Facilitate a Gender-Odyssey-Generated Session

At the heart of our conference programming are topic-based discussions generated by Gender Odyssey attendee feedback and input. We’ve designed these discussions so that anyone – regardless of their identity, history, or community – can bring their personal perspective into the mix.

Gender Odyssey discussions have a strong focus on making room for each person’s viewpoint and giving all of us the opportunity to learn from one another. They are designed to encourage us to explore the complexities of how we interact with each other and with the larger society.

If you have strong facilitation skills and are drawn to one or two of the sessions listed below, we encourage you to fill out the online form at the bottom of this page. We will then be in touch for a telephone interview.

Note: These sessions are designed to be facilitated discussions with optimal involvement by the greatest number of participants.  We are not asking you to develop a presentation—only to facilitate a dynamic conversation!


Available Sessions Gender Odyssey 2016

If you have questions about a specific topic or any other programming related matter, please email us at workshops@genderodyssey.org.

Alter-ability

Intersections of Bodies, visAbility, and Gender

Have you ever felt that you were made invisible by the visibility of your different physical ability? Have you ever felt judged because of an invisible alter-ability? How do varying levels of ability affect our experience of our gender? In this discussion session, we will explore how the intersectionality of gender and ability in a society that often overlooks, ignores, and stigmatizes people with different bodies and capacities. Note: This session is open to people of all abilities and all gender presentations as well as their partners, friends, and allies.

Being Trans Doesn’t Mean I’m Crazy … or am I?!

 This facilitated discussion welcomes anyone who has experienced, or is currently experiencing, mental/emotional health concerns such as stress, grief/loss, anxiety, depression, PTSD, etc. Possible topics can include a discussion on our potential barriers to services as well as fighting discrimination and finding acceptance in both trans and consumer/survivor/ex-patient communities. We will talk about the existence of the diagnosis Gender Dysphoria, what it means to us as a diagnosis, and explore the intersections of identities experienced by people who identify as both trans and mad/crazy/(insert-your-descriptor-of-choice-here.) This session will include peer discussion where we will allow the conversation to be as fluid as our collective genders. Bring your unique perspective and a readiness to expand it as we interact with each other with honesty and respect.

Partners/SOs/Family

You’re Doing What?!

What do you say when your son says he’s really your daughter, or your sister says she’s really your brother? Or any other mind-bending “switch” for that matter? For many of us, understanding gender identity and our loved one’s decision to transition is uncharted territory. The “whys” we have in our heads can be scary and overwhelming. We sometimes make desperate attempts to understand the complexities of their new gender identity. In this first of two workshops, we will share our feelings, listen to each other’s experiences, and ask questions in a comfortable, confidential environment. Note: This is a closed, facilitated discussion for those of us who would like help, support, or simply a friendly ear in a confidential environment. The focus of the discussion will be on issues related to non-trans-identified parents, siblings, children and friends of trans people.

Re-imagining Our Family Constellations

This is a continuation of the closed, facilitated discussion for those whose family member (child, parent, sibling, or other family member) is transitioning. In this workshop, we will examine some of the issues and feelings that may arise as we, and our loved ones, reexamine the concept of gender identity. Some of these feelings may include a sense of loss or confusion (e.g., losing a daughter even though you now have a son, or trying to understand concepts like “genderfluid”). What happens when we disclose too much to others, or perhaps not enough? How will we deal with others’ reactions or questions? How does our background or culture affect our feelings and views? Most importantly, we’ll examine the need for compassion and patience for ourselves and our loved one while we make this journey of discovery and change. Come join us for help and support in a confidential environment.  Note:You do not need to have attended the first session to participate in this workshop. This is a closed session for non-trans-identified people. 

Fasten Your Seatbelt, Partners!

A gender transition isn’t just about pronouns, hormones, and surgery. It’s also about subtle and not-so-subtle shifts in family dynamics, relationship balance, sexual practice, and sometimes the very ground under our feet. In this session for partners, we will look at what changes, what stays the same, and how sometimes the expected changes can manifest in unanticipated ways. Note: This session is open to all partners of trans/gender-diverse people. 

Transformation, Grief and Loss: A Partner’s Transition

When our partner moves towards being their authentic self, many of us celebrate their transformation. However, sometimes our desire to be supportive can result in the repression of our own emotions. We may feel guilty for not always being the compassionate partner we “should” be. Our own feelings of grief and loss may be hard to articulate. We may have trouble finding the support and understanding we need. In this closed, partners-only session, we’ll be able to make room for some of that grief, let some go, and find ways to support one another. Note: This is open only for non-trans partners of people who are physically or socially transitioning, have transitioned, or are considering transition. You do not need to currently be in a relationship to attend. 

