Every year, the Mazzoni Center kicks off the Philadelphia Trans Wellness Conference at the height of summer. This event is aimed to be a beacon of hope and resource for those who need it most, and with the unwavering support of the establishment, it’s been able to achieve that goal for over two decades.
The Trans Wellness Conference was started in 2000 by Charlene Arcila, when she decided that resources and support were scarce “for people who were most marginalized in the communities.” She established the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference, which began as a one-day event providing professionals training on how to become competent healthcare providers for transgender patients.
The event continued to grow every year, and for some, it was a kickstart into gaining vital information, insight and the notion that they are not alone in the world.
“I started going to the Philadelphia Trans Wellness Conference back in 2015. Since then, I’ve been proud to be a presenter at the conference several times for my work at Lambda Legal, and I’ve gotten to see just how much good the conference does for people in the trans community,” says Alexis Paige (she/they), a member of the Mazzoni’s Interdisciplinary Review Committee (IRC) and proposal review committees.
“As an IRC member, I, along with other volunteers from the transgender, gender-variant, and non-binary community, work to ensure that the content presented each year is empowering and respectful of the trans community and its many intersections,” Paige continues. “We do this by working together to review the hundreds of proposals that come in for presentations each year, and try to choose the ones that we think will create an intersectional program that will have something to speak to as many different people as possible.”
Paige goes on to explain how the Philly Trans Wellness Conference is the largest of its kind, but what makes it really stand out is the fact that it’s free to attend. It’s built that way so that people in the trans community most in need of support are able to attend.
“That more than anything is what makes the conference so special. I actually can’t think of any other conference of a similar size that is free like the Philly Trans Wellness Conference….It is hard to describe just what the Trans Wellness Conference means to the trans community,” Paige continues. “Most of all, it is very rare to have the opportunity to be at a conference with so many other people from the trans community. Thousands attend this conference each year, and for many people this may be their first time not feeling like the only trans person in a room.”
The Mazzoni member is part of the Conference from the start, helping to choose what subjects and speakers will be at the annual event. In Paige’s words, as a part of the committee, they use a rubric that was created and agreed upon by the committee members.
“We use this to try to help minimize the impact of our own unconscious biases when choosing which presentations will and won’t be chosen. In addition, I try to be aware of what people have stated in the past about the conference, both its strengths and weaknesses,” Paige explains. “There are always ways to improve, and one of those ways is to try and ensure that as many people as possible have an event that speaks to them. That is why I try to be aware of things like: Do we have a presentation focused on youths? What about supporting people who are neurodivergent? Are we lacking in presentations for any communities of color?”
Just like in 2021, 2022’s conference will be held virtually due to lingering effects of the pandemic.
“While it is sad that there won’t be the opportunity for in-person events, this does mean that many people who might not have had the time or ability to travel can now access the conference,” Paige notes. “It is free, so if you’re interested, you should sign up and see what presentations are available. If you see one or two you like, you can sign up just to watch those. We have an extensive program so there is a high chance that there will be at least one presentation you might find interesting.”
Virtual or not, the Philly Trans Wellness Conference aims to ultimately be a safe haven.
“Overall, I hope that people leave the conference feeling like they learned something that speaks to them and their own personal experiences, and leave with the feeling of support, joy, and community that I always do,” Paige finishes.
The Philadelphia Trans Wellness Conference will take place July 21-23. To learn more, visit mazzonicenter.org