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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

More Than 2,000 Attend Philadelphia Trans Health Conference

Earlene Budd, founding member of Transgender Health Empowerment, Inc., in Washington, D.C.
Earlene Budd, founding member of 
Transgender Health Empowerment, Inc., 
in Washington, D.C. 
By Louis  Finley -

More than 2,000 people from across the country attended the 10th annual Philadelphia Trans Health Conference at the Pennsylvania Convention Center from Thursday, June 2, through Saturday, June 4.

The conference, which focuses on the issues and needs of those who identify as trans, began as what its Web site described as a "one-day gathering of transgender activists, allies and service providers" in 2002. 1,400 people attended last year’s conference. And it has become the world’s largest trans-specific gathering.

Conference attendees held a variety of workshops and activities. These included sessions on mental health, trans-specific policy development and the definition of gender roles in different communities. Earlene Budd, who is a founding member of Transgender Health Empowerment, Inc., in Washington, D.C., and Jamison Greene, who serves on the board of directors of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, the Transgender Law and Policy Institute and TransYouth Family Allies, received lifetime achievement awards for their advocacy.

Chaz Bono read excerpts from "Transition: How I Became a Man" and signed copies of it on Friday, June 3. Authors Jennifer Carr, Zander Keig and David Weekly are among the authors who were featured at the conference’s first book expo the following day.

Joelle Ruby Ryan, who is the first trans woman to receive a Point Scholarship, attended the conference for the third time. "I gained a wealth of new information, met some truly wonderful people and realized that our army of trans activists and supporters are growing exponentially. It is a very exciting time for our movement," she told EDGE.

Ryan said the highlight of the conference for her was attending the Trans Pioneers of Color workshop.

"This was truly a historic and epic event," she said. "The contributions of trans activists of color are huge for our movement and for the larger movement of social justice. All too often, their contributions are ignored or purposefully marginalized. This event, which featured amazing speakers, help to put their work front and center, and remind[ed] the trans community that racism and white privilege are ongoing and serious problems in the trans movement."

Ryan, who holds a masters degree in English and women’s studies and teaches at the University of New Hampshire-Durham, also led two workshops. One was on terms and language in the trans community and the other examined what she described as weight diversity and acceptance of overweight people among trans people and their allies.

Ryan described the overall turnout as terrific. And she generally applauded organizers for attracting a diverse group of attendees.

"While the opening plenary was amazing, the others were not as well attended or as compelling," she said. "I think they need to think about how to re-structure those in the future. While the conference is more balanced than it used to be, they need to keep stressing trans-feminine inclusion and programming at the conference."

The Mazzoni Center has supported the conference since its inception, and it told EDGE in a statement it remains committed to promoting the health, well-being and legal rights of trans people.

"We are extremely proud to have been a part of the conference since its inception 10-years ago, and to have a strong commitment across all levels and departments of our staff, who volunteer to work in different areas of PTHC every year," said the Mazzoni Center. "While the conference takes place once a year, our agency is committed to serving the trans community year-round through our various programs and services, ranging from primary health care to counseling, legal services, testing, education and more. We hope that the Trans Health Conference has contributed in some way to the enormous and significant strides this community has made in the last few years-and we look forward to continuing our work and promoting equality for all LGBT people."

PTHC organizers are scheduled to meet later this month to begin planning next year’s conference.

Louis Finley is a student at Drexel University, and the former News Editor of the schools independent newspaper, The Triangle.

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