Saturday, August 16, 2014

6th Annual Texas Transgender Nondiscrimination Summit Recap

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.
-TransGriot, July  21, 2013    5th Annual Texas Transgender Nondiscrimination Summit Recap.

You know what they say about being careful for what you wish for, you just might get it.  

And what we got for the 6th Annual Texas Transgender Nondiscrimination Summit on August 8-9 was a road trip.  For the first time in TTNS history, we Houston folks would have to hit the road to attend an event that was born inside Beltway 8.  

The 6th edition of the TTNS would be hosted by the wonderful folks at Texas State University in San Marcos, and I hit I-10 west on a warm sunny Thursday morning with Maria Gonzales, Kristen Capps and Daniel Williams for the 166 mile run to their campus nestled between Austin and San Antonio. 

And yes, there were some very interesting conversations during that drive. 

Texas State used to be known as Southwest Texas State until the 2003 name change, and its most famous alum is Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th president of the United States along with country singer George Strait and actor Powers Boothe.. 

After a lunch stop at the 80 year old Frank's Restaurant along I-10 in Schulenburg, we hit San Marcos a little after 2 PM   Our hotel was across the street from a popular outlet mall, and the hotel was surprisingly full because we had the double whammy of summer graduation on the Texas State campus transpiring Friday and the start of the Texas tax free shopping weekend.  

Ironically it was hotter in San Marcos than the home sweet humidity I left behind, with the temp hitting 102 degrees F (39 C).  Not long after I settled into my room and decided to grab some ice and something to drink, I ran into my roomie Nikki Vogel in the hallway.   The last time I'd seen her was when UH was trying to pass the Tittsworth Act.   Since then she's been working on her masters at UT-Austin and is taking a killer class load to get it done in less time.

Several hours later we were making the short drive down I-35 south to New Braunfels and Oma's Haus to sample its tasty German-Texan cooking.  I had their German chocolate cake for dessert, and Mom, yours is light years better. 

I passed on the peanut butter fudge knowing I needed to get some sleep for our busy day tomorrow. 

Friday dawned with Nikki and I after a pit stop at a nearby Starbucks to get her coffee, heading to the LBJ Student Center at 8 AM to help set up its cavernous third floor ballroom for breakfast and the historic first day of the TTNS.  

After the meet and greet phase, founder Josephine Tittsworth took to the stage at 9:30 AM to welcome everyone to the TTNS and introduce Dr. Sherri Benn, the Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs and the Director of Multicultural Student Affairs at Texas State. 

I'd already started during the meet and greet at our table having an awesome conversation with her, Dr. Audwin Anderson and Jesse Silva in which we were discussing a wide range of topics before the TTNS day started.  

She welcomed everyone to the Texas State campus and laid out in her occasion speech why we were there.  Dr. Benn is also an ordained minister, and it was evident in her rousing speech.
After Dr. Benn's speech concluded, Josephine introduced our MC Jenifer Rene Pool, who shortly after taking the stage introduced our Friday keynote speaker in Dr. Gage Paine, the Vice President for Student Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin just up I-35 from San Marcos.

Dr. Paine's keynote started at 10:55 AM and was entitled 'The Power of Paradox'.  She talked about the university paradox of being a guardian of tradition, yet also being an agent for change.  Another interesting point she made during her keynote is that what needs to be done to create allies for systemic chance is not to talk more, but to listen. 

Another point that jumped out at me during her speech is that mixed messages are part of the paradox.   Dr Paige closed with another thought provoking message in be yourself, but live in community before taking questions from the audience.

After lunch came the initial session of the 2014 TTNS conducted by Iliana Melendez, the Student Conduct Officer for Texas State, entitled Understanding Title IX on a College Campus.   Melendez's presentation focused on the parts of Title XI discrimination claims based on gender identity or failure to conform to stereotypical notions of masculinity and femininity.

