Greetings from the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference

philly-trans-healthI just came back from the 2015 Philadelphia Trans-Heatlh Conference. I’d gone there once before, in 2012, when I didn’t know what to do except that I needed to do something. I had a funny feeling that I didn’t want to transition directly to Male with a capital M.

In 2012 I was a lurker. I hadn’t changed my name. I hadn’t started to blog, I didn’t know any trans men, and I didn’t know anyone at the conference. I day-tripped from New York so I could go to a workshop on non-binary transition (given by Micah of Neutrois Nonsense). I didn’t talk to anyone, I just gawked. I didn’t feel like I belonged. I felt like a wanna be. Except that I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be.

I was envious of the middle-aged guys who transitioned ten years ago.  I was envious of the guys who high-fived their long-lost friends and seemed to know everyone at the conference. I went home from the 2012 conference thinking that I wasn’t going to transition, I was just going to do a few things to make myself feel more comfortable. I decided  to start by legally changing my name.

It would have made more sense to start by reducing my social isolation, but the conference proved that I wasn’t ready for that. I kept reading. I started my blog. It took a year and a half for me to make it to the transmasculine support group at the LGBT Center. Through that group, I now know a bunch of guys in various stages of transition and they know me. A dozen of us were there for the 2015 conference. It made a huge difference in how comfortable I felt being there.

There were thousands of short guys and tall gals and people who I assumed were transitioning but I couldn’t tell for sure which direction they were going in. I talked to a couple of trans guys who were in their first year of transition and a handful of non-binary and/or genderqueer folk. This time I could see that there were a lot of people in flux, trying to figure out where they fit in. This time I let myself feel welcome.

I went with my usual questions but mostly I listened. The two workshops that resonated were on starting transition over the age of forty, and exploring aging issues in trans male communities. I learned that testosterone dosing should be lower than the standard protocol if you are in menopause, and that it helps with hot flashes/night sweats. I also heard a lot from guys who had been on testosterone for ten or fifteen years and needed to go on low dose or stop taking it because of health issues (sleep apnea, diabetes, and high cholesterol). They said you have to listen to your body and be open to changing your dosing regimen once you have achieved your desired goals. I joined a Facebook group for trans guys over 40 moderated by one of the panelists.

The workshops also discussed why you need social networks and peer support. The highlight of my trip was running into other bloggers and readers. I met Kameron (janitorqueer) and their partner, and I had  lunch with Shawn (Dawn to Don). I missed meeting a few other people I’d hoped to find. Next time I’ll make a plan. The contact made me feel real.

What I took away from the conference is that I still need to work on my social isolation. I need to find a primary care physician regardless of whether I take hormones and I need to learn how to listen to my body. I need to stop apologizing for identifying as both butch and transgender. I need to stop apologizing for not having it all figured out.

31 thoughts on “Greetings from the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference

  1. butchwonders

    What a great entry. Thanks for being so honest about your process. And it’s a good reminder, too, not to be socially isolated. I’ve really struggled with that as well, in a bunch of different contexts.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks. If I wasn’t in a relationship (with Donna) I’d probably have no real social network at all (she does all of the phoning and arranging). I’ve got work buddies, and I’ve got some political buddies, but not the kind of close circle of people I could call on in an emergency.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      It is a closed group so whatever you like or post stays within the group and doesn’t go to all your “friends”. It is open in that anyone who IDs as transmasculine and is over 40 can join (regardless of their transition status and there is a mix from what I’ve seen). The group is not surprisingly called “Trans Men Over 40” and is moderated by Jay J. If you join, Jay will message you and ask you confirm that you are transmasculine and over 40 (so look for the post in your Facebook news stream). It is mostly guys from North America, but there is a smattering of guys from all over – so you should definitely consider joining it. They are very welcoming (even though right now I am just reading).

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  2. J.D.

