More than 4,000 people are expected to attend Mazzoni Center’s Philadelphia Trans Health Conference this weekend. The 16th-annual event, which will be held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, will operate under the theme, “Perseverance. Strength. Power.”
Mazzoni Communication Coordinator Sean Laughlin described how the theme came about.
“There has been a lot of strife in the overall community between different internal and external reasons,” Laughlin said. “Even with all of that happening, people are still maintaining their individuality and strength in their identities. It was a way to honor the community who continues to overcome obstacles everyday, between people in their community being murdered all the way up to Trump banning trans people from the military.”
In addition to the theme, the Trans Health Conference will also introduce new initiatives such as the Contemplation Space, an app and a revamped Youth Space.
The Contemplation Space will be open every morning before the first workshop in room 126B. Participants can use this space for art, meditation, prayer and other mindfulness exercises.
“This year we decided to have a more comprehensive space for people who wanted to recognize their faith,” Laughlin said, adding the hope is to include this room at future conferences.
Conference attendees can also utilize the TransPHL app, where they can view the agenda, lineups and topics. Users will also be able to provide feedback on workshops and connect with other attendees by syncing their Facebook and LinkedIn profiles. Laughlin said at least 500 people had signed up for the app as of Tuesday.
General Conference Coordinator Ashley Coleman, who was not immediately available for comment on this story, told PGN in March that her goal was to revamp the Youth Space portion of the conference. Laughlin said she succeeded by including dance parties and film screenings in addition to the usual games and interactive sessions.
Workshop changes and controversies
This year’s workshops also saw some changes. As part of a mentorship program, previous presenters offered guidance to first-time presenters on how to form a workshop.
“We got a lot more confident workshop submissions this year,” Laughlin said. “[The program] helped tremendously with a lot of people who have never submitted a workshop in their life to know how the workshop is going to go.”
For the first time, the conference will also offer professional-development credits for educators.
“We always believed that teachers are as important as anyone else to be able to speak out about trans issues and to help trans-identified people get through many parts of their life,” Laughlin said. “Education is a huge part of that.”
However, two of the conference’s workshops were the subject of controversy. “Alternate ways of working with gender dysphoria” and “Detransition: A panel discussion” became topics of discussion on Reddit with some users saying the presenters, Carey Callahan and Elan Lepovic, practiced trans-exclusionary radical feminism and associated with transphobic individuals.
Laughlin said that while these topics are important to discuss, the workshop-planning committee came to the conclusion that these presenters were not the right fit to speak on them. He added that Mazzoni plans to revisit the topics at future conferences.
“It’s a difficult topic for people to talk about but if we can find the right people to handle the topic correctly and aren’t influenced by other outside sources that are anti-trans, then we will be happy to have them here,” Laughlin said.
Looking to the future
Next year’s conference will bear a new name: The Philadelphia Trans Wellness Conference.
“We are changing the name because we believe that the conference is more than just health now,” Laughlin said. “It’s on a larger scale, [and has topics related to] trans identity and trans wellness. This conference is more than just about health, it’s about a lot of other community issues.”
The conference is set for Aug. 2-4, 2018, a month earlier than this year’s conference. Laughlin said the plan is to move it back one month each year until it returns to June, when the conference had traditionally been held.
As for this year, Laughlin said people should attend to learn about the experiences of trans people.
“The only way we are going to move forward as people is to be able to understand each other and the only way we are going to understand each other is by attending these types of events, by being able to come together and learn from each other.”
The 16th Philadelphia Tran Health Conference will be held through Sept. 9 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, 1101 Arch St. Visit www.mazzonicenter.org/trans-health for more information and to register.
Mix and mingle at Trans Health Conference
The 16th Annual Trans Health Conference comes to town Sept. 7-9 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, 129 N. Broad St. The mission of the conference is to educate and empower trans individuals, allies and health-care providers on issues of health and well being, as well as facilitate networking and community building.
Besides educational seminars and workshops, there are also opportunities to network and socialize outside of the conferences.
Attendees can get settled and acquainted at the Opening Reception and partake in refreshments 6:30-10 p.m. Sept. 7 at The African American Museum, 701 Arch St.
Guests will also have the opportunity to mix, mingle and network with other professionals in the trans and gender-expansive communities at a Professional Networking Mixer 6-8 p.m. Sept. 8 at Field House sports bar, 1150 Filbert St.
That same night you can also join a free Shabbat Dinner and Kabbalat Shabbat Service 7 p.m. Sept. 8 at John C. Anderson Apartments. 251 S. 13th St.
Transkids Purple Rainbow Foundation invites parents of transgender/gender-queer individuals and their children to its Annual Meet & Greet and Kids’ Pool Party 6-10 p.m. Sept. 8 at Hampton Inn, 1301 Race St.
Attendees looking to take in some sights outside of the conference can check out Philly Fringe Festival’s “Pride Parade!” an interactive walking tour hosted by writer and historian Wesley Flash. The venture features historic hot spots in Center City, setting off from Rittenhouse Square 4 p.m. Sept. 8 and 2 p.m. Sept. 9. Flash takes you on a storytelling adventure that honors and celebrates the out and proud ancestors who marched before our time. Meet Flash inside the park at 18th and Chancellor streets. Look for the rainbow umbrella.
If you’re looking to get your party on, check out the Back2Basics Throwback Party: Trans Health After Party 10 p.m.-2 a.m. Sept. 9 at CiBo, 1227 Walnut St. DJ Deluxx will spin throwback tunes all night, with a $5 cover before midnight and $10 after.
— Larry Nichols