In addition to pointing out it protects students, faculty and staff, she then talked about the expansion of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act of 2013 that takes effect October 1, and the Know Your IX website.  When she was done answering questions about her presentation, Josephine took to the stage to talk about the Macy v Holder case and the Title XI sections that help trans collegiate students

After a ten minute break, at 2:30 PM we prepared to leave the ballroom and head to the first concurrent sessions of our choice.  The choices were Chris Busby's Engaging The Conservative Movement In Meaningful Dialogue or Supporting Trans* Students of Color

Since I'd checked out Chris' seminar last year, I decide to check out the one in LBJSC 3-14 taught by the Texas State team of Corey Benson, Jesse Silva, Iliana Melendez and Texas State police officer Sue Taylor.

Photo: Wrapping up day one @ transgender summitIt was an interactive seminar that discussed the point that we all have multiple dimensions of identity.   There was some lively discussion about privilege being brought into all marginalized spaces and needing to be aware of that ended far too soon at 3:40 PM  

After we returned to the ballroom for closing remarks from Josephine, Day 1 of the TTNS at Texas State ended with a reception that lasted until 5:30 PM  

Two hours later Nikki, Josephine, Cheryl Cabusas and I headed to Centerpoint Station, another local eatery that had milk shakes made with Blue Bell ice cream.  Passed on them this time because I was full from the meal.

Day 2 of the TTNS began with Corey Benson introducing our Saturday welcoming speaker in Dr. Brandon Beck who had made a little trans history of his own the day before.   Dr. Beck became the first open transperson to earn a doctorate at Texas State, and he picked it up at the summer graduation ceremony the day before.

After his speech, I got to teach starting at 9:30 AM my Contemporary Texas Trans History seminar in LBJSC 3-14, while in LBJSC 3-13 the other concurrent seminar was Transgender Perspectives: Learning From Literature that Dr. Brandon Beck was teaching. 

After that seminar block, we returned to the ballroom at 10:55 AM for Jenifer's introduction of our Saturday keynote speaker in Equality Texas Field Organizer Daniel Williams.

Daniel's entertaining and informative keynote speech was entitled  'A Tale of Three Amendments'.  It discussed the odious attempts by Texas Republican legislators Wayne Christian and Bill Zedler to shut down LGBT resource centers on Texas collegiate campuses and the progress made in getting bipartisan support to keep them alive.  His speech also discussed the Littleton v Prange and Delgado v Araguz trans marriage cases and noting that with the looming January start of the 2015 Texas Legislative session we will have to fight  hard to defend those gains  

After the opportunity to ask Daniel some questions we moved to lunch and the concurrent sessions starting at 1:15 PM.  The choices were the Transgender Legal Issues one by the Frye, Oaks and Benavidez PLLC Law Firm in LBJSC 3-13 and Trans*cending Limitations: Student Panel on Creating Spaces For Trans* Identified Students and Allies moderated by Dr. Brandon Beck in LBJSC 3-14.

I wanted to see the student panel, so LBJSC 3-14 was where I ended up.   It was an interesting discussion of Texas State students that lasted right up until the scheduled 2:45 PM end time and our return to the ballroom. 

Ten minutes later a panel comprised of people who have helped create change on collegiate and school district level policy answered questions from the audience until 3:45 PM.  . 

Then came the What's Next? remarks from Jenifer, followed by the closing remarks and thank yous from Josephine.   And as quickly as it had started, the 6th annual Texas Transgender Nondiscrimination Summit at Texas State came to an end. 

The Houston contingent on our way back home stopped in Luling to chow down on some tasty barbecue before we played tag with each other on I-10 east all the way back to H-town.  I got to ride with Nikki on the way back so she wouldn't be making that drive by herself..

This TTNS broke its all attendance record set at the 2010 event at Rice University with 82 people in attendance.   Two attendees thought it was important enough to make a 495 mile drive (one way) from West Texas A&M in Canyon, TX to the San Marcos campus of Texas State. 

It also exposed the event to Central Texas, got it out of the Houston-Gulf Coast area where it was founded, and fulfilled the dream of founder Josephine Tittsworth that the TTNS be an event held on college campuses around the state to discuss these transgender-specific higher education issues     

As to what Texas school will host the 7th annual TTNS?   Good question.   If you're interested in hosting it, send the proposal.  But you know I'll pass on that news as to the 2015 host school as soon as I receive it.

No comments: