Twenty years ago this month at a southwest Houston Hilton hotel in August 1992 a groundbreaking event occurred that not only laid the foundation for trans human rights law and employment policy, it sowed the seeds that resulted in a trans inclusive ENDA and the EEOC trans ruling.
The conference was called the International Conference on Transgender Law and Employment Policy, and it was created by Judge Phyllis Frye, ‘the grandmother of the trans rights national transgender legal and political movement’ to bring activists together to discuss transgender equality legislation seriously needed in the areas of housing, insurance, probate, employment, healthcare, military service, as well as criminal and family law..
The first of six annual ICTLEP conferences were held in Houston and I first became aware of it not long after I began my own transition in April 1994. Unfortunately my work schedule at the time kept me from going to the 1995, 1996 and 1997 ICTLEP conferences as my desire to get more politically involved in fighting for trans human rights increased.
ICTLEP was born out of Phyllis’ idea in 1991 to start a moveable transgender conference specifically targeting transgender law issues. The Gulf Coast Transgender Community (GCTC) group of which Phyllis was vice president at the time was receptive to the idea when she presented it to the GCTC board in early 1992 and provided funding for it.
Since this was the pre-Internet days, mailing lists and ads were the primary way to get the word out about events in the trans community and we were fortunate in the Lone Star State to have one of the then biggest trans themed events happening in San Antonio in the Texas T-Party
The Texas T-Party was organized by Linda and Cynthia Phillips and was drawing upwards of 300 people from Texas and around the country to come to the San Antonio area based event. Its mailing list was vital in publicizing the nascent ICTLEP conferences and the Phillpses made sure when Judge Frye attended the T-Party she always got T-Party workshop space, waived fees, and brochures placed in all of the Phillips mail-outs.
“Without the Texas T-Party, I would have only reached half of the people I reached,” says Frye in a recent OutSmart magazine interview..
The first ICTLEP conference was a success and led to five other events based in Houston as well.
Out of those ICTLEP events came not only papers such as the International Bill of Gender Rights and countless others that are the basis for much of the legal principles and policies we fight for as trans activists today, it also provided the means to train the early activists who later passed on the lessons and training they learned at the six ICTLEP conferences to people like myself who came on board starting in 1998 and later. ICTLEP also led to our inclusion in the National LGBT Bar Association and their trans inclusive stances.
So yes, it’s past time we recognize ICTLEP’s critical role in providing the foundations for us to build the modern trans rights movement and salute the 20th anniversary of the first ICTLEP conference this month.