Sunday, July 21, 2013

5th Annual Texas Transgender Non Discrimination Summit Recap

photo of the Classroom and Business BuildingThe Texas Transgender Nondiscrimination Summit is a local activism event I always look forward to and haven't missed since I returned home. 

This year's edition of it took place on the University of Houston campus for the third time (2009, 2011 and 2013) in its five year history.  But this time instead of the Roy Cullen Building where it was held the previous two times we were on the UH campus, it was in the brand new Classroom and Business Building.

My alma mater has been on a building spree the last few years in addition to having one of the new METRORail lines under construction pass by the southern and western edges of the UH campus.

This 2013 edition of the TTNS was going to be different because in addition to my usual reporter role, I was teaching a TTNS seminar for the first time.  It was a fact that caused the TransGriot to not have a comfortable night of sleep before I arrived on campus.

I was not only nervously excited about doing that on the campus of my alma mater, I recognized the significance of it as a trans person of color doing so.  I had been up until 2 AM doing last minute research to make certain my presentation was on point which also didn't help in addition to me still being pissed off about the Zimmerman verdict.

Day 1 dawned sunny and I arrived for registration in the CBB lobby after having to detour around the UC because it was under reconstruction after getting off my METRO stop on the Calhoun side of campus.  

On the 18th was the second annual Transgender Health Summit sponsored by Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT) that since I was still honing my presentation I decided not to attend.  Turned out I missed Carter Brown who had Megabussed it down I-45 to attend, Tye West and Dee Dee Waters who did show up for it..

After handling my registration business with Dr. Maria Gonzalez and Kim Herhold and greeting them with hugs, I started the meet and greet portion of my day and saw Katy Stewart and Lauryn Farris, who had made the drive down I-10 east from San Antonio.   Got to see local folks like Daniel Williams, Kristopher Sharp and Nikki Vogel who was volunteering at TTNS this year.  We also had a Latina PFLAG member from Brownsville, TX who was there along with a nice mix of cis and trans folks, gay, lesbian, bi and straight allies, activists, social workers and collegiate admins as we availed ourselves of the breakfast, juices and coffee in the lobby.  

I also got a hug from Antonio an HCC-Southeast student I met during an event I done there. 

At 9 AM we were beckoned by Josephine Tittsworth to Room 124 at 9 AM for the welcome to campus by Dr. Gonzalez, our introduction from Josephine to open this edition of the TTNS and our Mistress of Ceremonies Jenifer Rene Pool taking the podium.

We also had a cameraman from Channel 39's NewsFix filming during the first half of the day before departing back to their southwest side studios.

After our first break we returned at 10 AM to hear the introduction for our first keynote speaker, Dr. Kristen Benson of North Dakota State University.   Dr Benson's research focuses on gender identity and family/ partner relationships, is a frequent author and presenter on gender identity inclusion and transgender affirmative practices. 

It was entitled Earning an A in Transgender Inclusion: Higher Ed's Role as Advocate, Academic and Ally and my former Louisville roommate Dawn Wilson would have loved this keynote because it was themed as 'Defying Gravity' and featured the song from the musical Wicked of the same name as an intro.

Dr. Benson in her keynote proceeded to highlight how universities can earn those A's by advocating, focusing on the academic aspects of trans issues and being standup allies for trans students so they can excel in the academic environment before we broke for lunch at 11:15 AM.

After lunch came the start of the first round of concurrent session starting at 1215 PM.  The three sessions you could choose from were Transgender Legal Issues, taught by Angela Oaks and Tracie Jackson in Room 110, Transgender 101: A Safe Space For Dialogue by Lou Weaver and Becca Keo in Room 104 and the one I did attend Engaging the Conservative Movement In Meaningful Dialogue by Christopher Busby in Room 124 where I'd been teaching my seminar in the next round..  

Christopher is a Log Cabin Republican who along with Jenifer did the heavy lifting in getting the HISD school board with three conservative leaning members to in 2011 unanimously add gender identity and sexual orientation to their employment policies, non-discrimination statements, and anti-bullying policies before I returned home in May 2010 from Da Ville to add the element of being a trans HISD alum.