Supporting Our Partners through Our Transition

A gender transition can be overwhelming, exciting, and even liberating for us as trans people, but our all-consuming journey can result in a tunneled-vision kind of experience that is extremely difficult for our partner or spouse. In this workshop, we will discuss ways of not losing sight of, and giving back to, our relationship partners so that we are proactive in the preservation of our relationships through this challenging and exciting time. 

Let’s Talk about Sex: Intimate Conversations for Cisgender Partners, Pt. 1

Conversations with our partners about sex can sometimes be difficult. We may have uncertainties about their changing bodies or be unsure how to touch them in way that feels good for both of us. Maybe we don’t even know what to call their parts any more. This workshop is a chance to put forth our thoughts, questions, and challenges in such a way that we can discover shared experience as well as gain answers in a structured anonymous format which can be further explored in the 2nd half of this two-part workshop.
Note: Open to cisgender partners only. 

Identity Crisis: Affirming Ourselves as Partners’ Transition

When you are the partner of someone exploring or pursuing a gender transition, your life changes as well.  Challenges to personal identity may come from within ourselves or may be put upon us by others.  What happens when your identity as a gay man is called into question because you are dating a transwomen or transmen?  Are you a straight female partner of a transwoman and now wondering how you suddenly became a lesbian?  Are you someone who’s never been part of LGBTQ community and suddenly find yourself thrust into LGBTQ culture replete with all the stigma, challenges, and politics? Even in conferences like these, there are partners like us whose experiences and identities seem relegated to the sidelines.  Join us in this session where we will explore these questions and more. Note: This closed session is specifically for partners of people who are physically or socially transitioning, have transitioned, or are considering transition. You do not need to currently be in a relationship to attend. 

Seven-Year Itch: Partners

Many years have passed since your loved one transitioned, and the impact it had on your immediate family, relationship, and the like has faded a bit. Your partner’s gender—and your relationship to them—may no longer be a day-to-day issue. But, where else does it pop up? Are you finding ways to be proud of your loved one’s gender while still claiming your own unique identity? Has a health issue come up that again puts you or your partner out on the front lines of defending gender? How are you affected now by your partner’s choice to live stealth or out? We’ll discuss this and much more in this session for partners.
Note: This workshop focuses on the experiences of those who are five or more years beyond their partner’s transition. 

Shifting Identities, Expanding Desires

Whether our partners are post transition, just beginning to question their gender, or negotiating an identity somewhere in the middle, their journeys can have major implications for our feelings about sex and attraction. Were you involved primarily with women and never expected to be having sex with someone trans or male-identified? How do you feel about your partner’s body—including their new smell, look, or changing parts? Is being with your partner opening you up to new sexual desires? Are your ideas about your sexual orientation shifting? Depending on numbers, there may be break-out groups for lesbian, bi-/queer-identified, straight, and gay partners.
Note: This workshop will provide a confidential space and is open only to non-trans-identified people to talk frankly about fears, challenges, pleasures, and desire. 

FTM Specific

Just One of the Guys

How many of us, assigned female at birth, have felt robbed of the opportunity to bond with other men? Without this camaraderie of male friendships, we may feel that our social circles were, or are, incomplete. Some of us have been able to find the male friendships we longed for in our youth as transgender adults. For transmen, moving from one experience to a completely new one—becoming “one of the guys”—can be a transition within a transition. Join us as we explore what it means to be a man in relationship to other men, and to experience our masculinity with other guys whose background and socialization differ from our own.
Note: This conversation will be centered on the experiences of trans men but is open to all who wish to listen, learn, and grow. 

All-Gender Chest Surgery Show and Tell

Contemplating chest surgery and don’t know where to start? Do you have some great surgery results you want to share with others? Do you wish you had done something different and want to let others know? Join this facilitated show and tell and listen to the stories of others as they discuss which surgeons they chose and why, their experiences with surgeons and staff, how much they spent, how pleased/displeased they are with the results, and more. Note: This session is for people of all genders. 

Fag 101

Gay male culture can hold particular challenges for trans and gender diverse people. Gay masculine and feminine norms may still leave us on the outside looking in. In the world of jocks, bears, twinks, and queens, where do we fit in?  How do we get other guys to read our gender correctly and see us as the awesome dating material that we are? How do we find—or build—social spaces that are inclusive to trans and cis men? Let’s share our experiences of navigating oh-so-fabulous gay space while we find ways to increase our dating confidence.
Note: This workshop is for those navigating (or wanting to navigate) gay male space. 

