Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Texas Transgender Nondiscrimination Summit-Day One Recap

I wanted to get this up earlier, but I laid down for a short nap that lasted until almost 10 PM CDT.

Better late than never with my report concerning Day One of the second annual 2010 Texas Transgender Non Discrimination Summit.

It was scheduled to kick off at 10 AM CDT on the Rice University campus and I decided to avoid the parking hassles and take METRO and MetroRail to the event.

My morning did not get off to a great start. I just missed my first bus at 8:45 AM and the next one ran a little late. I have railroad tracks up the street from the house and I presume it got delayed on its southbound leg by the early morning freight train that rumbled by waking my butt up with its whistle at 7 AM.

Speaking of trains, when I arrived at the downtown transit center at Main and Pierce streets I sprinted off the bus to the train station platform and got there just in time to watch my southbound Red Line train depart that I needed to catch to the Rice U campus. Had to wait a few minutes for the next one to arrive and got off it at the Hermann Park/Rice U station at 9:54 AM.

I'm quickly walking to the shuttle bus stop from the train station and as befitting the pattern I've already established, I missed that one as well. Fortunately there was another one that arrived moments later and I got dropped off by the friendly neighborhood driver in front of the library at 10:00 AM.

I was afraid the TTNS had started, but my pissivity over my transit buzzard's luck eased as I finally sauntered inside the Fondren Library and headed up to the third floor and pick up my badge and registration packet.

I've done this numerous times, but surprisingly in this case I was a little nervous, probably because this was the first TBLG conference I've attended in the home state since I came back.

Of course I bump into Phyllis Frye five seconds after I arrive in the Kyle Morrow Room. She gives me a big bear hug, tells me 'It's about time you came back home' and we talk for a few moments before I start circulating around the room.

I wave at Josephine Tittsworth, who is doing yeoman's work attending to all the last minute details of running a conference as part of the host committee, a position I know all too well.

The TTNS starts a few minutes later with some opening remarks from Jo. It then segues to Phyllis who talks about her law firm for a few moments, then drops the welcome news that she's been hired by Nikki Araguz to represent her.

Vanessa Edwards Foster then steps up to the podium wearing her Hollyfield Foundation board member hat. She talked about the history of the foundation that fully funded the conference so that people could attend it gratis.

Katy Stewart from Equality Texas spoke for a few moments before yielding the mic to Rosemary Hennessey from the host institution. Rosemary mentioned some upcoming events and speakers the Rice Women and Gender studies program has in store for the upcoming fall semester.

As of yet, I'm not one of them. But I may be doing speaking engagements soon at my alma mater and Texas A&M. Will keep you Aggies and Cougars posted on those developments.

We start with a moderated discussion by Katy on the trans umbrella and just how vast the definitions and terminology within it is.

We then move on to where various schools in the Lone Star State are in term of their non discrimination statements. It ranges from Texas A&M fighting their students on the issue to total inclusion and implementation by Rice and Houston Community College.

LaKeia Spady spoke about the developments at HCC, Phyllis for South Texas College of Law, Jo for the University of Houston (eat 'em up!), Brian Riedel for Rice University and Shane Whalley for the University of Texas.

We move on to our keynote speech from Randall Terrell, who talked about the political developments in Texas. It was one I was paying extremely close attention to since I'm getting back up to speed on Texas politics.

We took a break at that point for lunch, and I got a reminder of just how popular and widely read TransGriot is, especially with college students. Most of the time I have the attitude that I'm not an 'A' List blogger, but people who read the blog that I have the pleasure of interacting with say otherwise.

Several of the collegiate younglings approached me and told me how much they loved the blog and read it on a daily basis. (Thanks!) Katy Stewart remarked that she didn't realize I was 'THE' TransGriot until she overheard a few people talking about how cool it was that the TransGriot was in the house covering this TTNS.

Had other peeps from my early transition days such as Jenifer Rene Pool in the room hugging me. I was told by more than a few people they were glad I was back in the state and the Houston area.

After lunch, there was a change in the program so Phyllis could present her segment and bounce so she could prep for a critical 10 AM CDT hearing in the Araguz case. A jar was passed around to collect funds to help with the case since Nikki Araguz's finances have been frozen pending the outcome.

Phyllis took us through a history of trans law at the state and national levels and pointed out why we're starting to get court wins lately.

Phyllis' presentation dovetailed nicely into a case law presentation by the TX ACLU Houston Regional office director Maida Asofsky and law students Crystal Haly and Benedicte Nielsen before we had our chocolate break.

Yes, chocolate break. It's exactly what it sounds like. We had our choice of our fave chocolate treats to savor before heading into our small group sessions.

FYI, I had a regular Hershey bar and Reese's peanut butter cups.

It was also announced that the host institution for the 2011 summit would be Texas A&M University.

Before the break we were separated into groups, and returned to the Kyle Morrow room to discuss various subjects within those groups. My first one as a member of Group 5 was on a subject that's near and dear to my heart, transgender inclusion.

That group was moderated by Katy, and after 30 minutes were up we moved on to our next topic, Safe Zones, moderated by UH-Clear Lake's Julie Smith.

This was one I learned a lot on. I'd seen the signs outside various professor's offices at the schools I've been blessed to speak at, but until today I didn't understand the significance of them. Not surprisingly professors from the humanities departments have been more willing to be Safe Zone counselors than ones in engineering or computer science. Julie noted that at UH-Clear Lake they have several campus police command staff as part of the program.

That 30 minutes ended far too soon, and after getting chance to chat with Jo, I headed home.

See y'all tomorrow.

TransGriot Note; 2010 TTNS photos courtesy of Angela Hon Photography.

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