This month marks the 11th anniversary of Mazzoni Center‘s Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference (PTHC) from May 31 to June 2 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. What began in 2002 as a one-day gathering of transgender activists, allies and service providers, has grown to become the largest transgender conference in the world. Last June, the free event drew as many as 2,000 attendees from around the world to participate in educational and social activities.
This year’s schedule features as many as 200 workshops and panel discussions on everything from health and well-being to healthcare, safety, education, employment, housing, legal issues and social support.
“From the beginning, the vision of the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference has been to address body, mind, spirit, community and well-being,” says Mazzoni Center’s Executive Director Nurit L. Shein. “We are especially excited to be welcoming a number of international participants this year, as they can shed light on the particular experiences of transgender individuals and communities in their native countries, but also on the common ground we share in seeking to improve healthcare access and outcomes for trans people worldwide.”
This year’s conference includes an increased emphasis on international issues, including panels on immigration and the challenges faced by refugees and asylees; transgender activism in Europe, as well as discussions on the state of trans communities in Latin America and South Asia thanks to funding from the Arcus Foundation and the Open Society Foundation.
“The Trans-Health Conference Planning Committee has put a great deal of time and consideration into the selection of workshops and programs this year,” explains Conference Coordinator Jacsen Callanan. “Our goal is to provide a meaningful and educational experience both for veteran attendees of the conference, as well as for individuals who may be joining us for the first time.”
As part of this year’s international focus, on June 1 (8 p.m.) at Arch Street United Methodist Church (55 N. Broad St.), there will be a special presentation of Tara’s Crossing, an original play by Emmy-nominated writer Jeffrey Solomon. The show’s inspired by dozens of interviews with sexual minority asylum seekers from around the world and the true story about a transgender woman who flees Guyana for the United States.
Also new at PTHC this year will be the first annual Transgender Education Certificate Course, a three-day intensive for medical providers designed for new and experienced medical providers interested in the primary care of adult and pediatric transgender patients.
Mazzoni Center’s Legal Services department is also involved this year with programs addressing the legal obstacles facing transgender communities. There will also be as many as 12 hours of Pennsylvania Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits offered for free during the conference on subjects ranging from legal identity and documentation to immigration issues, employee and employer workplace questions and advocating for transgender equality.
Here are a few highlights:
Minister Louis “L.J.” Mitchell will kick off the conference with a keynote address on May 31 (8:45 a.m.). Mitchell is co-founder of Recovering the Promise Ministries, a Fellowship-affiliated ministry located in Chicopee, Mass. He has served with various agencies and boards, including as the first “out” transgender-identified board member of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and as a founding member of Lesbians and Gays of African Descent for Democratic Action.
The official PTHC 2012 welcoming reception will take place May 31 (7:30 – 8:30 p.m.) at the William Way Community Center (1315 Spruce St.). Guests will enjoy refreshments and mingle with fellow attendees, and will also have an opportunity to view an exhibit celebrating the 10th anniversary of the addition of gender identity to Philadelphia’s Fair Practices Ordinance.
Mya L. Vazquez and Ryan Cassata will deliver the Youth Keynote address on June 1 (4 p.m.) as part of PTHC’s first ever Youth Summit. Vazquez is a longtime activist and leader within the transgender and gender-non-conforming communities in New York City. She has helped to organize New York’s third annual Trans day of action with TransJustice, a group in which she is currently the program coordinator at The Audre Lorde Project. Cassata is a 19-year-old transgender-identified singer-songwriter and motivational speaker from Long Island and founder of Artemendous Records. Cassata has recorded two albums, toured the U.S., made numerous television appearances and won the Harvey Milk Memorial Award.