Philly Trans health conference

Reflections on Trans Health 2014

Pride Center Staff Photo



   Philly the City of Trans Love
   Bishop S.F. Makalani-MaHee




Health begins with wellness, and out of wellness comes wholeness defined as containing all components; not divided or dis-joined.  The Trans community is reaching out for visibility, community, and health.  I found this posting on my friend Jay’s Facebook post, it read “I really can’t figure out the words to describe how I feel after attending PTHC (Philly Trans Health Conference)”; he then went on to post “for a guy who was told a couple of years ago (by my Mother, no less) that by transitioning I was limiting myself to a life without friends or the possibility of love.  I feel amazingly loved, supported, happy, and blessed.  I am proud and humbled to be a part of the trans community”.  After reading this I thought to myself that Jay had beautiful and succinctly articulated the joy and withdrawal we were all feeling leaving PTHC; while reminding us that today we live so far outside of the shadows of the gloomy past of stealth living not as a joy of passing, but as a necessity for survival.

We have moved from the unhealthy darkness of shame and secrecy that trans people take to graves to the ability to show up in the world in the light of our truths and share access to life saving medical services so that trans children like 13 Jazz can live their lives as trans fuller and earlier.  I think about Billy Tipton the noted jazz musician who died an old man in a trailer refusing to see a Doctor, and I think of Robert Eads an out trans-man diagnosed with ovarian cancer who in 1996 could not find a physician that would treat him and I know that we have moved a long way to building a healthier trans community.  Likewise I know that due to  hate violence, addiction, HIV, and barriers to  accessing  medical care the average life span for a trans woman of color is 35 years of age; which is a stark reminder of how much more healthier we need our community to be.

As I reflect on what I will carry with me from PTHC it is the realization that I have brothers, sisters, advocates, and allies; and that you can find community when you push through the fear of the lie so many of us were told of having to live our lives in the shame of secrecy or as lepers if we dared to live as our authentic selves.

For a guy who was told a couple of years ago (by my mother, no less) that by transitioning I was limiting myself to a life without friends or the possibility of love, I feel amazingly loved, supported, happy, and blessed. I am proud and humbled to be a part of the trans* community.For a guy who was told a couple of years ago (by my mother, no less) that by transitioning I was limiting myself to a life without friends or the possibility of love, I feel amazingly loved, supported, happy, and blessed. I am proud and humbled to be a part of the trans* community.


Continue To Walk In The Light, Redefine Your Faith, and Remember It’s All The Rhythm.

Conferences · Feature · Philly Trans health conference

Revolutionary: Asking the Hard Questions

Pride Center Staff Photo



Bishop S.F. Makalani-Mahee

Minister. Performing Artist. Community Organizer




One of the blessings I receive from attending conferences such as Philly Trans Health is the intentional creation of space for dialogue, dialogue  that not shares experience, strength, and hope; but dialogue that challenges our thoughts, assumptions, and bias.  Here the keynotes addresses serve as family gathering/meeting where we affirm one another and remind each other we are not alone; discuss how to function more healthily as a family, and we can hold  each other accountable in love.

I was sitting in a workshop where a trans woman of color was cautioning us to have the conversations that shines a light on our shame so that our youth know we haven’t always been who we are today, and there were times when we made choices (for whatever the reason maybe) that we were not always proud of.  However, we realize that we don’t have to carry the shame of those choices with us for the rest of our lives.   When we engage each other in conversations, and ask each other the hard questions we create a space of truth, trust, respect, and non-judgment.

I left that session asking myself  “Where am I not being honest, about owning my own shame based experiences?” This was a hard question that I would not have been able to ask myself had there not been the intentional creation of the space to have conversations that ask the hard questions, and the strength, boldness, and courage of people to show up and share their shame  spoken in truth that becomes warrior marks and the bridges to our destiny.

I also feel that these conversations and asking the hard questions provide a lifeline for those of us who live in places where there is not large trans communities, or visible people of color communities, or resources for them; and as such there is not an ongoing dialogue that addresses living in a world impacted by micro-aggression, and confronting an oppressive white supremacist –capitalist-patriarchy that doesn’t want us to engage with or empower each other; which really makes me think that having conversation and asking the hard questions may be one of the most revolutionary things we can do.


Continue To Walk In The Light, Redefine Your Faith, and Remember It’s All The Rhythm.