Fantastic Fags: A Deeper Conversation

Gay male culture can hold particular challenges for trans and gender diverse people. Gay masculine and feminine norms may still leave us on the outside looking in. In the world of jocks, bears, twinks, and queens, where do we fit in? How do we get other guys to read our gender correctly and see us as the awesome dating material that we are? How do we find—or build—social spaces that are inclusive to trans and cis men? In this second session, we will continue the conversation from Fag 101 and dig in a little deeper.  Let’s share our experiences of navigating oh-so-fabulous gay space while we find ways to increase our dating confidence.
NOTE: This workshop is for those navigating (or wanting to navigate) gay male space. Attendance at Fag 101 is NOT required to attend this session.

MTF Specific

Just One of the Gals

How many of us, assigned male at birth, have felt robbed of the opportunity to bond with other women? Without this camaraderie of female friendships, we may feel that our social circles were, or are, incomplete. Some of us have been able to find the female friendships we longed for in our youth as transgender adults,. For trans women, moving from one world to another one— becoming “one of the gals”—can be a transition within a transition. Join us as we explore what it means to be a woman in relationship to other women, and to experience our femininity with other women whose background and socialization differ from our own.

A Different Take on Passing: A Trans Feminine Experience

Trans women are often held to very rigid and demanding standards of femininity—the slightest deviation from “ideal” femininity can be read as failure. How does our desire to have our gender read correctly interplay with our desire to be authentically ourselves? How can we avoid buying into a regressive and unrealistic version of what constitutes “real” femininity? In what ways does the mythic ideal of femininity change depending on factors such as our class, race, where we live, our age, and level of ability?
Note: This conversation will be centered on the experiences of trans feminine people but is open to all who wish to listen, learn, and grow.

Celebrating Femininity: Claiming Our Space

Most of the time it seems like trans women are simply tolerated—or become the exclusionary exception—in women’s communities and spaces. Trans women frequently have been asked to hold their tongue, to not take up space as if to compensate for previous years of perceived “male privilege.” In a world where masculinity is seen as both the pinnacle to strive for and also the expression of the oppressor, trans women are in a catch-22 where their expression of either masculinity or femininity is suspect. There are rarely, if ever, spaces where trans women are not only accepted, but are encouraged and rewarded for being strong, empowered women—for being our diverse and beautiful selves. Trans women do take up space, trans women do have something to say, and our voices are worthy of celebration. This workshop is for trans women to collaborate with each other, discuss ways we can honor our diverse selves, and find ways to support each other within our various communities. Note: We welcome our non-trans women allies as supportive listeners to this session focusing on trans women’s experience and voices.

Political Differences within MTF Communities

 
To some extent, our politics depend on our needs. Generational, class, and racial differences within the trans feminine community often result in the formation of sub-communities with very different political priorities. Join us for a discussion of these differing viewpoints, with an aim to better understand one another, and build movements that meet everybody’s needs.

Nonbinary/Genderqueer Oriented

It’s Not Just a Phase: Gender Diverse Realities

When it comes to gender diverse people, we often hear: “It’s just a phase.” Old assumptions insist that gender transitions move seamlessly from “point A” to “point B.” Gender-fluid identities are dismissed as being temporary placeholders while we look for our “real” identities. Lately, the rediscovery of androgyny in popular culture has opened the door to accusations that gender-benders are just trying to be hip. Either way, we’re not taken seriously! The truth is, genderqueer—by whatever name we call it—is a legitimate and meaningful personal identity. In this workshop, we’ll explore the multifaceted nature of gender and how our expressions of gender can change—even from day to day. How do you name, construct, and express your gender-queering? Let’s find out!

Genderqueer Sexuality

 
How does being genderqueer affect one’s sexuality? Is the sky the limit? Or are there particular considerations or limitations that go with the territory?  Do you encounter roadblocks within your relationships?  Within your community – even sex-positive communities?  Have you broken down the notion of gender as binary for others only to find it still lingering within your own thoughts as you choose a partner?  How does your choice of a partner impact the ways others perceive and define your relationship?  Let’s talk!

I Just Need to Pee! (Eat, Sleep, See a Doctor…)

Society is comfortable with male and female; and being comfortable is often equated with feeling safe. Most, if not all systems and institutions incorporate the binary notion of gender to try to add a level of safety. Examples include bathrooms, locker rooms, shelters, clinics, etc. But how can gender diverse people feel safe when these very institutions – knowingly or unknowingly – exclude us? Even when spaces are inclusive of trans identities, it is primarily the binary identities that are welcomed.  How can we take care of our most basic human needs when our very existence is met with suspicion, contempt, fear or ridicule? What can we do to change these spaces and what would that change look like, anyhow?

Sexuality

Let’s Talk about Sex: Intimate Conversations for Trans-Identified Partners, Pt. 1

Sometimes having conversations about sex can feel overwhelming. We may feel guilty for being unable to explain what’s going on for us or why it’s happening. Like so many other conversations we have to have with others about our lives and bodies, we can feel like this one is just too much. This may be especially so if we don’t really understand everything for ourselves. How and when do we articulate that what was okay last week may not be this week? What do we call our parts, or do we just know you can’t call them “that”? Come talk to other trans-identified people and help us formulate a conversation, including anonymous questions and answers, which we can bring to our partners in the second half of this two-part workshop. Note: Open to trans-identified people only.

