PTHC 2013 – Experiences, Initial Observations and Thoughts

Last week I attended the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference for the first time.  The whole experience of getting to the conference and the conference itself was a bit of an adventure.  The first part of the adventure was figuring out if I’d have my documents in time to travel.  First I needed my amended birth certificate, and then once that was received needed to get my passport.  This part of the adventure will be part of another post because there are unresolved issues around the birth certificate.

Once the decision to go was final I had to sort out travel arrangements.  Getting to Philadelphia from Ottawa is not a direct trip unless one is driving or has the money to fly on a direct flight.  I decided to take the train down.  Via Rail to Montreal and then the Amtrak Adirondack train from Montreal to New York, and another train to Philadelphia.  If one has the time it is a beautiful, if long train ride to New York. The scenery along Lake Champlain is wonderful.  I travelled on Tuesday June 11 to arrive in time to attend the Trainsfaith Pre-Event on the 12th.

The meet and greet was good and I met some new people from a variety of faiths and spiritual / religious practices.  The retreat portion of the day was excellent.  I came away with a number of new perspectives and having heard about other people’s experiences in their own faith journeys.

The conference itself had over 3,000 attendees.  Going in to the conference I made the decision to get away if I needed quiet space.  There was no designated quiet space set aside for those attending the conference.  While most workshops were open to everyone there were also workshops where attendance was restricted to specific audiences.

The sessions on Thursday that I attended were all good.  A couple of them could have used more time for the discussions.  My workshop selections were based on a combination of factors.  One was workshops that would help me in my current and ongoing work in various communities as a resource person.  Second, I wanted to attend workshops relating to faith and various experiences, resources etc.  Third, workshops that would nurture my own growth, knowledge and to participate in discussion around the wide variety of trans* experiences.  Given that I was only

The workshops I attended on Thursday were Families of Trans* Kids: Meeting their Evolving Needs, Passing and Failing: Social and Emotional outcomes of “Passing” Pressure, Sacred Conversations, and lastly Gender Diversity and Jewish Tradition.

Overall the Thursday workshops were all informative and enlightening.  Both the Passing and Failing workshop and the Sacred Conversations workshop could both have had more time devoted to them.  The diversity of experiences and the range of discussion was engaging and thought provoking.  The first workshop on the evolving needs of trans* kids was informative and focused on the work of TransActive in Portland Oregon and what they have learned, and their model of care.  The discussion of gender diversity in the Jewish Tradition was enlightening and informative.  Learning about how other faiths handle diversity, especially Judaism from which Christianity came out of, will only help my own studies and work as a Christian.

Friday was a more interesting day.  The workshops I attended were: Beyond Inclusion: Creating Trans-Celebratory Faith Communities, Jewish Rituals to Celebrate Trans* Lives, a Transgender Led Catholic Mass and Creating Trans-Inclusive College Campuses.  Friday evening I attended the Shabbat Observance.

Of the workshops I attended on Friday the discussion of Jewish Rituals to Celebrate Trans* Lives was the most intense and the most rewarding.  I was able to pull a few ideas from the workshop that would equally apply in a Christian context. The discussions on creating trans* inclusive campuses was not useful for me at all.  The format of the discussion was geared toward people at universities where some work had already be done and not a general discussion of how to even get the ball rolling on being more accepting and inclusive.  I did not stay to the end.  With regard to the workshop on creating trans* celebratory faith communities I ask you to read the description and information and see if you can spot the problem I had with it.  I ask that you reply in the comments.  The discussion was reasonable and a lot of ideas were presented. There were good suggestions made about creating inclusive communities and I look forward to working to implement some of the ideas.

The two services on Friday, the Catholic Mass and the Shabbat Observance were both excellent.  The d’var Torah presented by my friend Emily Aviva Kapor, titled Wrapping myself in the fringes, was very moving and provided me with some insights around my own transition.

On the social side of the conference I met a number of people whom I knew only online, some new people and ran in to some people who were also attending from Ottawa.  I was also able to spend time socializing and discussing various topics with others.

There were a couple of workshops on Saturday that I would have liked to have attended, but I left early in the morning on Saturday to attend a cousin’s wedding in Toronto.  I would have liked to have seen more workshops on the spirituality and religion track that were more specifically Christian focused.

Overall I enjoyed the trip and my time in Philadelphia.  I also thank my hosts who offered great hospitality and advice on getting around Philadelphia.  Next year I am going to plan to spend extra time in Philadelphia so that I can see more of that historical city.  I have more thoughts about the conference that are still being processed and may end up as topics for other blog posts.

 

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