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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 8, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 36
Gender Odyssey conference a huge success in Seattle
Section One
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Gender Odyssey conference a huge success in Seattle

by Cathy Renna - Special to the SGN

Two weekends ago (August 24-27) over 1400 transgender people, their family members, and professionals serving them came together in Seattle for the sixteenth annual Gender Odyssey. This international conference was focused on the needs and interests of transgender and gender-diverse people, their loved ones, and professionals who serve them. Packed with thought-provoking workshops, professional training opportunities, discussion groups, networking, and social events, the one-of-a-kind annual gathering attracted people from all over the world for an uplifting weekend at the Washington State Convention Center.

The five-day event included Gender Odyssey Professional, offering programming for medical caregivers, therapists, social workers, teachers, counselors, students, and others seeking to advance their understanding of gender variance and transgender identities.

The conference also featured Gender Odyssey Family, an annual, dedicated conference for families who are working to navigate the day-to-day realities of raising a gender-diverse or transgender child. As one of the only opportunities in the country to find valuable resources, information, and networking opportunities, Gender Odyssey Family provides real tools for families to support their child's gender self-discovery. GO Family offered special programming for teens, as well as a day camp for the children attending. A highlight of the family track was the parents panel, highlighting diverse families who have been highly visible and fierce advocates for their trans and gender-creative children.

Featured speakers included: Diego Sanchez, keynote speaker and Director of Policy at PFLAG, an out transgender man, and Senior Policy Advisor to Congressman Barney Frank; Dr. Rachel Levine, keynote speaker at Gender Odyssey Pro, and Physician General/Acting Secretary of Health for the state of Pennsylvania, the highest-ranking transgender official in state history, and one of the few transgender state-level appointed officials in the country; Gavin Grimm, the student who sued for the right to use the boys' bathroom at his high school, and plaintiff in G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board, currently being reconsidered by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals; and Joey Maldonado, who successfully fought to become America's first openly transgender Boy Scout, and his mom, Kristie Maldonado.

Featured panels covered subjects including: how gender transitions impact families; non-binary gender identities; the legal framework for transgender rights; Mara Keisling of the National Center for Transgender Equality unpacking the US Trans Survey; transgender service members; the Bible and gender identity; the challenges faced by transgender elders and senior citizens; the history of the transgender community; a storytelling session featuring trans people telling their challenges and triumphs; and several open question-and-answer panels, affording audience members the opportunity to ask trans adults about their life experiences.

Additionally, a panel featured parents of transgender children, including: Michelle Honda-Phillips, parent of a transgender daughter, Malisa, and daughter of former California Congressman Mike Honda; DeShanna Neal, mother of a transgender daughter, Trinity; and Kristie Maldonado, mother of Joey Maldonado.

A successful Gender Odyssey Professional conference was previously held in Los Angeles earlier this summer. Gender Odyssey's successful track record of continuous growth and innovative programming has inspired a very high attendee return rate as well as a solid reputation for thought-provoking, quality workshops.

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