11th Annual Trans-Health Conference draws a record 2,400 attendees to Philadelphia

Last weekend Mazzoni Center wrapped up the 11th annual Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference (PTHC), which drew more than 2,400 individuals from throughout the region, around the country and the world to the Pennsylvania Convention Center for three packed days of workshops and activities from Thursday, May 31 through Saturday, June 2. 

What began in 2002 as a one-day gathering of transgender activists, allies, and service providers has grown into the largest transgender-specific conference in the world, with workshops and programs that addressing aspects of transgender health and well-being, including safety, education, employment, housing, and social support.  

Thanks to funding from the Arcus Foundation and the Open Society Foundation, this year’s PTHC increased emphasis on international issues, including panels on immigration and the challenges faced by refugees and asylees; transgender activism in Europe, as well as spotlight discussions on the state of trans communities in Latin America and South Asia, and welcomed participants and presenters from India, Nepal, Zambia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Serbia and Argentina. 

As PTHC Coordinator Jacsen Callanan said, “when I step back and consider where we've come from, and where we are today, it is nothing short of remarkable.”

Among the highlights this year, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter joined us for the welcoming remarks at the keynote address, and read a proclamation declaring Thursday, May 31, “Transgender Health Awareness Day” in the city.   Nutter was joined onstage by three co-chairs of the PTHC planning committee, who included Mazzoni Center Staff Attorney Barrett Marshall, fellow Mazzoni staffer April Murdoch, as well as longtime community activists Charlene Arcila, Kathy Padilla, and Michael P. Williams.  Arcila, Padilla, and Williams were among those who organized a successful push back in 2002 to have gender identity added to the city’s Fair Practices Ordinance.

Keynote speaker Minister Louis “L.J.” Mitchell delivered a rousing address Thursday morning that touched on intersecting identities, the nature of community, and how transgender identified people can realize their potential both as individuals and members of a diverse and vibrant community.  

This year marked the PTHC’s first-ever Youth Summit, which took place on Friday, June 1 and in addition to youth-oriented workshops featured a special youth keynote address by Mya Vasquez, who spoke about her personal experience growing up in foster care and overcoming various challenges as she went through transition.  Vasquez was joined at the Youth Keynote by 19-year-old transgender singer-songwriter Ryan Cassata, who talked about how trans youth (and others) across the spectrum of identities and experiences can serve as allies and support one another. 

Friday evening, more than 100 people attended a free performance of “Tara’s Crossing,” a play by Emmy nominated writer Jeffrey Solomon that dealt with the subject of political asylum for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender refugees.  The play was presented at Arch St United Methodist Church Main Sanctuary, and sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation with additional support from United Church of Christ Office for Health and Wholeness Advocacy.

In addition to the wide range of programs and workshops offered, this year’s PTHC included a track of Continuing Medical Education courses for providers; Continuing Education Units for social workers, therapists, and other providers; and a Continuing Legal Education track for attorneys interested in learning more about the specific legal issues faced by transgender individuals. Mazzoni Center’s Legal Services Department hosted a walk-in legal clinic for conference attendees on Saturday, June 2, which was staffed by nine volunteer attorneys, several of whom were joining us for the first time, along with Legal Services staff and interns.  

Special thanks to all who served on the planning committee for the 2012 Trans-Health Conference for their time and contributions throughout the year; and to the many volunteers and Mazzoni Center staff members who provided onsite support throughout the three days.     

To view photos from this year's PTHC click here.  

Trans-Health Conference in the news: 

"Philadelphia in vanguard of transgender tolerance" (May 29, 2012, Philadelphia Inquirer) 

"Kicking Off the 2012 Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference" (May 31, 2012, Huffington Post)

"Op-Ed: Civil Rights Are Vital to Trans-Health" (June 1, 2012, Advocate.com)