It’s Saturday, and once again I got up at 6 AM in order to get dressed and head down I-45 south with Professor Baggett to take part in the Day Two activities of the 2012 Texas Transgender Nondiscrimination Summit on the UH-Clear Lake Campus.
Unlike TTNS Day One, which is a mix of festive opening day ceremony and activity before we get to the business end of the conference, once we finish our continental breakfast and Jenifer Rene Pool delivers the housekeeping announcements, we go straight to the concurrent seminars.
Professor Baggett and I were joined for the Day Two Bayou Building happenings by Erick, one of her students I’d met when I took part in HCC-Southeast’s gender conference a few months ago
After the Day Two welcome was delivered by UH-CL’s Linda Contreras-Bullock, it was time for the Saturday’s concurrent sessions to begin.
It was a choice between Transgender Legal Issues by Angela Oaks, one of the partners of Frye, Steidley, Oaks and Benavidez, a continuation of Josephine’s Day One session entitled Role Play for Ethical Strategic Applications and TENT’s Katy Stewart in the one that appealed to me as the child of a retired teacher in Discrimination In Education-State of Affairs and Implementation of Solutions.
Katy’s seminar was a nicely paced blending of statistics and interactive discussion focused on the discrimination that trans people face in the K-12 and university settings. One of the interesting stats pointed out a remarkable resilience of gender variant students who were harassed in K-12 settings going on later to enroll in higher education and get degrees.
Further study is needed to clarify that to determine if the higher prevalence of gender variant student in higher ed is also a function of the crushing unemployment we face and so we have time on our hands to strengthen our educational credentials.
Break time came far too soon at 10:20 AM. As always it’s a lot of information and thoughtful discussion but the clock is ticking, so it was back to the Garden Room to listen to Jenifer’s into of our Saturday keynote speaker Dr. Genny Beemyn of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst’s Stonewall Center, the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals and the Transgender Law and Policy Institute.
Dr Beemyn, Antrece, Erick and I were already engaged in an interesting discussion about Texas politics before it had to end it in a ‘hold that thought’ moment to do the keynote
Dr Beemyn started off by asking the assembled TTNS audience some multiple choice questions that highlighted the fact that governments and Fortune 1000 businesses are doing a better job of protecting the human rights of transpeople than the academic world, but not by much.
Beemyn also pointed that the Internet was a game changing development for the transgender community in terms of breaking the isolation many transpeople felt, beginning the conversations to tackle how we identify ourselves and think about these issues and build community.
After leaving some time at the conclusion of the speech for questions and answers, it was time for lunch and for me Dr Beemyn, Antrece and Erick to finish that conversation we started before the speech.
At 12:55 we went into the final concurrent session for TTNS 2012 in which we had a choice between the Transgender Case-Law one from Darrell Steidley, another one of the partners from Frye, Steidley, Oaks and Benavidez or Making Space for the T in the LGBTQ Organizations, a subject near and dear to my heart by Kimberly Jorgenson from Texas Woman’s University.
Jorgenson’s summit was an interactive one as well that generated a lively discussion amongst the participants in Rm 2234 on such topics as the invisibility of transpeople in organizational spaces, media stereotypes, historical whitewashing and erasure, inclusion of POC voices and the importance of doing so and suggestions of practices and ways to foster that inclusion.
Once again a lively seminar which ended far too soon at 1:50 PM and meant we had to go back to the Garden Room to hear our Closing Plenary speaker in Houston area Equal Employment Opportunity Deputy Director Martin Ebel.
I’d seen Deputy Director Ebel speak at the Houston Transgender Unity Banquet back in April, so it was a treat to see and chat with again.
After eliciting a laugh with the ‘he’s from the federal government and he’s here to help’ opening line of his speech, he got serious and pointed out the ways that the Obama Administration EEOC was aggressively on the case for the LGBT community and apologized for the EEOC not being in previous years a muscular advocate ferreting out employment discrimination aimed at our community.
Elections matter people, because one of the new EEOC commissioners is someone I met back at Creating Change 1999 in Chai Feldblum. She was appointed to the EEOC by President Obama .
But back to my post Deputy Director Ebel made it clear that the EEOC position is that LGBT people are covered under ‘sex’ in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. He talked about the history of the passage of the Civil Rights Act, the Price Waterhouse v Hopkins case, the Mia Macy case and even brought up one I’d personally experienced in Denny’s attempts to ethnic cleanse their restaurants in the 1980’s-early 1990’s.
I’d shared with the TTNS audience one of Denny’s reprehensibly racist tactics in trying to charge $5 cover just to get in.
After closing the speech he took questions for the audience before our mistress of ceremonies Jenifer Rene Pool spent a few moments asking the ‘What Is Next questions.
She yielded the mic to Josephine Tittsworth for the 2012 TTNS closing remarks. It was at times an emotional moment for her in terms of being back on the UH-CL campus where she received her undergrad degree and fought her first battle in 2003 get gender ID and expression included in the UH-CL nondicrimination statement and policies. Josephine also pointed out that everyone in the room was an agent of change and that we get busy making it happen. We still have much work to do to make the Lone Star State inclusive in its college and university systems.
We had a lot of first time attendees such as Professor Baggett in the room this year. Many are eager to come back for TTNS 2013 wherever it’s held in the Lone Star State. We have several colleges and universities wishing to host the event inside and outside the Houston area and the TTNS desire to have it not be just a Houston-centric event.
Thanks again to the TTNS committee that did a womderful job organizing and executing another well organized and seamlessly run conference.
As to where TTNS 2013 will be held, as soon as the TTNS board tells me, y’all will know as well. But you can bet that wherever that location is, I’ll do my best to be there and report on what’s happening there.