Sexuality, Intimacy, and Our Bodies (Double session)

Did you have a strong foundation in your sexuality only to find it shifting as you began transitioning? Do you find yourself in a new “brand” of sexual orientation without the rule book? Are you afraid your partner’s interests will shift with their transition? Sometimes a gender shift puts us into a new category where the social cues and behaviors are unfamiliar. Have you experienced a shift in relation to whom you date or partner with? Was this exciting for you, scary, or difficult?

How comfortable are you sharing your body with someone else? Has your ability to express yourself intimately changed with your transition? In what ways? If you haven’t gone through a physical transition, how does this affect your relationship(s)? Note: As you consider what to say during—and after—this discussion, please be respectful of its intimate nature and aware that it is taking place in a public forum. Share only what you feel comfortable sharing.

Let’s Talk about Sex, Pt. 2: For Every Body

We have explored the topics of sex and intimacy individually—now let’s come together.  We will be bringing our conversations and questions from the previous session to this second-half session to get some answers and insights. Come to listen, learn, and provide your input so that we can improve our sexual relations.
Note: Open to trans and cis partners who’ve attended the first part of this two-part session.

Rules of Attraction: Exploring Trans Specific Desire

Homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual . . . transsexual? There is no word for people who are specifically attracted to trans people. For trans people, how does this affect our ability to feel sexy and desirable? How does this affirm or invalidate our gender identities. How do we know if someone’s attraction to us is based on a gender fetish? Do we ourselves fetishize non-trans bodies?
As non-trans people, are our motives questioned when we choose a trans lover?  Are they questioned when we prefer to date trans people? How can we claim our desire for trans bodies as a legitimate sexual orientation?  How do we deal with language that assumes we’d rather date non-trans people?
Join us for an in-depth discussion of navigating dating, sex, and intimacy with bodies that aren’t recognized by the current language of sexual orientation. Let’s talk about getting confident in our own sexiness, and making room for trans-specific desire.

Aging

Intersections of Trans Identity and Aging

As we age, things change—physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually! We live in a culture that stigmatizes getting older, even though it’s a reality we all face. The subject of aging in general is often swept under the rug, and trans elders face significant additional challenges that only add to our fears and concerns. As aging AND transgender people, we need to be prepared. This interactive, facilitated discussion will allow us to hear each other’s stories and share our individual experiences, with the goal of attaining strategies, tips, concerns, and camaraderie for this uncharted path.
Note: This conversation will be centered on the experiences of who are 55 and older and is open to all who wish to listen, learn, and grow.

Cross-generational Connections in Transition

Gender transition is one of the few places where we can be both an elder and an adolescent at the same time. Some of us were born at a time when access to transgender community and health care was almost non-existent, and some of us are coming up in an age where protocols for supporting trans youth is written into the educational guidelines of kindergartens. Some of us are the groundbreakers that started our journey a lifetime ago, and some of us are just coming out. Whatever you frame of reference, we all have wisdom and queries that are most richly addressed when a group of gender diverse people gather across generations to share our experiences.  Come take your seat in this circle and connect with your extended family.

Transitioning during the Elder Years

Many of us elders came of age in a time when transgender people were severely stigmatized. We kept our identities hidden for decades and are only now coming out and transitioning—right when the aging process is ramping up! What are our reasons? What are our special health, social, and other concerns that come with a transition decision or even an exploration of whether to transition? How do issues of our ability, race, or economic status affect these options? What about our families? Our place in our communities? Do we have any role models? This interactive, facilitated discussion will allow us to hear each other’s stories and share our individual experiences with this complex decision.

Some Time Ago: Trans Elders from the Heart

Trans elders are invited to share our “from-the-heart” stories with each other in this “fishbowl” format. We’ll share our stories of courage and fear, hardship and success, where we’ve fallen down and how we’ve gotten back up. The goal of this workshop is not only to connect with each other but also to share our stories with younger generations as we explore our desire to create a future that is both nurturing and safe.
Note: Elders are invited into the circle but all others are invited just to listen to/witness what is sure to be a powerful conversation.

Activism

TransActive: Leadership and Organizing

If you have chosen a leadership role, what attracted you to lead? Or, did leadership find you by default? If you have been a leader or activist in your city/hometown, have you changed your point of view about leading as time passed? What pitfalls or limitations have you found in how you’ve chosen to lead and/or organize? What methods have been successful and lasting? How do you prevent burnout? Has your style of leadership conflicted with others in your community? Have you received support from unexpected places? Come share your experiences, hear about the successes and pitfalls of others, and learn from each other.

