Moving Trans History Forward Conference 2023- Day 1

This year I was given the amazing opportunity to attend the 2023 “Moving Trans History Forward” conference that was hosted at the University of Victoria.

This event takes place every two years, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic there had to be some adjustments made.

In 2021 the conference took place virtually. This year the event was hybrid, so it had components that were accessible online and components that were in person. Since I live on campus I decided to attend all the events in person.

The conference took place over the course of four days, starting with an opening ceremony in the First Peoples House on Thursday March 30th, and ending with closing remarks on Sunday April 2nd. Unfortunately I had classes on Thursday and Friday, so I was only able to attend the Saturday and Sunday sessions.

I was told by others who had attended the opening ceremony that it was a beautiful event. There was drumming, live music, and speeches from Indigenous Elders and Two Spirit people.

The first thing I did when I arrived at the conference on Saturday morning was pick up my lanyard which had my name and pronouns. It was important for me to wear this so that other people at the conference could identify me and address me correctly and I could gain entry to all the panels and events. I was also given a complimentary tote bag and a program with all the times and places of each session.

After picking up my lanyard and welcome package, I made my way over to the Vertigo room in the Student Union Building for a light breakfast. There was a wide selection of muffins and fruit, as well as tea and coffee available. But the best part wasn’t the food, it was the people who I had the privilege of interacting with.

Almost all of the attendees of the in-person conference identified as Trans, Non-binary or Two-Spirit and they ranged in age from 18 to 70 plus! I had never before been in a room with so many Queer individuals. It was amazing to be surrounded by people who shared my identity and could relate to my life experiences as a Transgender person.

Participants from 21 countries

After chatting with some of the other conference attendees, I was surprised to learn that people had come from all over the world to attend this event. One of the facilitators told me that there were 460 attendees from 21 different countries. I met individuals who had come from the United States, Australia, Turkiye, Ireland, Japan, South Korea, China, Brazil, and Mexico, to name a few.

Everyone had their own unique reason for travelling all this way to attend this event. Some people came here to present their research, others were sent by their employers or Universities, and others came here just so that they could be surrounded by other Trans people and connect with their community.

After mingling and enjoying the snacks and refreshments, a facilitator announced the the first panel was about to take place. With cups of coffee and muffins still in hand, we all made our way over to the Michel Pujol room and found a seat.

Elders panel

The first event of the day was the elders panel. During this session we were introduced to a Transgender woman and a Transgender man who were both above the age of 50. Because of their age and extensive knowledge about the Transgender community they are considered elders.

In turn they each told us their stories of growing up in a time that was much less tolerant of Queer identities and how they navigated and ultimately overcame hardship during this time. They also spoke of the current work that they were doing to help improve the lives of Trans people around the world and provided their insights about current issues effecting the community.

Once the presentation had concluded we returned to the Vertigo room for a coffee break. During the break I spoke with some of the other attendees and we were all in agreement that the elders panel had been deeply moving. As a young Trans person who is still in the process of exploring my gender identity and discovering how to authentically live my life, I felt very grateful to hear from older members of the Trans community.

Making art together

After the coffee break was an event that I was really looking forward to: the intergenerational Trans+ art making session.

This event was hosted by the “Gender Generations Project of Victoria,” a non-profit organization that puts on fun activities every month for Trans people of all ages. Their mission is to create meaningful connections within the Trans community and provide youth with mentors and resources so that they are not alone in their journeys of self discovery and acceptance.

For the crafting session I was seated at a table with a high school student who was a volunteer for the event, a middle school student with their parent, and an individual who had come to the conference as a representative for their work.

At one table we had multiple different ages who were each at different stages in life, who were all members of the Queer community. After some introductions we got to work on our craft project. It was our mission to put together a collage to represent our experiences and our interpretation of identity.

We cut out pictures from magazines to glue to our poster and decorated it with drawings and stickers, then signed it with our names. When we finished our art piece it got displayed with the other posters that different groups had made. Each one told a beautiful and unique collaborative story of community.

I loved getting to know everyone at my table, hearing their stories and creating something meaningful to each of us. After the conference, all of the posters were given to the Transgender archives.

The creative process of making our intergenerational identity poster

After the intergenerational event concluded we had lunch, which was a make your own sandwich bar. While I ate, I was able to meet even more people and engage in some really great conversations about identity and community. Then came more concurrent sessions.

Trans representation in creative media

I attended a panel with three different speakers who presented on the subject of Trans representation in works of fan-fiction and other creative media. I loved learning about the different ways that Trans identities were represented and getting to hear about each presenter’s unique research into these areas.

When the panel came to a close, we were treated to another coffee break. The organizers of this conference made sure to keep us all well fed and well caffeinated throughout the day. With my coffee in hand I attended the final concurrent session of the day.

International Trans and Non-Binary identities

The panel I attended focused on international Trans and Non-binary identities and the language used in different cultures to refer to gender.

Listening to the speakers discuss their culture made me realize how little I knew about Trans identities outside of a North American and westernized context. Moving forward I plan to do more research into global Transgender identities and issues outside of my area of familiarity.

After a long day packed with fun events and the chance to meet so many new people and learn so much new knowledge, the day finally came to a close. We finished with a group dinner in the Vertigo room, which was a self serve taco bar.

When I finally arrived home, I was exhausted, but feeling grateful that I got to experience this amazing event. I went to bed that night looking forward to getting up the next morning and getting to attend another day of the “Moving Trans History Forward” conference!

Read my post about Day 2!

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