The seminar helped us understand the conservative mindset and us liberal progressives learn the counterintuitive for us ways of talking to a conservative when we must to advance our human rights agenda and what conservabuzzwords to use when doing so.

After our 1:45-2:00 PM chocolate break, which I missed because I was getting ready for my seminar came the second round of concurrent sessions starting at 2:05 PM.

In addition to the one I was teaching in Room 124 on Contemporary Texas Trans History, Robin Mack and Jay Mays were in Room 104 teaching 'the Gender book Presents: How to Change The World In 3 Easy Steps and Judge Phyllis Frye was teaching another one on Transgender Legal Issues in Room 110 with one of her law firms new associates.

I pointed out that trans history has a Texas twang and focused on trans history in Texas from the mid 70's to the current day, covered many of the players, heroes and sheroes and events that shaped not only the Houston and Texas trans communities, but also had an impact on the national and in some cases international trans community. 

As far as how well it was received, I'll find out when I get the evaluation scores later.   But I did have a few of the attendees tell me how much they appreciated learning what I had talked about and I'm thinking about submitting this seminar either for the upcoming Creating Change event in Houston or as part of the programming of our POC hospitality suite.

After the closing remarks from Jenifer starting at 3:35 PM to conclude Day 1, we headed over to the TG Center for the traditional BBQ Dinner and social event they hold starting at 6 PM.  Spent another several hours in conversation with the TTNS and other people there on discuss the first day and other subjects of interest before I headed home and crawled into bed at 1 AM Saturday morning to end a day that started for me at 6 AM.

I started this cloudy Day 2 behind.  I set the alarm for 7 AM but made the fatal rollover and didn't wake up again until 7:45 AM.  Missed my first bus and the next one wasn't coming since it was on a Saturday schedule until 8:48 AM   Still got to UH and walked into the CBB right at 9 AM because this time I cut through the Melcher Building across from the CBB.

A few moments later we were assembled in Room 124 to hear Jenifer's opening remarks, announcement of a change to the schedule and started the day viewing the NewsFix report on TTNS Day 1.     

After watching it, we moved into the first Concurrent sessions of Day 2.   Our choices for the 9:20-11:15 AM hour were in Room 124 Helping Transgender Students Thrive On College Campuses: A Comprehensive Approach by Dr. Colt Meier and Utilizing HRC's Municipal Equality Index To Advocate For Transgender Legal Protections In Texas Municipalities by Michael Porcello.

Guess what room I ended up in?   Yeah, my dislike of HRC is still strong.  Besides, Colt is one of our local trans kids we've been investing in since 2003, and it was wonderful seeing one of our trans younglings grow up.  He just received his doctorate in May and is back home after his Texas Tech stint to start on his medical school work.

Dr. Meier laid out during his presentation a comprehensive model honed on one of the more conservative Lone Star collegiate campuses in Texas Tech University in Lubbock.   The model identified what departments to target, the people and decision makers to sway and what needed to be done in order to make college campuses more accessible and comfortable for transpeople, employees and faculty.

The 11:15 break hit way too soon, and at 11:30 it was time for Jennifer to introduce our keynote speaker for this day in Dr. Heather Kanenberg who had a Houston connection.   She'd taught at UH-Clear Lake for several years during the time that Josephine and Dr. Arch Erich were getting UH-CL to enact their trans inclusive policies.  She's been out of the state in Pennsylvania but is headed back to teach at UH-CL this fall.

Dr Kaneneberg's keynote was entitled Policy Change in Higher Education and in her speech she hit upon these major points that needed to be successfully accomplished in order to accomplish that policy change you seek.

1. Delineate The Policy

In other words you must know what you wish to change in order to accomplish that task.

2-Get The Facts
Make sure you do you homework because the opposition damned sure will and won't hesitate to pounce upon any errors, mistakes or lack of knowledge in order to deny grating the change you seek.

