As the bus pulled into Philadelphia, I started to feel anxious. I hadn’t really thought about my expectations of the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference, and at that moment, the thought of what I would be walking to was overwhelming. I’ve never had the opportunity to spend time with more than 10 trans* people at a time. I couldn’t even conceptualize what it would be like to spend a few days with over 50 let alone thousands. So I panicked. The bus slowed, I gathered my suitcase and messenger bag, and set out for my hotel with shaky, sweaty hands.
The next day, I walked into the convention center and felt immediately at home. It was the first time that I truly didn’t have to worry about how I presented myself or how I was being “read.” Honestly, that’s not something that I necessarily think about on the daily since my appearance and my gender presentation are such that people take my maleness for granted. I don’t have to worry about whether or not people think I’m a guy; I worry about what kind of guy they think I am. This is one of my many privileges that I am conscious of. I can move in male spaces without question as to whether or not I “belong” there. This conference, though, was not a male space, and I didn’t have to think about my mannerisms or whether it was safe to use the restroom. I could just be.
In a world where 1 in 12 transpeople is murdered (1 in 8 for trans people of color), intentional spaces for trans* folks to “just be” are essential.
In that space, I was able to hear from others experiences that I thought were only mine. I didn’t feel alone. I felt reflected in some of my feelings and experiences which is something that I rarely feel in my daily life. Since moving to the east coast, I’ve not really connected with other transmen. I’ve made good friends here, but I feel like I can’t share this part of my life with them. It’s not that it’s some grand secret that I keep hidden. Anyone who searches my name on the internet will find this site and be able to read all about it. There’s just a lack of common ground, and, for the most part, people don’t ask about how my experiences of gender play into my everyday life. I don’t mind it. However, I do find myself spending much more time alone.
In Philly, I was able to find solace in people with shared experiences. Most of the people I connected with are people of color, which is probably why I felt invincible after I got home. I’ve been searching for this community for the better part of five years. Finding it in Philly restored something in me that had been broken for so long that I had forgotten just how badly it needed to be fixed.
Now that I’ve found it, I don’t want to let it go. The best part is that I don’t have to.