Column: Philadelphia Trans Health Conference: Bigger and better than ever!

By Joe Ippolito

One of the largest transgender conferences in the world, the 11th Annual Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference (PTHC), begins this Thursday, May 31, 2012, at the Philadelphia Convention Center in Philadelphia, PA.  The Conference, which is free and open to the public, runs through Saturday, June 2.  This year, conference organizers are preparing for what they believe will be the biggest PTHC ever, with more than two thousand people from around the globe expected to attend.

According to Jacsen Callanan, PTHC’s logistical coordinator, “One of the most important aspects of this year’s Conference is the inclusion of more international programming.”  One of the presenters Shabeena Francis Saveri, PhD, is a research scholar from India.  “Dr. Saveri has studied the Transgender Movement in the Indian state of Tamil-Nadu.” Says Callanan.   “She has been instrumental in gaining some of the most progressive rights for transwomen anywhere in the world.”  Other Conference offerings include a full day of advanced medical education training, a legal clinic, a mini film festival, and a clothing swap.

Attendees can take advantage of the return of several long-standing activities such as low-cost lunches, free HIV/STD screenings, a pool party for the kids, the community room, and Friday night’s Foundation Ball with DJ, vj and commentator, Kevin Prodigy.

PTHC is well-known for its ever-expanding number of programs. This year, the conference has added more workshops on aging, sex work, personal safety and homelessness. The expansion of the aging track of programming began at the Conference last year when the organizing committee responded to feedback from attendees about the growing needs of transgender elders. “As the number of aging transgender people grows, there are concerns about ensuring that the care they get will be respectful of their identity, their wishes, and their medical needs.  We wanted to address those issues,” says Callanan. The ten workshops addressing aging issues this year are inclusive and comprehensive and cover topics from estate planning, to medical care, to end-of-life issues.

Because of PTHC’s success over the years, the event has become more than just a conference. Organizers and attendees agree that PTHC is like a native land where transgender people and allies come together to be educated and to find acceptance. Queer activist, Wendy Forbes, agrees, “This will be my fourth year attending. I am very excited because I am meeting up with people I only see once or twice a year, and I love that.”

Because there is no one city with a high-concentration of transgender residents, PTHC serves as a central point where people from all over the world can meet, form alliances and maintain connections. Forbes says, “When I first started attending PTHC, I didn’t know what to expect. I now see it as a place to call home.”

One of the primary reasons PTHC stands out is its ongoing commitment to grassroots principles. Organizers insist on keeping the conference free of charge. This makes PTHC affordable for all transgender people, many whom statistically fall on the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum. A recent American Psychological Association Socio-economic Status Report shows that up to sixty-four percent of transgender people report having annual incomes that fall below $25,000. Discrimination in the work place and legal barriers are contributing factors to this statistic.

PTHC is a program of the Mazzoni Center, Philadelphia’s nationally-recognized LGBT Community Health Center. One of the goals of PTHC’s dedicated organizers is to sustain and grow the event for years to come.  Based on Mazzoni’s organizational support and the Conference’s popularity among gender minority communities and allied communities, come 2022, PTHC may be celebrating its 20th anniversary!

For more information or to register for the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference, please visit the conference website www.trans-health.org or call (215) 563-0652.

Joe Ippolito, PsyD, LCSW, practices at Abington Memorial Hospital in suburban Philadelphia, PA.  He is an adjunct professor at Chestnut Hill College and is the founder and chair of Gender Reel, an annual multi-media arts festival held each year in Philadelphia.  Ippolito is the writer and director of the upcoming documentary, “Getting Old Gracefully: The Transgender Experience.”

*Editor’s note: Joe was our recent guest on ‘Aged to Perfection with lgbtSr.’  You can listen to the broadcast on BlogTalkRadio here.