Conferences · Philly Trans health conference · social media · Staff/Program Updates

Philly the City of Trans Love

Pride Center Staff Photo
Philly the City of Trans Love
Bishop S.F. Makalani-MaHee




The moment I got off the plane I felt it.   While I was waiting for the shuttle bus to take me to my hotel in downtown Philly another transman just looks at me and extends a brotherly greeting , and we end up on the same shuttle bus sharing and laughing the whole ride into the city.   This is the start of trans wholeness and wellness the ability to search each other out, recognize each other, and to be willing to extend ourselves to one another.

Walking through the doors of Philly Trans Health Conference all you could feel is the energy of connection, and more importantly the empowerment  of possibilities that comes from our  interconnectedness.  What I am seeing here at Philly Trans Health is a sea of recruits enlisting in an army for social justice daring to explore the possibilities of being conscious objectors to assigned gender conformity.

This City has long been known amongst African-Americans as “The City of Brotherly Love”, but from the second I got off the plane and connected with my trans brother all I have been feeling is the trans love in the City.  A love that sees, values, affirms, and yes even trans-forms every individual here. Because of the love in this place those who have been invisible become visible, and those who have been silenced find their voice; our nurtures /wise women in the room sound the trumpet and #JusticeForJane  is our call to action

From this birth place of independence we dare to affirm ourselves and each other, and vision a state of being that experiences more struggle for the generations to come after us because we will have created a world where human beings will truly be judged by the content of their character and they will not know a world of gender restriction.  Just as the gathering in this city liberated a country, and changed the world the demand for representation and equality for all citizens is as loud today as it was then; and our boldness will once again change the world.

Continue To Walk In The Light, Redefine Your Faith, and Remember It’s All The Rhythm.

#lgbt hlth equity  #philly trans health



Reflecting on a Wonderful Weekend

 By Lexi Adsit, Guest Blogger

Presenting on the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference

If you haven’t already, I would definitely suggest reading Emilia’s reflections on this weekend.

Mine however, are a bit more constructive. Every time I travel or go to a conference around something Trans, Queer, or Activist. I can’t help but feel a little alone. Typically it’s because so few folks from my physical community are able to get access to conferences or organizations that provide me with funding to go to these conferences.

I do want to acknowledge there were a lot of folks from my physical community there this time with heavy Transwomen of color representation from the sickening girls of Trans Ladies Initiating Sister Hood (T-LISH) and inspiring community organizer Miss Major.

However I can’t help but think of so many younger trans folks who would have benefitted so much just from being able to create such a safe and Trans friendly community.

So I just want to send out a call to the organizers of the conference, leaders of non-profits, and activists, to please let us take a moment to get creative in ways that we can make this much-needed information and spaces accessible to youth who might not be in a non-profit organization or who might not even be out yet.

I also want to acknowledge and thank everyone at the conference for the amazing time, space, energy, and information that is all shared and created because it was a beautiful space and we need more of these.


Philly Trans-Health Conference Wrap-Up

by Emilia Dunham

Program Associate

As I collect myself psychologically from both a fantastic conference that hits so close to home (and… tornadoes that hit a little too close to our car), I’m left with several take-aways.

From the past blog entries, you can see that there some absolutely fabulous strides in research, policy, and education/awareness of the trans community. Coincidentally, since the start of the conference two states have made progress on two trans non-discrimination policies: Nevada and Connecticut, with Connecticut to become the 15th state to offer employment non-discrimination protections for trans people!

I couldn’t discuss the conference without highlighting the huge struggles in our community. There’s a lot of pain in our community. There were folks in the Philly area and beyond looking for resources and help themselves, and I’m glad this provided an outlet for community members and activists to get resources for themselves. It’s rare to meet a trans person who hasn’t experienced loss in health, finances, relationships or discrimination which was mentioned time and again in presentations and personal stories of participants.

Given the universal hardship, the significance becomes much more important. Not only was this the 10th anniversary of the conference, it was the most heavily attended. We pretty much took over the entire Convention Center with queer/trans people all over. Even if we walked several blocks away for lunch, there were still participants, so it become relievingly easy to create safe spaces. There were even attendees on the planes and buses we took to get there and home. Our ubiquitous presence was something we just never see. Even in LGB(T) spaces, we’re often still one of a few or the single trans person there, so to be part of a majority was a welcomed change.

Another cool aspect was the number of significant others, friends family and allies (SOFFAs as they are sometimes called). The number of parents (both Moms and Dads) made me melt–it was beautiful to see supportive families and partners. It’s also wonderful to see so many trans people and allies empowered to do such great work for our community. Likewise, the fact that folks are making healthy careers out of this work (as in they actually get paid for their work) is another pleasant wonder.

