Dylan is a transgender veteran, who first attended Gender Odyssey in 2007, then came back in 2013 to give back.
This is one of the great things about GO, you can sit back and listen or you can actively participate. The conference is what you make of it, and it will change you, if you allow it to.
At Gender Odyssey in 2013, for the first time in my life, I met other transgender veterans. I cannot overstate the significance of that meeting, and how meaningful it was for both myself and my wife. Prior to my transition, I was discharged from the U.S. Army under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Following my transition I married my wife, who currently serves in the Army. Being transgender in a military setting presents a great many unique challenges, especially when the Defense of Marriage Act was in place.
For many years we were silent and isolated, flying under the radar. We didn’t know anyone else in our situation. For a long time I convinced myself that my forced silence didn’t bother me. By the time DOMA was repealed, however, the restrictions I was subjected to had long since begun to chaff. The timing worked out that we were stationed back in the Seattle area around this same time, and were able to attend GO. Meeting other couples at the intersection of military and transgender issues after such a long time by ourselves was deeply meaningful. The camaraderie and understanding we felt was all that we could have hoped for and more.
Gender Odyssey has evolved over the years, as I have evolved. When I first attended in ’07, during the first year of my transition, I was there as an observer. I was there to watch and to learn. And though I still have much to learn from the diverse experiences of others, at GO ’13 I was there to be involved, to teach, and to assist. This is one of the great things about GO, you can sit back and listen or you can actively participate. And with the wide variety of program options you can customize your experience, and get from it what you choose to. The conference is what you make of it, and it will change you, if you allow it to.
GO Professional ’13: Collaboration
When I heard about GO Pro I was very excited. For a long time I had been seeking knowledge about how to be a more involved and affective advocate for the community. I had done things like speaking on a panel at a local college, I saw needs and did my best to fill them, but all of the things that I did felt small. At GO Professional I was able to hear from other people who were all doing their best to fill needs in their own communities, all of them learning as they went along, as I was. People were able to share experiences, successes and failures, give advice gladly and receive it gratefully. We learned from one another, and taught one another, and collaborated together.
It was then that I came to the realization that my contributions were not small after all, because they were pieces of something much larger. This movement is made up of countless individual people, all working toward the same goals. We all have areas where our experiences and knowledge can help to benefit the work of others. It is this sharing of knowledge and experience that makes GO Professional priceless.
I met people there that I never would have crossed paths with otherwise. I gained valuable knowledge, meaningful connections, and much needed perspective. I am eager to attend GO Pro again this coming year, to share what new insights I’ve gained and to learn from the experiences of others.
Looking Forward: GO ’14
I have kept in touch with several of the people I met at GO last year, and I’m eager to meet many more this year. There is such incredible diversity among the people who attend, so many different stories and life experiences. There is a continuum of identities and expressions present, a tribute to the uniqueness of each of our lives.
There is a strong sense of community and pride that I have never felt anywhere else. I think this comes from the shared knowledge that each of us, in our own unique way, has shed the confines of the social roles we were once bound by. It is our collective refusal to continue living in the shadows that strengthens us individually. We have re-made ourselves in images of our choosing. We have created our own destinies, and the future of our community is full of hope. By working together, the dreams we share will be realized.