If I had given up when it seemed hard, impossible or a waste of my vacation day to wait in line for the chance to see her, I wouldn’t have had that experience. During a year in my life that proved to be the most difficult, with one crisis following another, it was the perfect time to be reminded of the power of faith. As much as I’ve admired Dolly for so many reasons, she is a model to me for perseverance and believing in yourself, in spite of all of the Doubting Thomases in the world.
As you may know, I have two nieces (by heart, not by genetics) who live in Philadelphia and I pretty much jump at the opportunity to go visit. Ideally I see them every couple of months but that is with varying success. I saw an opening in my calendar and decided to re-learn how to take public transit to Philly with a shih tzu now that I am living a car-free lifestyle.
As luck would have it, a pal was driving to Philly and offered me a ride, the babies were at a party until the evening time so I had an afternoon available and could go with my pal to the Philly Trans Health Conference.
I went to the conference once before, in the early aughts (maybe 2003 or 2004), when it was tiny at the William Way LGBT Community Center and my drag king troupe (including the parents of the aforementioned nieces who were still long from becoming parents) was asked to perform as the evening entertainment in the sweaty lobby of the Center. In my mind the conference always looks that tiny, even as I’ve heard about it for years and how it has gotten more noteworthy. Even up in NYC there is typically post-conference hubub about the ubiquitous, often problematic Femme workshop and top surgery show and tells.
The conference has gotten really huge, it’s at the Philadelphia Convention Center. It’s also free, which makes it an amazing resource for trans folks, allies and healthcare providers. As my pal’s car of eager Brooklynites got closer to Philly and we went through the available workshops in the Saturday afternoon line-up (easily 8-10 workshops in each slot) we got really pumped and made a plan.
It was sort of awesome to drive around looking for parking, seeing people we knew through the windows of the lobby (let us never forget how small our communities are) and various costumed superheros from the Wizard Con happening upstairs from the PTHC. We rolled in and quickly abandoned plans for the first workshop block as there were so many folks to catch-up with along the vendor roll.
I was really excited to learn about the Hearts on a Wire collective. They provide community support inside and outside of prison to incarcerated gender variant folks. Here’s a report they did on prison experiences for trans and gender variant folks. Did you know that glitter isn’t allowed in prison? Did you know that inmates held in women’s facilities are allowed some make-up and crafts and that inmates in men’s facilities are not allowed those items? There is a petition to change that! Imagine how a little clickie clickie action YOU can do RIGHT NOW could change the experience of an incarcerated person! Go ahead and sign the petition, I’ll wait right here.
I saw a bunch of other people at the conference, including meeting many blog readers! Thanks for saying hello!
I was excited to make it to one of the Femme workshops! That’s right, “one” of! There was a whole track of Femme workshops, so it wasn’t limited to just one.
The workshop I went to was called “Femme Solidarity” and facilitated by Almah LaVonn Rice, Jac Stringer and Katie Spencer. The facilitators created a framework for the discussion with a lot of safer space ground rules and a few ideas for topics, but mainly it was a space they created for Femme identified folks at the conference to, at this late moment in the conference, to discuss their experience and what was on their minds as Femme folks in that space.* I liked that the facilitators created a “stack”, where workshop participants could raise their hand and be added to the “stack” of names to be called on and then not worry about keeping their hand in the air. The conversation ends up a little disjointed but it does seem to flow and then more folks have a chance to talk, rather than just the pushy folks.
I live tweeted the workshop and got quotes as best as I could truncate while things popped around the room. Ultimately, I really enjoyed that the discussion centered around addressing misogyny in queer spaces and how that affects spaces like the PTHC where femininity can be drowned out by a “dudely” privileging of masculinity. I thought it was a good conversation to have and in a free-form workshop like the one we were in, even though it didn’t really address Femme solidarity directly.
Here are my tweets:
Jac has a great pronoun policy. If you know pronoun use it, if you don’t, don’t use them or use general “they.”
“How do we validate each person’s experience with femme and acknowledge our own.”
“How do we merge femme dyke space and femmme fag space and cross gender binaries?”
“It is the responsibility of people in the club space to find the gaps and reach out to other folks.”
“In the past femme workshops @ #pthc2012 have been the white cis partners of transmen that ignored/marginalized experience of transfemmes.”
“The femme workshops have shifted. More inclusive. Has to do with leadership of workshop.”
Femme ally says “Conference is feeling very “dudely.””
“Queer community can reinforce the same exclusions within itself of the heterosexual world.” It happens at this conference.
“These conversations mean there is misogyny in these spaces. Misogyny is hatred of anything not men.”
“Definition of misogyny arguably defined as oppression and depression of folks who aren’t ideal man. Affects everyone.”
“One of the hardest things of being a femme is the stigma about submission & obedience.”
“I have the opposite experience. Folks I know see femme as aggressive.”
“A lot of people have an extreme connotation with misogyny. The word has a strange stigma. Everyday things are sexism.”
“Worth remembering that misogyny can happen to anyone and can come from anyone. About perception of things femaleness/feminine.”
“Interrogation about lookism in Femme. Commodifying ourselves is violent.”
“Femmes trying to be seen as really tough feels like it is reinforcing stereotype that femme is weak.”
“Femininity in society is so manipulative. Changing femmeness in diff spaces.”
“How can we take on misogyny in femme space and sep from femme identity?”
“No one size fits all gender narrative @ #pthc2012. If this is going to be a coalition it needs to recognize there is dissent.”
“A lot of transsexual women do support the binary gender but don’t necc support gender non conforming folks.”
“Confronting the not femme enough stigmatizing in femme communities online.”
(At some point in here I pulled out the Amber Hollibaugh book I am re-reading and quoted about unlearning her internalized misogyny in order to come out and make community with lesbians–interesting that this is a process that was going on in the 70s and here we are 40 years later dealing with misogyny still.)
“Trauma spreads. It is important to do our self care & release it.”
“Socializing (talking & working through socially) is healing & can help us work through our oppressions.”
“Important to decenter femme identity from the stuff we deal with because of being femme. Femme is a beautiful thing to move toward.”
“Aspects of femininity are powerful they hate & fight what is powerful. To me femme is acknowledged power.” @damienluxe
“We want to hear what inclusion feels like to you. We have an opportunity to build that together.”
So those are the tweets! It was an interesting discussion I was glad we had. What it really did was get me totally pumped for the Femme Conference happening August 17-19 in Baltimore! This year for the Femme Conference I declined to submit a workshop or do a panel or do anything other than one performance slot. I figured I could focus on one thing instead of spreading myself thin like I have done previously. I want to just enjoy the conference.
The Femme Conference is only $80 (and there is a discount if you sign up with five other people) and there is a hotel deal for $99 a night for 4 occupancy (meaning $25 a night sharing a room with folks). I hope you are able to make it! I’ve been to the Femme Conference twice, in 2008 and 2010. Both times it was extremely worth it and the 2008 one completely changed my life in some pretty big ways.
The fact that Etta Pearl sought out that Miss Piggy doll when I suggested it above all the other possible Build-A-Bears was heartwarming. Especially because that doll is actually a puppet. I’ll be real, I LOVE stuffed animals and I LOVE accessories and my first Build-A-Bear experience was magical beyond belief.
*At this point the conference was winding down, even though I had just gotten there. In some ways it felt awesome to have fresh conference energy. I totally know the feeling of being fried at the end of an experience like that.