Data · Research Studies · Resources

Transgender Science: Biology and Identity

by Emilia Dunham

Program Associate

Laura Erickson-Schroth, MD, psychiatry resident at NYU presented on a fascinating topic at the Philly Trans-Health Conference: Transgender Science: Biology and Identity. She is the editor of Trans Bodies, Trans Selves, a resource guide by and for transgender and gender non-conforming communities.

Laura discussed the latest on Brain Gender Theory – basically this means that a person’s “brain”, or inner sense of self, does not match one’s sex. Many scientists and pseudoscientists have tried to prove or disprove this theory throughout the years. Trans people and allies are of course interested in this theory as well, but past research and intentions haven’t always had the best intent for trans people.

You may be familiar with some of these studies as many included gays and lesbians as well. Some of

Laura Erickson-Schroth, MD

the most popular ones tried to prove that gay men have less testosterone than straight men, and some of these studies even tried to give gay men testosterone to make them straight… which didn’t work, surprise, surprise.

There were some studies on folks, who due to circumcision mistake,  or other factors were raised as the different gender of their “assigned sex”, but many of these folks later identified as their assigned gender. These types of studies show that despite socialization, they can identify as other genders.

There were studies of chromosomes which didn’t show that trans people were likely to be chromosomally intersexed (ex. XXY). There have been family studies of twins (identical and fraternal) where one is trans, and another family/heritability study showing that of the siblings of 1000 trans people, 12 were trans, but that could just be the law of statistics anyway.

As stated before, some studies don’t have the best of intent so several problems occur: bad data, small population sets, or similar studies have opposite findings.

Of course there are also the birth order and finger length surveys. The former supposing that birth order can predict sexuality because women hypothetically have less testosterone after each boy. So if you are gay or a trans woman, do you have older brothers?

A larger index means you're gay while a shorter index means you're straight

Finger length studies have been around for a while and I remember in grade school we compared our finger lengths to see who was gay. I can never seem to remember which one makes you gay, but this article might help if you are questioning your sexuality.

All kidding aside, there is obviously a lot of research that still needs to be done. The only definitive thing is that there is no proven ‘gay’ or ‘trans gene’, and what decides who we are is our own inner sense of identity. Until then, we need to make sure research is accountable and make sure we’re included.

LGBT Policy

Trans People and Disabilities: Making Access to Health Care and Other Systems Equitable and Accountable

by Emilia Dunham

Program Associate, Reporting from the Philly Trans-Health Conference

This afternoon I attended a great session on trans people with disabilities and creating access in healthcare and systems by Zosia Zaks. The presentation mostly on issues regarding trans people with autism, which I didn’t realize but was quite interesting to me as I worked at Autism Speaks in own of my internships at school.

If you aren’t aware some of the features of autism are social and communication challenges and repetitive/ritualist behaviors, but it’s important, though potentially obviously, to realize that people with autism have feelings and have great strengths just like anyone else. Unfortunately people with autism as with other disabilities are not respected, believed or treated properly by healthcare staff.

The reality though is that people with disabilities may also be LGBT and vice versa, but there are many barriers:

Barriers: Trans identity is conflated with symptoms with autism or other disabilities. For instance people feel like shopping with a person with disabilities for a tie or putting on make-up in line with their genders is too much because they have a hard time with more basic tasks. Refusal to put on a bra may be seen as “noncompliance” with rules/authority, so they aren’t able to experiment like other trans people.

Barriers with transitioning: The “Real-Life Test” trans people have to go through to “prove” their gender doesn’t work for people with autism who already have a hard time with functioning independently and “maturely”. The common type of questions that providers ask trans people who seek medical transition are abstract, such as ‘what are your plans after transition?’ On the other hand, even when people with autism identify as trans/opposite assigned gender they aren’t accepted.

Special considerations:

Some trans people with autism will want to tell everyone they are a woman (if they are MTF), not realizing it could be a safety issue. Some have difficulty describing inner experiences and they have a harder time expressing affect, tone or mood (gendered or not). There are double-based issues of trying to deal with disabilities and gender identity/sexuality.

There are issues with dependency as many are supported socially, financially, etc. Since many don’t drive, getting to appointments is extremely difficult and public transportation may not be accessible to their needs. Since many are unable to work or can’t find work due to their disabilities, financially affording surgeries or treatment is an issue, and dealing with the money even if they had it could be a problem.