3-Who Holds The Power?
Who are the decision makers who wield the power to make your policy change a reality?  What is the chain of command?  Any rivalries or personality conflicts between the power players that could affect your proposed policy change adoption?    Knowing who the power players are and cultivating relationships with them in order to get your policy change approved.

4-Building a Coalition of Allies
Allies are vital in getting your policy change adopted nd showing you have broad based support.

5-Taking Thoughtful and Measured Action
Coming up with a strategy and game plan in order to get your policy change passed and having alternative routes to get to you end goal in case Plan A doesn't work.

6-Attend to Politics 
College campuses can be more politcal than Washington, your state capitol, your county commission or your city council.  Never forget that politics is part of the process and do your homework about the political dimension of this task.

Dr. Kanenberg closed it with two Dr. King quotes.   'True peace is not the absence of tension: It is the presence of justice" and "We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice."

After some questions and comments we moved to lunch at 12:30 PM.   It was at that point the skies opened up and we got one of those summer monsoon like rains we tend to get in H-town during this time of year that continued for about 45 minutes.

Our final concurrent sessions for the 2013 edition of the TTNS to choose from were Tips for Teaching Transgender to Health Professionals on College Campuses by Dr. Colt Meier and Lou Weaver in Room 104 and Katy Stewart of TENT's Trans Health Data From The National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS).   It was an interactive one in which were given aspects of the NTDS and asked to present those stats and how they related to the higher education sphere.

The one I ended up in Katy's seminar with was the Family Life stats, in which I pointed out during my presentation that lack of stability in family life affects your K-12 educational performance, can prevent you from even having the ability to attend college, or if you happened to be in college, lack of stability in home life or worrying about it because of fear of what disclosure of your trans status will do to that home life can affect and be a major distraction your collegiate educational performance.  The last one was an issue I was intimately familiar with.

3:00 PM came far too soon, but that meant we were about to hear from our final keynote speaker of the 2013 TTNS in Judge Phyllis R. Frye.

She talked about The History of the LGBT Movement At Texas A&M University, which is a very colorful one.  She gave trans shero and pioneer Sarah DePalma a shoutout, talked about the hell Sarah went through at A&M during the time she was there fighting anti-LGBT discrimination. and mentioned what Lowell Kane was subjected to as he built the GLBT center on the A&M campus I had the pleasure of visiting during my presentation up in Aggieland

The Closing Plenary, like the ones for Dr. Benson on Friday and Dr. Kanenberg's were videotaped and when it concluded a little after 4::00 PM, Jenifer returned to the podium to make her What Is Next? remarks.

Jenifer pointed out that much of what she learned at the 2009 TTNS she used to successfully lobby HISD and Rafael McDonnell did the same after attending a TTNS, taught a seminar in 2011 and returned to the Dallas area to get trans inclusive policies passed for DCCCD and the DISD.  

We finally got to the bittersweet point of a TTNS where Josephine made her closing remarks.  She made her call for hosts of the 2014 summit at the end of those remarks and when she finished speaking, just like that, the 2013 edition of the Texas Transgender Nondiscrimination Summit was over.

Where will the 6th annual edition of the TTNS be in 2014?   That's a question that will be answered in November.  The TTNS board's goal has always been to have this event rotate to different parts of Texas to make it accessible to everyone across our bigger than France state.  They don't want it to be just a Houston party but that's how it has evolved so far. 

So far it's been just UH (2009, 2011, 2013) Rice (2010) and UH-Clear Lake (2012) hosting the Texas Transgender Nondiscrimination Summit with HCC and UH-Downtown also waiting in the wings if no one else in the rest of the state is willing to step up to be the eager hosts of the 2014 TTNS. 

To be honest, I'd like to take a road trip to San Antonio, Dallas, Ft. Worth, Austin or even better one of our Texas HBCU campuses in Texas Southern University or Prairie View A&M to attend or teach a seminar at a TTNS one day.   The cluster of San Antonio folks who were there in attendance had a quick preliminary discussion not long after the TTNS ended in order to discuss that possibilty of organizing and hosting it on one of the college campuses in their area and I hope they are serious about making that happen. 

But wherever it goes, you TransGriot readers will find out when I get the word.

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