    Social isolation has been a constant for most of my adult life but especially in the last 10 years. It meant I didn’t run into conflict much with my perceived gender. I don’t have to come out to a lot of people. I only really talk to one friend about my transition and she’s over 400km away and soon moving to the other coast. I attend a trans potluck evening every month but I’m the only asexual, the only non-HRT, the only non-binary person there.

    I wondered about going to Seattle’s Gender Odyssey but decided against it since I’m expecting to spend a shitload of money on surgery this year and I think I would shrink into a corner rather than get into the social interaction.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I’m definitely a tortoise when it comes to social interaction with humans (Donna would say I am closer to a crab). I’m way better with dogs.
      I’m not sure what the correlation is between my top surgery and my feeling more comfortable at the conference, but I think it has made me feel much more comfortable in my body – and that may have translated into less social anxiety. Best money I ever spent.

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    2. Pixie

      For what its worth, I’m going to Gender Odyssey this year. I got a full scholarship, so I kind of can’t back down at the last second… 😀 It is in theory a very friendly and very welcoming event (so I’m told). Social isolation is a thing for me too. I’m hoping just by going even if I don’t actually talk to anyone (at all, or even look at anyone, because yea, that’s what I do!), will help a bit.

      You would for sure be far from the only non-binary non-HRT person there.

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      1. J.D.

        As it turns out, GO has extended their scholarship deadline so I applied last night. We’ll see if I get anything.

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      2. Pixie

        Yay! I do think such things are important. Isolation makes everything so much harder. If you’d like to know at least one friendly face, I’m happy to talk/arrange to meet/whatever, if it makes it easier for you. 🙂

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  3. Pingback: My Butch Musings Today | MainelyButch: Private Label

  4. Lesboi

    It was great to get to hang out with you for a while at the conference. I felt like we were old friends who hadn’t seen each other in a while. Very cool. It was also really nice to meet some of the folks in your group and meet some new people.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      If my I had listened to what my mother told me, I would have sent you a little email telling you how much I enjoyed it instead of writing about it here, but I am very bad at the do the right thing social stuff. It was really great to meet you in person.

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      1. Jamie Ray Post author

        Nothing like auto correct to mess things up (why I won’t write or respond to comments using my iPhone). And WordPress won’t let anyone but the blog owner correct mistakes.

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      2. Widdershins

        G’day Vince.

        Neither preference nor reference do it be. 🙂

        Widdershins is not only my username but the nom de Guerre I write as. For me it means going counterclockwise, deosil, to what is expected of one’s actions and life.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      It is one funky tribe. I felt like I found my planet (planet trans in the queer constellation) and didn’t have to walk around looking like an alien.

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  5. Vince

    Wow, Jamie – it sounds like you came away from the conference with a lot of positive impressions, and it seems to have given you food for thought too.

    There is no need to apologise for identifying as ANYTHING, and the social isolation thing…I’ve been there. All I can say is there are ways to break out of it, the first step is the hardest, and any number of other cliches which may be hackneyed but also happen to be true. 🙂

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      It was a great experience (particularly compared to 3 years ago), and I’m glad I forced myself to go and to interact. I have to make having contact with other transgender people a priority.

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      1. Vince

        Definitely. Most large cities seem to have some kind of trans group/drop-in/counselling service – might be worth checking to see if there’s one near you.

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  6. honest11

    I have been wishing I could have gone to the philly health conference. I figured I might feel to socially awkward to really participate in the way that I would truly want to… but hearing some bloggers went makes me really wish I could have gone. Awesome that you went! Sounds like you had a better time this year!

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  7. J.D.

    Gender Odyssey ended today. I’m glad I came and learned more about our big trans* family. I enjoyed contributing where I could. After decades of hiding my embarrassing boobs it was great to participate in the top surgery show and tell. I was the most recent at 16 days.

    On the downside I was very introverted otherwise. I didn’t feel I could make connections and I felt very lonely. (My fault. No one made me feel unwelcome.) l don’t know if I will go again. I don’t think I’ll get anything new from going again.

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