Monday, June 12, 2017

Texas Trans History- The Texas 'T' Party

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In the wake of the recent death of Linda Phillips, one of the co-organizers of this event along with her wife Cynthia, been needing to talk about this event that grew to become one of the largest trans themed conferences events in the nation.

linda phillips & cynthia phillipsAnd even better, it was based here in Texas.

Back the late 80's, the trans community was tentatively beginning to come out of isolation and forming local transgender support groups that allowed crossdressers and trans people to meet each other, form friendships and go on public local outings as a group in addition to being informed about the latest developments in pre-Internet Trans World.

One of those support groups that sprang up was the San Antonio area based Boulton and Park Society that formed in 1986.

Linda and Cynthia Phillips joined it not long after its formation, and the couple soon ascended to leadership roles in the organization.  Linda became the secretary and treasurer of the Boulton and Park society, while her wife Cynthia became the Executive Director  

Linda and Cynthia also became board members of IFGE, the International Foundation For Gender Education in the 1990's along with doing the talk show circuit to talk about their marriage in which one partner is transgender and the other cisgender.

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The Texas 'T' Party started in 1988 as a way for Boulton and Park Society members and other Central Texas area crossdressers to have an event that allowed them to be en femme for an entire weekend at a local San Antonio hotel.  They were only expecting 20-40 people to show up, but to their surprise the word got out and 128 people attended that inaugural event.

The second Texas 'T' Party in February 1989 had 75 people journeying to San Antonio a full day before the conference officially started on Friday, so programming was extended by a day to have events on Thursday starting in 1990.

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The 'T' Party grew to include vendors, beauticians, manicurists, makeup artists, photographers, panel discussions, a talent show, programming for the spouses and a keynote speaker.  It also quickly assembled a large mailing list of attendees from across the nation and several countries.

The 'T' Party growth was so explosive that by the third annual one in February 1990 it was not only drawing over 300 regular participants, it had forged a deal with American Airlines to become their official air carrier.  As part of that relationship with American Airlines, a coupon discounting air travel to San Antonio for the event was included in the T Party event confirmation packet.

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The Texas 'T' Party growing in a short time to major trans convention status was critical to the startup and success of another Texas based event that was the genesis of the political organizing and messaging of the modern trans rights movement in the International Conference of Transgender Law and Employment Policy.  (ICTLEP).

Phyllis Frye attended the 1992 'T' Party in order to help promote the inaugural August 26-30, 1992 one of what turned out to be six ICTLEP conferences in Houston with the blessing of the Phillipses, who became major supporters of the ICTLEP conference.

The explosive growth of the Texas 'T' Party led to it not only becoming a weeklong event, but outgrowing its original hotel to become arguably the largest trans themed convention in the United States.

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After hosting the 1995 'T' Party at a new San Antonio hotel, it surprisingly moved up I-35 to Dallas for two years in 1996 and 1997 for its eighth and ninth annual editions before returning the T' Party back home to San Antonio for its 10th anniversary edition in 1998

But the 1990's also saw the growth of other trans themed conferences like the Southern California based California Dreaming, Fantasia Fair in Provincetown, MA and an Atlanta based one called Southern Comfort which was also rapidly growing in popularity in Trans World.

The Phillipses also being busy during the decade with television appearances, collegiate panel discussions, sitting on boards in addition to holding leadership roles within the Boulton and Park Society and being the principal organizers of the T Party led to the decision to end it with one final Texas T Party in 1999.

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For eleven years the Texas 'T' Party was the destination convention for many crossdressers, trans people and their spouses who took advantage of the mild Texas winter-early spring weather to be themselves if only for a week in the Lone Star State before it ended.

Thanks to the Phillipses and the team that worked to put on the Texas 'T' Party for over a decade, it was more than just a weeklong party.  It was also an event that educated and informed our community, helped many find lifelong friends, helped many people come to the epiphany that they were definitely trans, and was a critical early informational building block in the modern trans rights movement.

And it did so with a Texas twang and that legendary Texas hospitality..

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