Creating Your Gender Toolkit

What can I get for you ladies? Hey, this is the men’s room! Are you a drag queen? Many of us have been misread and/or challenged based on the false assumptions or perceptions of others, and then had to stumble or stutter our way out of it. The perfect response or comeback usually arrives . . . but hours or days too late. Educating others can be exhausting, and sometimes having the right thing to say worked out in advance can bypass an awkward moment and/or be more effective than an off-the-cuff response. In this workshop, we will examine how to effect positive change by responding in gentle, humorous, or matter-of-fact ways rather than pushing back. Let’s brainstorm and share ways to let people know that they need to look beyond their initial assumptions . . . without doing so at our expense. Bring your own stories, listen to those of others, and then take home a toolkit of humorous deflections, snappy comebacks, and other responses we can use to change the world, one encounter at a time. Bring your notebooks!

Gender Lexicons: Shifting Language in Shifting Times

The transgender/gender lexicon seems to change weekly, if not more, and greatly over the generations. For some, this elusive compilation of labels is frustrating, confusing, and at worst, alienating and paralyzing.  Others feel that to truly embrace gender’s full complexity, we must have evolving, organic language. Some of us feel strongly about personal identities that trigger other people. If there is no agreement within the community, how do we communicate and support people outside of the community?
Let’s get a bird’s eye view of our communities’ gender identity language and framework with a goal of understanding our own processes.

Social/Community/Professional

Transitioning on the Job

Coming out to anyone can be a challenge, and this challenge is amplified when coming out to people we may only know casually, and who may have power over our livelihoods.

What rights do we have? Can a prospective employer ask you questions about your gender identity?  What can you do if a coworker or supervisor harasses you at work?  What are your rights if an employer terminates you because of your gender identity?  The law provides various levels of protection for gender-nonconforming and transgender job applicants and employees.This session will explore topics involved in transitioning on the job including: the coming out process; changing pronouns documents and bathrooms; health insurance; understanding our rights; gaining administrative support and navigating interpersonal co-worker relationships. In this facilitated discussion we will pool our ideas and share experiences to create a safer coming out experience for us all.

Shaving and Makeup and Clothing, Oh My! All-Gender Grooming Fun!

How do I tame the forest cropping up on my face? How do I use makeup to accent and emphasize what I choose? What clothing frames my body in a way that I find gender affirming? This skills are not intuitive, and for most of us, were never offered in a way that supported our relationship with our gender. This multi-gender, hands-on, experiential skill share will offer us grooming tips and tricks for getting the results that we want in a playful and supportive environment.  

Singing Our Praises: Vocal Empowerment (double session)

Group singing is one of the most ancient and primal “technologies of belonging” that humans have used since our earliest times, possibly before speech itself. Singing can foster greater connection within ourselves and others, and can be a really powerful way to share our experiences with the world. Some of us have never felt confident in our singing ability, and sometimes this has been related to gendered ideas of vocalizing. Some of us have who once felt confident singing have lost our previous ability as our voices have shifted. This first part of this session will be sharing our experiences of challenge and triumph with our voices. The second part will be experiential. We will learn; vocal techniques; empowering and simple short songs written for the gender diverse community; and emotional/cognitive reframing of sharing our voices. We will prepare a simple song as a choir that we can offer as a gift to the Gender Odyssey conference. All voices are welcome.

Small Town, Big Change

A gender transition can be a tremendous undertaking for anyone. It can feel magnified for those who live in small towns where your personal business can be the business of everyone else, too. What if you’ve lived in the same town for the past 20 years? You know everyone and everyone knows you. Navigating everyone’s reaction is one thing but feeling like you are out there wearing the emperor’s new clothes is another! What about other trans people in town—how do you find them? What if they are living stealth (but, for various reasons, you think they might be trans)—are there reasonable ways to broach the subject or do you just wait and hope that they’ll come to you? How do you go about finding a therapist that is supportive, much less knowledgeable in trans-related care? What about your main squeeze, how will it be for them? Your friends, family, coworkers? Will you even be able to keep your job? Is there a way to be anything other than the town “freak” or is a move to a new town the only option?

This session is for those who’ve navigated or are considering navigating the complex path to gender authenticity while under the small town microscope. Let’s share our thoughts, experiences, and tools with each other and gain support along the way.

Write Here, Write Now: Wanted, Your Stories

We hear stories about trans, non-binary and gender diverse people, sexual outlaws, and line-crossers of all kinds through media and social interactions almost every day. Sometimes, we can find glimmers of truth in those stories, more often those people and experiences are packaged and polished, told through the lens of bias, ignorance, and scandal. That’s what we’re getting, but what we crave is authenticity and connection—we want stories about people we can relate to, told by those people. That’s why somewhere in the world, right now, someone is looking for you and your stories. This session is part writing workshop, part call to action. No writing experience necessary! We’ll do a couple of casual writing exercises, with very few rules. Please bring your writing medium of choice—pen or pencil and paper, laptop or mobile device.

Authenticity: Reconciling Past and Present

How do you stay in your skin? What helps you be your truest self? How do you integrate your past with your present and still stay sane? What happens to you when you are your most authentic self? What happens to those around you? Do they move in closer or take a step back? Let’s share our stories in a nonjudgmental way—in a way that comes from our hearts.

Buddy Up

Is this your first time at Gender Odyssey? Perhaps you are a seasoned veteran wanting to meet new people? Or looking for others who share a particular interest? It can be challenging to find ways to connect with folks from across the country and beyond as you are hustling from one workshop to the next. If one of your goals for the weekend is to make some solid connections, this is your chance to get started. Get a jump on meeting folks in this session designed for just that purpose, and find buddies to hang with for the weekend, or perhaps even a lifetime.

What I Don’t Usually Say about My Gender

It isn’t surprising that any of us as trans people may have to modify our stories for a variety of reasons. Some people are unfamiliar with the subject as a whole. Some may still be navigating their feelings of confusion, anger, grief, and so on. But what about when we are with each other? Are there things we don’t share? Perhaps you feel like you are the only one who thinks/feels/expresses themselves in a certain way. Maybe your reasons for transitioning are different than what you’ve heard others express. There may be concern that others won’t understand. Perhaps you’ve encountered unexpected transition-related repercussions that no one else seems to experience. Chances are your experiences/thoughts/views are not as unique as you think. We’ll never know unless we share our truths with each other. Please join us in creating a nonjudgmental space and, as a reminder, please share from your own experience only.

What’s the Rush?

“How can I transition now—I’m 65? I love living in the middle of gender, so why can’t people be okay with me being the way I am? My family will NOT accept this—it’s completely outside of our culture, how can I risk losing them? I don’t think my education or career will survive a gender transition. I want surgery but no hormones, is that okay? Can I take just a small amount of hormones?”
If you have these or other thoughts about a physical transition, come share them in a supportive and nonjudgmental environment. This discussion is designed to explore the imperfect process and experience of a physical transition. Many of us have explored or considered variables that don’t fit within the “traditional” trans narratives. Let’s share them with each other and think outside the box of should I… or shouldn’t I…?

Trans-er Than Thou

It may not be hard for those of us at this conference to reach a consensus regarding the outside world’s view of transgender people. We might easily agree that trans people are discriminated against and misunderstood by many in the outside world. What happens when we look at the differences within our collective gender communities? Can we also be uninformed and biased in our own thinking? Do we make our own rigid determinations about the “real” ways of being trans? How do we make those determinations? Is it along class lines (e.g., financially inaccessible surgeries being considered markers for “real” trans people)? Whether we’re living as trans full time? Whether we are binary or gender diverse? By appearance, or who’s queerest? This session is not about assigning blame. It’s about creating conversations wherein we can each examine our own discomfort with difference. We’ll look at these differences with a goal of gaining a fresh perspective and a chance to celebrate our unique lives together.

Getting the Ball Rolling: Legal 101

Under the Radar: Unpacking Stealth

In what circumstances are you out about your gender identity or history? How do you draw the lines around whom you tell? When and how much? How does this impact your life, your relationships? Does it provide relief? Stress? Both? In this workshop we will investigate the complex topic of living stealth. Many times we consider stealth to be all or nothing, but there are many questions to ponder when considering disclosure. We’ll discuss why we live stealth, the ways in which we do it, how it plays out, and how we can empower each other in our own personal choices.

Empowering and Celebrating Body Diversity

How have we been affected by the recent proliferation of idealized trans people in the media, including “perfect” passing MTF transwomen, masculine bodybuilder FTMs, and andro supermodels spotlighted in underwear ads? Are trans and gender-diverse folks subject to pressures to conform to unattainable ideals of the perfect body, the same pressures which have damaged the self-esteem of cis people for decades? How can we challenge the ways in which some trans bodies are celebrated in the media, while others are viewed as inferior? Let’s find ways to break apart the assumptions about what constitutes an “attractive” trans body, and learn to empower and celebrate the array of unique bodies we have! This workshop will also consider aspects of neurodiversity, dis/ability, race, size, and physical appearance that have traditionally been viewed as desirable vs undesirable, and take us to a new, radical re-evaluation of what constitutes beauty.

Diving into the Dating Pool: Where do we Swim?

When LGBQ people come out, we attend social events geared towards our letter of choice, where we may scout for potential dates. But when we come out as trans, where do we go to find a date? LGBQ settings? Hetero settings? Growlr, Tinder, Scruff, Grindr, OK Cupid etc? How respectful and accepting are these communities to trans people? If we want to date other trans people, where do we find one another? Once we find a date, how do we talk about the boundaries around our bodies or simply our identities? Join us and share, frustrations, obstacles, successes and strategies for navigating social dating scenes.

Class Dismissed: Exploring Economic Injustice

Poverty is an enormous issue in trans communities, and one that is too rarely addressed. How does the myth of a classless society, or the assumption that upper-middle class is the norm, impact the many trans people who are struggling to survive? Who is setting the agenda for trans liberation, and what important issues are being overlooked? What makes it hard to talk about our own class backgrounds and current economic resources? What actions can we take to address classism in our personal lives? How can we connect with other movements to work for economic justice?  Let’s discuss ways we can work toward a vision of trans liberation that is truly inclusive.

Phat Cat: Weighing in on Size Dynamics

Transition can shift bodies in a number of ways, including when it comes to our weight. Studies have shown that people are treated vastly differently based on weight including employers, doctors, and even just people on the street  Societal attitudes and perceptions towards us can vary dramatically depending on whether we are in straight, gay or lesbian communities and the values those respective communities espouse.  How does this impact how we date, love, and live?  In what ways do factors such as our age or our skin color complicate our relationship to our size and gender identity? This workshop is a forum for people to speak our minds on the subject of being fat.

Celebrating Your Path: Rites of Passage

Many of us have experienced certain rites of passage growing up and into adulthood, but our gender identity prevented us from having a true connection to them.  Many of us do not feel comfortable sharing these experiences currently because of our gender history.  Do you have practices now that keep you grounded?  What are visions and dreams that map your journey?  How do you find your right path as you explore new rites of passage such as starting a family, choosing a line of work, or establishing yourself in community? Is there a rite of passage you desire to create and would like to brainstorm how? Come to this session and share/create the ways you move along your true path.

 

   

Health and Spirituality

Head to Toe Health

What are the common health concerns you need to keep in mind during and after transition?  Let’s discuss guidelines for staying healthy, including monitoring hormone levels and changes in blood values, important screening tests and exams, protecting your liver, screening exams and post surgery care. Bring your questions, and empower yourself to take charge of your health care.

Hysto Stories

Hysterectomies are common but information about these procedures as they relate to transmen is difficult to find. Are there unique considerations to know about? Are there factors that change depending on whether you’ve been on testosterone for 5 years? 10 or 20? What about sex and orgasm – does that change after surgery? Was it difficult to find a surgeon who would perform the surgery for you? If you had insurance, was it covered? What was your recovery like?  In this session, we’ll explore these questions and more. We’d like you to share your experience with others so that we can learn from each other – whether your experience was good, bad, or somewhere in between. Until there is more research, we still have each other! Open to all.

Spirituality and Trans Identities

Some sense of spirituality has been intrinsic in many of our lives, either in our childhood upbringing, or as a path we are currently pursuing.  Others may feel that our trans identities preclude us from either engaging in organized spirituality or that our identities are in conflict with moral laws, making us unwelcome in some places of worship.  Have you left behind an expression of faith that was once very important to you?  Do you continue to be part of a congregation where others are unaware of your trans identity?  Many of us have embraced alternative beliefs or developed our own sense of spirituality that serves us in a more holistic way.  Have you worked within a religious community to create a more inclusive environment and how successful were you?  How does your spirituality intersect with your work for social change? Let’s share our experiences with regard to our search for fulfillment.

BIPOC

Migrant Justice for Trans and Gender Diverse Communities

Trans and gender-diverse immigrants, non-status people and refugees are often inadequately supported in service settings and rendered invisible. This is often due to multiple forms of intersecting oppressions including racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, and ableism. This discussion explores the needs of trans and gender-diverse non-status people, immigrants, and refugees and will work with participants to develop concrete strategies to support the creation of affirmative spaces and services. Participants will have the opportunity to engage in dialogue exploring the violence of borders, displacement, economic exploitation, and the criminalization of community members. Historical and contemporary activism and advocacy efforts to promote migrant justice and forms of community resistance will be highlighted.

The Race and Gender Balancing Act

A gender transition can result in new experiences of privilege – both lost and gained – and that experience may be vastly different for trans people of color than it is for white trans people. Has your relationship to race transitioned along with your gender? What was expected and what has taken you by surprise? How does acquiring or losing privilege balance with the losses that come with living as trans? Have you discovered a far less friendly world? More friendly? Come share your experience and hear the stories of others as we explore the inextricable relationship between our gender and skin color.

