It's hard to find words to describe the Philly Trans Health Conference (PTHC). There were over 4500 people in one convention center working for trans justice, trans rights, trans health, trans education... The list goes on. I met so many incredible people doing really important work. I was struck by many things, but one that really stood out to me was how many non-profits were founded and run by trans*, gender fluid, and gender queer people. I saw evidence of true community activism coming from within. This is a big deal! On the one hand it makes sense that it would be trans* people working for gender justice, but on the other, it is in many ways remarkable to see that in spite of gross under funding (less than .5% of all philanthropic dollars in the US go to trans* causes), rampant discrimination and violence against trans* people, and particularly trans* women of color, trans* and queer people were out en mass working for social justice in so many varied and important ways. In a community that is chronically under employed and underpaid, it was truly extraordinary to see how many trans* and queer people where managing organizations, employing other members of our community and making in their life's work to expand opportunities for our community.
In addition to all of the work that was happening at PTHC, there was a lot of fun as well. It was this part, the fun, that gave me goosebumps. On my first night in Philly I was cajoled into going to a pool party. I wasn't sure what it would be like and when I got there I realized that I never could have imagined the scene that unfolded in front of me. There were over 100 trans*, queer and non-binary folks swimming in a pool. This may sound a bit like a high school party gone wild, but it wasn't that. It was, instead, a place where people, many of whom haven't been swimming in years, felt the freedom and the safety to show their bodies in public. I overheard many comments, but the one that got me was, "Wow, I never thought I'd get in a swimsuit again in my life but here it feels okay. No, it feels pretty good." That is what we at The Venture Out Project aspire to offer our participants. We want you to feel safe, to feel supported, and to accomplish feats you never thought possible regardless of who you are or how you identify.
Thank you to all of those who showed me the beauty and power of our community this weekend. We truly have something to be proud of.