As we prepare to depart this morning, I felt as though it would be prudent to say a little bit about our experiences this weekend.
I live a very open life back home, one in which I can be proud of who I am and how far I’ve come. But coming to an unfamiliar place and doing that same thing was a terrifying decision. It is easy to forget that there are places in this country and in this world where I am not welcome, and that we have a president in Number 45 who is actively trying to take away my rights and the rights of those like me.
When we arrived on Thursday and were able to check out the conference center for the first time, I was overwhelmed at the experience of not being “one of the only ones.” For the first time since I came out to the first people in my life (a year ago, if you can believe it), I was not in the minority. I was in a room quite literally full of people who identify the same way that I do, or some variation thereof. That was overwhelming, and I actually had to step out for a while to avoid the sheer panic that that entails. I was here, in this space, so very openly admitting to strangers that I am transgender. To some of you, it will seem strange that I found this so overwhelming. I guess the best way I can explain it is this: imagine living your life in an existence where very few people speak the same language that you do.. you figure out ways to communicate, and you love the life you lead in this way. Eventually, you find out that there are many others who speak this language, and you decide to go see what they’re like. Imagine the first time walking into a room where you are truly understood and accepted and how incredible that must be. That is what I felt Thursday.
Once I was able to overcome that initial fear and vulnerability of being out and open, I had nothing but good experiences in this city. We attended a ceremony where the Trans Pride flag was raised in front of the City Hall, and we were met with nothing but love and support. There were no protesters. There were no people with signs proclaiming that God hates us. Only love, and acceptance, and happiness. It was wonderful to feel so included.
The conference itself was very informative, and the panels we were able to attend were educational enough to make it worth it but also entertaining enough that we were engaged the entire time. We spent a lot of time just wandering around the vender room, where I fanboyed several times over Jazz and Jeannette Jennings, of the show “I Am Jazz.” I never actually interacted with either of them, for fear of losing my composure.. caveat to this, I don’t actually identify with Jazz in much. I just binge watch the show and take small comfort in her ability to be that out and open.
In between panels, we were able to do so much sightseeing that there were times I thought my legs were going to legitimately give up on me. We walked from one end of the city to the other, and a ton in between.. We saw the Museum of Art, City Hall, Christ Church Burial Ground, the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall (where we saw a chair that George Washington himself actually sat in), the First Bank of the US (shoutout to my main man Alexander Hamilton), the Irish Memorial, and then made our way over to Edgar Allan Poe’s house. We walked a cumulative 20.5 miles or so in the span of 3 days, and actually didn’t get into a vehicle once other than our transportation to and from the airport. It was an incredible way to see the city, and I am glad that we did it now. That said, if I didn’t drop at least 3 pounds in my time here I will be severely disappointed.
Over all, Philadelphia proved to be one of the most welcoming, incredible places I’ve been to and I am still reeling from how amazing it felt to be so welcomed. It was a great time overall, and I am glad I did it and was able to remind myself that this is all worth it in the end. After a few rough months, none of which I have actually written about here, it was good to have a strictly positive experience in relation to my transition. I am now about 90% through my initial checklist, and I really couldn’t be happier with where I’m at right now. It’s a cool thing to feel like I actually have a future in front of me.
Until next time, my friends.