The Lighter Side of Race

Frequently, when someone mentions the word race, the conversation centers on the experiences and challenges of those who are black. While this examination is crucial, the voices of other people-of-color who may be of Asian, Latinx, Indigenous, Middle Eastern, or mixed-race descent are also in need of being heard. Navigating our gender in a society that ascribes to a two-gender system and still contemplates race most often as a black/white issue can leave us on the sidelines saying: “Well, that’s not my experience.” Let’s share our experiences with each other and create the dialogue we strain to hear. Note: This conversation will be centered on the experiences of people-of-color but is open to all who wish to listen, learn, and grow.

An Immigrant History and the Trans Experience

What is it like to come from an immigrant experience and simultaneously identify as trans and/or queer? Has your family been accepting? Does that acceptance, or lack of it, vary inter-generationally? Oftentimes, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd-generation immigrant families live in close proximity with each other—in barrios, for example, and other culturally-constructed communities. Sometimes there is little to no cultural language to describe a trans experience. Or, if there is, that language is borrowed from Western European culture and perhaps considered suspect as a result. A trans person is often placed in the position of having to choose between their family/community and their personal trans identity. Bring your heart and thoughts to this important discussion and we’ll make space for this unique experience.
Note: This conversation will be centered on the experiences of people-of-color but is open to all who wish to listen, learn, and grow.

Adventures in Dating: Where Race and Gender Intersect

People of color (BIPOC) can face many race- or ethnicity-based myths, stereotypes, or preconceptions that can complicate the dating process. When the complexity of a diverse gender identity or expression is factored in, the issue becomes that much more layered.  Join other trans people of color in this session exploring the world of dating and relationships.  Share your experiences—good, bad, or confusing—and let’s get to the heart of the matter.  
Note: Open only to BIPOC.

BIPOC Gender Fluidity

Are you a person of color whose gender identity falls outside the binary? Are you genderqueer, two-spirit, or in some other way gender diverse? What sort of challenges do you encounter when your gender and your race or ethnicity intersect?  Do you find support or resistance from your friends?  Your family?  Your community(ies)? Join us for a revealing discussion in which we can share our victories and trials related to navigating our cultural, racial, and gender identities.
Note: Open only to BIPOC.

It’s Not All Black and White: Interracial and Intergendered Relationships

Interracial relationships can be challenging and complicated, especially when one or more partners are transgender or gender diverse. Do racial dynamics sometimes impact your relationship in unanticipated ways?  Has the dynamic between partners changed with gender shifts?  How comfortable are you with the ways you are perceived by the outside world?  Are there things you like about it?  Things that make you crazy? Let’s examine the added dimension that race brings to trans/non-trans relationships. This workshop is designed for each of us to bring our own experience(s) to share with others.  Please respect this space and share from your heart and from your experience only.

Navigating Family in Communities of Color/ The Ties That Bind

In many ethnic minority communities, our families are an important source of strength. They may be even be the one thing we can’t afford to risk losing. Perhaps we always knew they would love and support us no matter what … until we began considering transition. We may feel we have to move away from home, family, and friends, or wait for a parent to die, before beginning transition. How do our race, our communities, and our families affect the choices we make regarding gender?


Facilitator Guidelines

We are dedicated to making Gender Odyssey an inclusive and supportive space for everyone. We ask that all prospective facilitators please review the following guidelines. If you feel the need for further clarification, please write to us at workshops@genderodyssey.org.

Your job as a Gender Odyssey facilitator is to:

  • Have a strong understanding of group dynamics and a strong commitment to maintaining equity within the group.
  • Create an inclusive and supportive space for everyone
  • Review the discussion guidelines for group participation (in front of program book)
  • Keep the discussion relevant to the topic and objective/s
  • Engage all participants and encourage different perspectives
  • Be responsible for starting and ending on time.
  • Conduct the group in a way that allows for appropriate interactions amongst the participants. Re-direct the discussion if one or a few participants are monopolizing time.
  • If someone becomes disruptive to the group, ask them to leave.
  • Remember that this is not a lecture or workshop format. Rather than making statements, limit yourself to interjecting questions to promote discussion among the group members.
  • The goal of the discussion is to promote thoughts, opinions and viewpoints amongst the participants and gives individuals the opportunity to share their own truth and experience. Be as objective as possible, and hold your personal opinions at bay.

Sessions are 1 1/2 hours in length.

Gender Odyssey recognizes the vast amount of knowledge and experience that all of our attendees bring to this conference: your job as facilitator is to optimize the participation of others.

Important Note: We strongly encourage all facilitators to show an understanding of the elements of diversity (such as race, class, age, gender identities, etc.) with relation to each session topic.  

We recognize that good facilitation requires practice and skill, and that your contribution is a vital part of Gender Odyssey’s reputation for powerful and relevant programming. Thank you for lending us your abilities!