I went to my first Gender Odyssey conference in 2011, without my parents knowing. My friend had gotten me a ticket and we went to a top surgery discussion. This was the first time I had been around other people who felt like me. Having to leave after that short hour was saddening.
Actually attending the full conference in 2012 was even more amazing than the year before. My family came, since I had come out to them after many tears. They stayed on the parent side, and I stuck generally to the teen programming track. I had met a lot of kids the night before at the ice cream social, so I didn’t walk into the room not knowing anyone. The teen track was basically a meet-and-greet and lots of socializing. The discussions were over finding yourself and the various aspects of being trans*. I was surprised by how people tended to drift in and out of the track, but I stuck to the teen side of things for the first day. The next day was different. The friends I made, whom I’m really hoping to see again this year, chose to go to a few discussions on the adult side, and I decided to follow them. The discussions I went to on the adult side were more about the thoughtful aspects of being trans*, passing privilege, and what you do once you have figured yourself out. I flitted back and forth between the two sides of the conference depending on what was going on and what sounded the most interesting to me.
One session that really stuck with me was in the teen group, when adult trans* people talked about their experience growing up and how they came out. It was really interesting and helped me realize the different backgrounds of every single person at this conference and that there are so many facets of trans* I really didn’t know about. It caused me to really look inward to see how I identify, instead of how I feel I should identify.
Another one of my favorite sessions was “How to Dress like a Gentleman,” which was on the adult side. It gave fantastic tips on how to appear taller (which I don’t personally need to worry about) and how to shop on a budget. It was super helpful and interesting, and gave me more to talk about with other people in the conference.
More teens should come to the teen track at Gender Odyssey! It’s a really good way to make friends who are like you. While they may live all around, it’s a really good experience to have and it made me feel much more comfortable in my own skin. You meet all sorts of people who are just like you, or maybe a little different, or maybe even a lot different, and yet you still understand what everybody is going through. The teen track is super open, so even while you are learning about yourself, you learn a little bit about other people.
One suggestion for you if you do want to check out both the teen program and the adult conference is to plan out your day really well. I had the program book before the weekend started and highlighted the discussion groups I wanted to go to, so I would know where to go at any given time. Since the flow of the teen track is rather fluid, it’s easy to skip one discussion or workshop to take a break and hang out with your new friends.
This year I plan on sticking to mostly the adult conference, but going back to the teen group when I feel like it. Most of my friends are considered adults now, and I’d like to stick with them, so I can have somebody to talk about it with afterwards. I’m really excited to go back though, since it feels like a large family there, with everybody being nice and understanding. It’s a very comforting place for somebody to be. My family will be attending with me again, and I’m hoping to see my old friends. This year, I will probably see if people will let me stay in their hotel rooms for more of the experience. I don’t usually stay in the hotel, since I live in Seattle. My friends staying at the hotel said the parties were fun, and I feel like that would be another great way to get to know other youth like me.
Overall, the teen track is really fun, and I’m really excited to see everybody at GO 2013!
See you there!