I’m back from the Philly Trans Health Conference! PTHC is an appropriately named conference about trans health in Philadelphia. Shocking, I know. But it’s also an opportunity for networking, a social space, a place to party, and (last but not least) a place to learn a ton about trans issues, both related to healthcare and to broader activism and political issues. This was my first year, and I will definitely be returning in the future.
I have tons of notes, many of which I was livetweeting during the conference, but I wanted to share the three biggest takeaways:
First, I want to continue the efforts I’ve put into finding a strong queer and trans community in Chicago. PTHC was obviously an intentional community, and one which was only around for 72 hours, so it’s unreasonable to expect that kind of space to exist year-round. That said, I’m realizing more and more that I don’t just want to surround myself with any queer folks (and allies, to a lesser extent) but with awesome queer folks (and allies) who are engaged in activism and pushing for social and political change. I completely respect and understand why that life focus isn’t for everyone, but I get most excited when I’m with like-minded people.
This isn’t to say I don’t also have awesome friends who aren’t politically engaged, or that I plan to cut them from my life. But I want to continue building a community where political activism is an important component.
I’m going to write a longer post on this later, but I attended a few sessions which discussed sex-segregated spaces, ranging from women’s-only schools to MichFest to bathrooms. Here’s what I realized:
If a space is going to be sex-segregated, it must be clear on:
- WHO is welcome
- WHY that population is welcome, while others are excluded
Likewise, when evaluating the merits of a sex-segregated space, it’s important to look at:
- What is the INTENT of the sex-segregation?
- What is the POLICY in place?
- What is the REALITY of the implementation, and its impact on people’s lives?
More specifically, if those three points are in conflict, that needs to be teased out and examined more closely.
SEX WORK and TRANS RIGHTS
In the past few months, I’ve both had a number of friends come out to me as sex workers, and developed new friendships with people I learned were sex workers. I’ve always been pro-sex workers rights, in theory, but these friendships have given me an opportunity to think about the issue in a more personal fashion. Then, at PTHC, I talked with a number of active and former sex workers about the impact of anti-sex work legislation and policies on the trans community. At the end of the conference, I came away with the following realization: Being a rock solid, A-level, super-star-bonus-points ally to the trans community requires being in favor of
legal decriminalized sex work.
[EDIT: I’m still trying to figure out the difference between legalization and decriminalization, but have been told the push is for the latter, and not the former.]
Just like my thoughts on sex-segregated spaces, this topic is going to turn into a longer post at some point in the future. (Probably not until mid-July, when I’m done traveling.) But, in short: The number of trans women who turn to sex work, either voluntarily, “voluntarily,” or by force, makes sex work an issue inherently important to the trans community. Due to wider systemic and cultural barriers in place for trans employment/housing/etc – not to mention a huge dose of racism – safe and legal sex work must be part of truly supporting the trans community, particularly trans women of color.
I need to think more on how to incorporate these views into my larger identity and work as a political activist, particularly those related to the rights of sex workers. But I am so glad I was able to get to PTHC, and hope that I’ll be able to keep up the energy and momentum it gave me.