This week, the Mazzoni Center regretfully announced that the Philadelphia Transgender Wellness Conference (PTWC), which was supposed to be held on June 23-25 2020, will now be postponed until August 19-21, 2021.
The postponement was a decision made in the wake of the pandemic. While the Mazzoni Center acknowledges that this decision was indeed a difficult one and that it will be met with some disappointment, it was made in order to secure the safety and health of all the trans, gender-nonconforming and nonbinary volunteers, sponsors, presenters and exhibitors who make the PTWC possible.
The PTWC began in 1991 and was started by trans woman of color Charlene Arcila, who unfortunately passed away in 2015. Arcila planned a day-long event to both give trans people a sense of community and to educate on trans issues, said the Mazzoni Center’s Director of Communications Larry Benjamin. “Last year, we had 8,000 attendees from around the world,” said Benjamin, “— every state in the U.S. and every continent except Antarctica. It is so diverse, you’ve got the gender spectrum, you’ve got all races, young folks and old folks.” The conference takes place over three days and features hundreds of workshops from trans, gender-nonconforming, and nonbinary speakers and educators. It is also a rare opportunity for this community to network and gain valuable support, said Benjamin.
“I have been involved with the conference every year since its inception, as both an attendee and a staff member,” said the Mazzoni Center’s COO Alecia Manley who represents one-third of the interim leadership team, “I have seen the tremendous impact this conference has and the special space that is created when our community comes together. But more than anything, I am looking forward to celebrating in 2021 when we will hopefully be able to come together safely under one roof and celebrate PTWC’s 20 year anniversary.”
For many, said Benjamin, the PTWC is one of few opportunities a year for folks to be themselves and engage with programming that is designed for them. “I met a young Black trans man from Alabama,” recounted Benjamin, “he had driven up for the conference for the first time. He said, ‘I want to thank you all’ because, until he walked into the conference that morning, he had never seen a real live trans person but himself. Imagine how alienating that was! And then he came into this place where there’s like 8,000 people who look like him and get him. For me, that was a transformational moment, and it made me understand why this conference was so important.”
COO Manley hinted that there will be some virtual programming in lieu of this year’s conference. “I am hopeful for the creative connections our alternative virtual programming will offer,” said Manely, “We will be looking for ways to make some of PTWC’s educational content and community building experiences available in other ways and will announce details at a later date.”
Alexis Mayer attended the 2019 Philadelphia Trans Wellness Conference. After hearing about the postponement, Mayer posted a picture from last year and a current picture on Instagram. “The photo on the left was July 25, 2019, the first day of the Philadelphia Trans Wellness Conference,” wrote Mayer, “Less than a year has passed but I don’t recognize the life I lived before. That day marked the beginning of a whole new world. Friends like so few I had known before. Sisters, family, connection. I discovered ‘Lexi’ and from that point forward I have become so much more than I ever could have believed. The loss of this year’s conference is painful, and the missed opportunity to build our knowledge and community is pitiable, but it does not have to keep us from being there for one another. We can support our siblings. We can learn from those who have gone before. It will not be the same, but when all this passes we will be stronger for what we have faced as a family.”