  • Change attitudes and perceptions on accepting that people with disabilities can be trans and should be able to access transition-related services.
  • Providers can change their treatment of people with disabilities who are LGBT.
  • Include basic sexual education (which is often neglected in special education or inpatient/outpatient settings), provide language for experiences, use alternative communication, discuss sex and gender issues more openly and provide peer access and social opportunities.
  • Don’t assume people with disabilities don’t have sexualities or understanding of self.
  • Offer case mangement around financial benefits and relationship/abuse education and use harm reduction techniques.
LGBT Policy

Providing Access to Sex-Segregated Systems and Services

by Emilia Dunham

Program Associate, reporting on the Philly Trans-Health Conference

Every trans person has to struggle with accessing sex-segregated services. We have to deal with formal and informal restrictions to certain spaces, and face opposition from people who vehemently don’t want us to be there. The organization FORGE in Milwaukee for trans people and their allies led a great workshop on the subject.

There are several places that segregate: DV shelters, bathrooms, health or fitness gyms or classes, schools, hospital rooms, OB/GYN and urologist offices, sports.

There are many reasons for it: tradition, convenience, privacy (body privacy and shame), assumption of fundamental differences in gender, tailored services to gender services, perceived safety, funding (federal funding is often segregated by gender and/or sexuality)

In reality, 1 out of 3 sexual assault survivors are men and perpetrators of trans people are 2/3 of the time men, yet trans people are often placed in sex-segregated spaces that typically aren’t desired fits if they are even accepted at all.


Working with systems or create something new

When screening at sex-segregated systems, evaluate whether services are available. If so, then ask the client if that would be comfortable and a good fit. If there aren’t services, access the core needs of the clients’ needs/wants/other options

Ask if needs can be met by other providers not as rigidly defined by gender, ask can patient bring someone, are there other options than hospital stays, are there relatives or friends to stay with rather than shelters.

Great resources:

Network/LA Red (Boston) has phone support groups for LGBTA individuals, RAINN (Minnesota) has online support, FORGE has a SV-survivor listserve (national).

Here are some other excellent FORGE resources on this topic:

Taking It on the Chin: New Fast Facts about Violence Against Transgender People

What You Should Know: About Violence and Harassment Against LGBT Individuals 

Taking It on the Chin: New Fast Facts about Violence Against Transgender People

Criminal Justice? Fast Facts about Transgender People, Police, and Incarceration


Day 1 Session 4: T-GUAVA Workshop for Trans Youth on Dating, Abuse, and Health Relationships

 By Lexi Adsit, Guest Blogger

Presenting on Philadelphia Trans Health Conference

Oh, to be young and trans again! Oh, wait I am rather young and Trans! haha. In session 4 I met Morgan M. Page of T-GUAVA (Trans Girls United Against Violent Assault) who facilitated a really resource-rich trans youth workshop around dating, healthy relationships, and abuse.

I could share a lot of information but one of the key things we brainstormed together as a group of what healthy relationships are:

  • Consent
  • Trust
  • Communication
  • Externalize thought process
  • Adaptability/ Evolution of the relationship
Morgan also shared with us a reference of “The Revolution Starts at Home”  a powerful community zine edited by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna Samarashina and some other very inspiring community organizers.
LGBT Policy

Trans Aging and Policies

by Emilia Dunham

Reporting on the Philly Trans Health Conference

The last session I attend in day 1 was perhaps one of the most enlightening of the day. Serena Worthington of Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) and others presented on issues facing trans elders and steps to be done. 

There needs to be just as much priority of programs and funding to include LGBT elders. Hopefully new national health reports that recommend research on LGBT elders will alleviate the vast, VAST gaps in this area as there are many disparities in the community and neglect from the larger LGBT community. Other opportunities with the Older Americans Act may allow for new care for LGB and trans people.

Currently organizations like SAGE are developing national policy strategies to identify action items and to identify issues among LGBT elders that can be addressed in the short- and long-term.

Issues for trans elders

  • Issues particular to trans elders
  • NCTE’s study shows that transgender people are much more likely to be harassed in employment; lose jobs; lose relationships with family, friends and partners. This is of course dramatic for trans elders who are already at risk for social stigma, unequal treatment in social services, loss of families, etc.
  • Invisibility (we don’t know how to identify trans and LGB elders or whether they want to be found)
  • Inability to change gender marker on federal documents such as social security & Medicaid
  • The pain of not being able to access care and aligning body, identity documents and one’s gender identity is difficult for this community especially in the “end of life” when they don’t know if this will be able to happen. Even being buried with the correct name is problematic for some and ILLEGAL in some areas (Oklahoma) — READ: ILLEGAL! What??!

Ok, obviously there are some REAL issues here, but how often do we hear about trans or LGB elders and how often do our programs include these folks?