually do state. There is a lot of myth about the standards of care that continues to abound. It confuses both people who are wanting to approach a transition and be healthy, and puts so many people off who resort to illegal sources to obtain hormones for a number of reasons. I'll be writing more on this topic next time.

Chloe Prince had a reception for Pink Essence members which was well attended and very lovely. She announced that she is launching a new web enterprise called It's purpose is to be a one stop website to help people find the various resources we all need on our gender journey. This is a much needed service to our community and I wish her all the success in the world with this venture!

I didn't attend many workshops myself this time. Many of the topics I've heard on a number of occasions. This is not to say I am above it all or that there isn't more to learn, because there is always more to learn and I need to stay current so that I can help others better and for my own needs at this late time in my transition. I attended a workshop on transitioning in the workplace that was excellent and got a few ideas about better ways to go about taking this up with the workplace administration. The other workshops I attended were on sexuality for the male to female transsexual taking hormones and one on coping with and resolving internalized transphobia. That is a very important topic as even those of us have dealt mostly with coming to terms about who we are and coming to terms with the people in our lives, can sometimes feel a degree of doubt or guilt and shame creep into the back of our minds. Resolving internalized transphobia isn't like completing a contest, or arriving at a destination, just like the process of transitioning, it is a journey.

My purpose this time, besides the main purpose of presenting my workshop, was to get some time to destress from my practice of psychotherapy which has been very busy and undergoing a lot of changes with the changes coming with the new health care systems. I wanted to get a massage for a back problem and for the holistic health benefits from a therapeutic massage. So the good news is that I got my back straightened out after almost a month and I was able to return to playing golf this week. I played twice in fact! On Thursday I played 9 holes with a friend after work and then yesterday I played 18 holes by myself. I played well for my level of skill on both occasions. I'm playing on a course I've never played before this Wednesday afternoon that is rated #36  in difficulty in the United States. I'm pretty sure I will stink it up, but I never take the game seriously, don't get angry when I don't play well and generally have a fun time and get rid of my stress.

Another purpose was to network with other psychotherapists, gender surgeons, and other allied health care professionals who I know. I took the opportunity to meet some other professionals I hadn't met before.

Then of course one of the biggest reasons is to see old friends I don't to see more than a few times a year and some I only see once a year. Wonderful people and I wish I could see them more often. I have friends like them all over now because of the opportunity to give the workshops in various places.

One of the things I enjoy a great deal is the opportunity to make new friends and each time I go to give a workshop, I meet new friends and look forward to seeing them the next time I'm in their city. That's always a lot of fun for me!

One of the things I reflected on is the debate on gender identities and I recently wrote on that topic here. The article is called The Dialectic of the Gender Continuum. One of the things I wrote mentioned that various gender identities are all valid, though not necessarily having anything in common with each other. Before I went to the conference, I wrote another article about the important role conventions such as Southern Comfort play for our communities. Some people I know expressed that they no longer go to these conferences because they feel they have nothing in common with others who have different gender identities. They feel clearly different from people with other gender identities and don't wish to socialize with them. I find that attitude disappointing. While I personally don't feel as if my identity has common elements as a woman of transsexual experience, I don't like the idea that I shouldn't socialize with others because they are different. I think if those who segregate themselves from others with different gender identities were to reflect on this attitude, they might be shocked to realize that that notion is no different from segregation due to racism and that they would not find those attitudes to be attractive within themselves. I'm not going to like every person who identifies as a cross dresser, fetishistic transvestite, transgender, or whichever identity someone may claim, but I am going to like some of them and I would not wish to not have the opportunity to make a new friendship. I've found that I never have enough friends and that all my friends, close or not, have something to offer me or teach me. I'm pretty shy, people wouldn't guess that, but I do like people.

Along this same theme, I heard the attitude shared that many younger people at the conference philosophically don't like the idea of having a gender identity at all. They identify as gender queer or other similar labels and they would deny everyone their own right to a gender identity as male or female in a society of their own design. I find it interesting that they would segregate themselves and impose a societal code that denies others of their own gender identity. You see this theme in much of feminist academic writing and in the presentations these individuals give at workshops. They want to impose the use of new language in the use of pronouns that deny the existence of gender identity. Ironically, these folks seem to be a small proportion of those in the gender community. I can never see myself identifying as anything than "female" or "woman" and would feel oppressed by a society that denies me my own identity, much as these individuals feel oppressed by a society that expects them to have a gender identity of either male or female. I find that rather ironic that they would choose to subject others to the same oppression they seek to be freed from.

I hope that the gender communities will come to accept others with different identities than their own and not feel threatened by those identities that are different than their own, just as we expect the dominant culture to accept us and respect our place in an open and free society. Sometimes I think the dominant culture is way beyond us in acceptance of us when we can't be tolerant of others with different identities in our own community. What do you think?


  1. Sherri,

    I am in complete agreement with your observations and views about the need for tolerance and acceptance of different views about gender. I just recently posted a discussion in PE about tolerance which asks the same questions.

  2. Hi Sherri, It was nice to see you at the reception, and thank you for the vote of confidence in the new website,

    1. Thank you Chloe, for everything you do! I'm sure that I wouldn't be as far along in my transition or professionally as I am today if weren't for what you created with Pink Essence. I'll always be grateful for that and I'll be looking forward to participating on and supporting with True Essence as well.
      Hugs, Sherri