10.06 Joining Together

Joining Together  

Transcending Boundaries Conference Brings a Huge Rainbow to Worcester.

By Brian Goslow

The Transcending Boundaries Conference, which comes to the DCU Center on October 27, 28 and 29, focuses attention on issues of importance to the bisexual/pansexual, trans/gender, queer, and intersexed people and their gay, lesbian and straight allies across the nation. The event is being held in conjunction with the Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) New England Regional Conference. PFLAG has approximately 25 chapters in the region.

“We are very interested in working more closely with our allies and supporters,” says Northeast Regional Director Roberta “Bobbie” Barry. “PFLAG is not just a support group for families. We also are about education and advocacy for GLBTIQ people.” There are 500 PFLAG chapters nationwide with a total membership of 200,000. “Because this is the first collaboration of this type for us, we do expect a national audience.” Conference Chair Colleen Harrington expects 400 attendees from as far away as California and Canada; inquiries came from around the world, including India, Australia, Sweden and the UK.

The event opens Friday night with receptions for BiNet USA and PFLAG members and an Intersex Awareness Forum hosted by Esther Morris Leidolf, a woman born without a vagina; she discussed her experience in the 2004 essay “The Missing Vagina Monologue,” which has since been adapted for stage. Harrington invites anyone interested in the event to attend the free reception at the Hilton Garden Hotel from 7 to 10 p.m.; if you like what you see and hear, you can still register for the rest of the weekend.

Jennifer Finney Boylan, author of “She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders,” her memoir on “…a man named James who became a woman named Jenny” presents Saturday’s opening address. A day of workshops that include “How Do We Talk About BDSM/Leather/Fetish? Demystifying Kink for Families, Allies, and Professionals,” “Getting the Sex You Want (and Not the Sex You Don’t),” “FEMME-ininity: GenderQueer Femme Identity and Misogyny within the Queer Women’s Community,” “Trans on Campus: Measuring and Improving the Climate for Transgender Students,” and “The State of Marriage Equality in Massachusetts and Beyond” follow.

“Our workshop topics have a huge range of interest from how to facilitate a group to how we understand today’s youth and the ‘queer’ movement,” Barry says. “We are bringing together various age groups in order to cross that generational, often culturally induced boundary.”

Regardless of age, everyone who attends has something to contribute to the discussion. “There’s such a diversity of experience out there, and once you start to rock the solidity of gender that we all used to take for granted, we have a lot more thinking and learning to do about social justice, rights, sexuality, and equality,” says Janie, one of the workshop organizers. “We are all in this together. No matter how different our experiences, we all share in the common struggle to be accepted for who we are, no matter what gender we are or the gender of those we love.”

PFLAG national president Sam Thoron will present Saturday’s lunch time address along with activist Lani Ka’ahamanu, author of “My Grassroots Are Showing” and editor of 1991’s landmark book “Bi Any Other Name: Bisexual People Speak Out.”

When the sun goes down the fun really begins with a coffeehouse and a costume-optional Halloween party ~ though one can’t imagine anyone attending out of costume. “For many closeted trans-folk, Halloween in the only opportunity where they can dress as themselves and be safe,” says Harrington, who expects drag to be the outfit of choice.

Sunday features four more workshop sessions, beginning with ones on health and wellness – and the closing address by Matt Kailey, author of “Just Add Hormones: An Insider’s Guide to the Transsexual Experience,” whose most recent essay on attending his 30-year reunion, “Most Changed Since High School,” is being expanded into an autobiography of the same name.

“What is vitally important about this conference is the opportunity it is giving anyone ~ and especially allies of GLBTIQ people ~ to come together and to educate ourselves, to foster community, and to overcome societal fears around sexuality, sex and gender,” Barry says. “It is crucial to bring all the various communities together to think actively about the value of speaking about rights as a coalition. The reality is that we have more in common around the issues of civil rights for all GLBTIQ in this country than we have differences.”

General admission is $70 with a special youth/low income rate of $50. There’s also a $100 sponsorship registration fee; the extra amount covers a scholarship to allow someone who might not otherwise be able to attend the conference to be on hand. And for an all-inclusive event, that’s a pretty great thing.

For more information, visit transcendingboundaries.org.