Tucson, Arizona, has a reputation as one of the most transgender-friendly cities in the country, both in policy and mindset, and this week the city plays host to the International Foundation for Gender Education’s 22nd annual conference, March 31 to April 5. Workshops given throughout the conference will highlight the unique qualities and programs in southern Arizona make Tucson a friendly place those who do not conform to society’s gender norms. The focus on Tucson will conclude on Saturday, April 5, with a public open house featuring a distinguished panel of civic and community leaders.
Hosted by the Southern Arizona Gender Alliance, the IFGE 2008 conference is the first national transgender conference in Tucson and attendance is expected to exceed 400 — from Arizona, the southwest, the rest of the United States, and beyond. The conference is held at the Doubletree Hotel at Reid Park, 445 S. Alvernon Way.
Social activities and excursions to Tucson tourist destinations kick off the week starting on Monday, March 31, and the conference programming begins on Thursday, April 3, with a welcome by Tucson mayor Bob Walkup and a plenary session by activist Jamison Green, author of the prize-winning book “Becoming a Visible Man.”
Wingspan, southern Arizona’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community center, will offer an open house and facility tour on Thursday, April 3, starting at 2 p.m. Wingspan is one of the nation’s ten largest LGBT centers. The Southern Arizona Gender Alliance is a program of Wingspan and provides support, reference, and education on transgender issues in the Tucson area.
Tucson has had an ordinance in place since February 1977 that prevents discrimination on basis of sexual orientation; in 1999, gender identity was added to this ordinance, which is a model for other communities. Fifth-generation Tucsonan Liana Perez, director of the Office of Equal Opportunity Programs for the city of Tucson, will present a workshop on “Our Shared Diversity: Meeting the Challenge to Create Success” on Thursday, April 3.
Sarah Jones, Raquel Mrozowski, and Karen Orr will also present “Safe Shelter - Creating a Safe Domestic Violence Shelter” on Thursday, discussing the process that led to the Tucson Centers for Women and Children designating a transgender room in the shelter.
On Friday, April 4, Cathy Jacobus, consumer health librarian at Pima County Public Library, and Karyn Prechtel, managing librarian at PCPL, will co-present a workshop on “Transgender Health and the Public Library.”
Transgender youth between the ages of 13 and 23 in Tucson have the support of the Prism Project and the Eon Youth Center. On Friday, Carly Thomsen, T.C. Tolbert and Wendy Sampson will co-present “The Prism Project - Building a Dynamic Support Program for Transgender Youth.”
Transgender health and social service needs were examined in a twelve-month period in 2006, and primary investigator Kendall Roark, doctoral candidate at Temple University, will present the results in Saturday’s workshop “Transgender and Gender Diverse Community Needs Assessment in Southern Arizona.”
The public is invited to a town hall meeting on Saturday, April 5, at 10 a.m. that will answer the question, “How did Tucson get to be such an accepting community?” Panelists will include Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson; former mayor George Miller; Peter Likens, former president of the University of Arizona; city council member Nina Trasoff; Amelia Craig Cramer, chief deputy Pima County Attorney; John-Peter Wilhite, Commission on GLBT issues; Stephen Russell of the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona; Kevin Maxey, co-founder of the Southern Arizona Gender Alliance; and Amanda Simpson, 2004 candidate for Arizona House of Representatives, district 26. The town hall meeting will be held at Reid Park Doubletree Hotel and is sponsored by Raytheon, southern Arizona’s largest private employer.
The International Foundation for Gender Education (IFGE) is a non-profit advocacy organization founded in 1987. IFGE’s purpose is overcoming the intolerance of transgenderism brought about by widespread ignorance and outreach through education for the emancipation of all people from restrictive gender norms.
The IFGE 2008 conference is open to all — transgender, crossdresser, transsexual, transvestite, female to male, male to female, significant other, friend, helping professional, student, educator, or others. For more information on the conference, see http://ifge.sagatucson.org/.
The Southern Arizona Gender Alliance (SAGA) is a program of Wingspan, Tucson’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community center. SAGA provides educational, support, outreach, and other programs for transgender, transsexual, and gender-variant people, as well as families, allies, service providers, employers, and others. For more information on SAGA, see http://www.sagatucson.org/.