This is the second in a series of posts relaying the reflections of the 13th Philadelphia Trans Health Conference. This is distillation of ideas, recommendations, and hopes presented at the conference. Missed Part 1? Read it here.
Create stronger media.
Representation in media and health education materials needs to shift as trans and GNC people are often under- and mis- represented. Some organizations have jumped on board to create affirming and accurate health campaigns and communications.
Learn the policy landscape of your state.
Many conference sessions highlighted the work of organizations like the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition and the Transgender Law Center who are working for just policy changes. I also learned about the new Title IX protections (which are complicated) and implications of the Affordable Care Act (you can access the session presentation here). While this was informative, policy varies greatly by state, so much so that organizations have responded by creating detailed resources and kits on how to navigate these legal labyrinths.
Don’t write off social media.
I was lucky to squeeze into the session, “Hyperlinking: How the internet helps trans youth connect and survive”. I sat on the floor and listened to young folks (one was a teenager; the other, in their early 20s) share how connecting online with other trans youth has been lifesaving for many people. YouTube and Tumblr help hold a vital online community for some, where trans and GNC youth can find each other, learn about resources like clothing swaps, ask questions about transitions, develop deeper political understandings of their experiences, and so much other support.
Engage in participatory research processes.
While collaboration across disciplines was evident at the conference, disconnects still exist between researchers, health practitioners, and community organizations. Research translation (turning findings into practical on-the-ground applications) hinges on the relationship between the researcher and community they are “studying”. It is in this relationship or lack thereof, that issues have arisen, creating a long history of racism in medical institutions and researchers taking advantage of community knowledge. Various communities have been addressing this problem including the disability justice community that popularized the principle, “Nothing about us, without us.” Over the years, the Greater Involvement of People Living with HIV (GIPA) framework has also permeated policy and research. These guidelines are based on the idea that people have the right to self-determination and participation in processes that impact their lives. In the research realm, community-based participatory research (CBPR) is one of many answers to this problem. CBPR is a collaborative, process-oriented research approach that engages academic and community partners at all steps of the research process from designing research to analysis and dissemination. It’s not an easy process but a step towards genuine community involvement in processes that affect them.
Foster active allyship.
Allyship isn’t just being educated on the oppressions trans and GNC people face, but critically reflecting on the privilege cisgender people have and creating action. There are a lot of teaching resources and trainings for schools, organizations, and workplaces. The Audre Lorde Project and Dark Matter, give great examples of moving beyond 101-level trainings to comprehensive understandings of trans and GNC experiences that include critical racial and economic analysis.
Support and share creative work.
Conference participants got to nerd out in the session, “Trans Stories in Sci Fi and Fantasy”. You can skim the presentation here and a new poetry anthology here. While the conference as a whole doesn’t focus on literature, this was one of the most well-attended sessions. Why? Creative work, especially science fiction and fantasy, gives us spaces to explore other systems and meanings of gender. Many of these stories ask us to imagine communities where many genders is the norm and gender expression is entirely different than it exists today. Most importantly, these books ask us, “What do we want to see in our world? How would we get there?”