Monday, March 18, 2013

BTMI 2013-The End And The Beginning Of Something Special

When I stepped into the Doubletree Campbell Centre Wednesday afternoon, I had a deja vu flashback to the 2005 Transsistahs-Transbrothas event that a group of us put together at the Galt House in Louisville, KY.

It was part of a vision I'd had of being able to have national level FUBU conventions and conferences in which we could learn, build family bonds and working relationships with each other and allies while throwing some fun into this equation as well.  

While TSTB wasn't as successful as I would have liked it to be, the idea was never far from my mind, and I knew it was something the African-American trans community needed.

Carter and Esperanza Brown have taken that trans conference idea to the next level and given it the fierce urgency of a movement.   The Black Transmen, Inc Conference and Retreat started last year in Dallas, was wildly successful and this year moved to a larger hotel where the conference can grow and evolve.

When I walked in, I had the feeling of a family reunion.  There were my old friends in the transmasculine community like Louis Mitchell and Kylar Broadus.   There were some I'd met at previous events like Kye Allums.  There were others that I've known for years online like Kortney Ryan Ziegler and Carter Brown that I was getting a chance to meet for the first time and people who I would meet at this event like Sean Coleman, Jevon Martin, Rev. Lawrence Richardson and a long, growing list of transbrothers I'd need a separate post to properly acknowledge.

I even got a chance to see my trans homegirls Carmarion Anderson, Arianna Inurritegui Lint and Diamond Stylz.  Still a trip that I get to only spend quality time with Diamond at a conference and we live 8 miles from each other.

It was also a pleasure to meet and talk to allies, spouses and SO's of our transguys in attendance and take part in some thought provoking seminars and discussions.

Lakewood Church down here in Houston in the commercials it used to promote themselves back in the day used the tagline the 'Oasis of Love'.

That's what I genuinely felt the moment I stepped off the Megabus in Dallas, was picked up by Espy and whisked to our convention hotel to the moment I departed for H-town with the BTMI Advocacy Award packed in my suitcase.   

There have been times as recently as the last TDOR in Houston in which I despite being one of four Texans to hold an IFGE Trinity award, I felt less than appreciated, invisible and sometimes disrespected here in Houston and the state for the activist work I do on behalf of the trans community  

But that wasn't the case at this BTMI conference.

I felt like was around family and enveloped in an oasis of unconditional love for the entire run of the conference.  I was repeatedly told and shown how much I was loved, appreciated and respected in spite of the fact this was the BTMI show and predominately transmasculine space.

My role as I saw it before I arrived was to respect this transmasculine convention space, deliver my keynote, participate in the Saturday community summit, support the various seminars I did attend by dropping a comment here and there, and listen to the voices of the people attending.  

And oh yeah, have a little fun while I was in the BTMI house.

But in the process of doing that, I kept getting the feeling that something truly amazing was going on.  This was a well organized, well run conference and the Friday health fair was a great idea.  I kept hearing about people driving in from as far away as Tampa, northern Virginia, Jackson MS and Minneapolis-St Paul or flying in from Seattle, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Area, LA, Philly, the New York-New Jersey area and Madison, WI to be here in the BTMI 2013 house.   

In addition to talking to the brothers, I got to talk to their SO's, spouses and even their kids.  Many of the brothers told me how much help to them in their own journeys reading various TransGriot posts were and relayed how some of those posts touched them or even saved their lives.

BTMI is dedicated toward the goals of not only dispelling myths and lies about the Black trans masculine community, but building better Black men period.   I also left Dallas with a much better understanding of the challenges our trans brothers have to navigate and their issue concerns.

Some of those are similar to what Black trans women have to deal with in terms of accessing medical care while trans while others are unique to the trans masculine community.  I got to simply listen to the brothers talk about those issues and their concerns in the seminars and watch them over the past few days build a community. 

The brothers are stepping up their leadership game.  You will see some amazing things involving the Black trans masculine community happen over the next few years.  They are determined to live up to the BTMI motto of being the change you want to see in the world.   One thing they let me know they were concerned about is the off the charts violence we trans women are experiencing and they wanted to do a better job of standing up and raising their collective voices against it.      

I was honored to be in the house to witness this second BTMI conference, and was sad when the time came for me to head back to my life in Houston.  The closing faith service punctuated that four marvelous days had passed. 

I loved the ball, the pageant, and playing cards and dominoes during the Wednesday night meet and greet.  I even got the opportunity to read one of my poems I have posted on TransGriot during the Thursday night Transmanifest LIVE! event. 

BTMI 2013 has ended as all conferences must, but I hope and pray that the friendships made there last a lifetime.  There were working partnerships started with allied groups.  Issues were discussed in a tell it like it T-I-S is manner and possible solutions to those problems discussed.  

And yes, we disussed the fact that we need to support BTMI and thi conference with our t-bills.  Slide them a $5, $10 a $20 or whatever you can afford on a regular basis so that this organization can continue to put on this high quality conference and expand programming.

BTMI 2013 is over and headed to our history books.  For those who wanted to be here but couldn't for various reasons, when the save the date post goes out on this blog and other electronic venues, I hope you folks who couldn't be here for the second edition of this conference will make it your business to be with your brothers for the third edition in 2014. 

And you may see the TransGriot teaching a seminar or two there as well 


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