A gathering of gendermoms (and dads!)

GOThe other day I reminded M. that we’re going to the “gender conference” next week.

“Like last year, remember?  Where I went to meetings while you played with all those kids and the fun camp counselors?”

“Yeah, they had good activities. I made a cool mask.”

“Well, we’re going again this year – next week. And your papa is coming, too.”*

The “gender conference” is Gender Odyssey, held annually in Seattle, and it is, well, a godsend for people like me and M.  For one weekend each summer, families from around the country gather for discussions and seminars on, well, everything we face as parents of transgender kids: How to support our kids and keep them safe, how to cope with our own fears and our grief, how to deal with school districts and doctors and neighbors and family members who have no idea what “transgender” actually means. We learn a lot from the experts and from each other (I take a lot of notes), but it’s more than a time to gather information. It’s also a homecoming. It’s the only time, ever, that everyone else is just like us.  This is a precious and rare feeling.  I don’t know why that’s so important, that sense of belonging, but it is: Humans need a tribe, I guess. We’re social animals.  For all the other days of the year, we are isolated, sprinkled fairly thinly throughout the towns and cities of this country, emailing each other, connecting through Facebook and listservs. But at the conference, we get to see each other face to face. We get to meet one another’s children.  We hug and hug and hug.  We cry quite a bit.  We get angry.  We find peace and hope. We can’t wait for next year.

M. was pretty oblivious to all this last year.  I told her that the conference was “about gender,” but from her perspective, it was just a really fun summer camp full of kids who looked like all the other kids she knows.  This year is different.  She has a much clearer sense of herself as a certain kind of girl, as a girl who’s different from the other girls at school.  She now knows what transgender is, and she knows that word refers to her.

“So, everyone at the conference is either transgender, or they have a family member who is transgender,” I tell her.

Her eyes get wide. She’s incredulous. “Really?  Everybody?


“Can we go right now?”


* I haven’t written much about M.’s dad in this blog. That’s because we’re divorced and I want to respect his privacy. But he’s a great dad and is extremely supportive of M. being who she needs to be.

11 thoughts on “A gathering of gendermoms (and dads!)

  1. I hope everyone has a great weekend, we needsomething like that here in Australia, but for all Transgenders, M is such a lucky girl to have both her parents supporting her, have a great time ladies

    • I should have mentioned that the conference actually is for ALL people who are exploring gender – not just kids and families. In fact, most of the people there aren’t families, but adults. There’s a section of the conference devoted to families, and we take part in that, but there is an incredible conference for adults. Perhaps you could attend sometime, Melissa? Make the trek to our continent and join the lovefest? 🙂

      • Thanks Gendermom, yes I would love to attend, maybe next year I can, get away from all this freezing temps.

  2. Inside Out – the documentary will be attending Gender Odyssey Family again this year. Please be sure to say hello! We will have a table in the lobby, so we should be easy to spot! So happy to hear you are both attending.

  3. Hey, Gendermom, great post! Yes, indeed, the pow-wow of the tribe is an extremely significant event. have a great one. All I can say is…inch by inch the world is slowly coming to know us. We have finally arrived when they stop hating, fearing and condemning us and those who love and support us. One can hope the day will come sooner rather than later.

  4. I got to go to Philly Trans Health a couple years in a row. I always feel a little sad leaving, sort of leaving “my tribe”. Even though we have a very large trans community here in Albuquerque.

  5. This sounds wonderful. Part of me wishes everyone was required to attend such an event, to better educate themselves. But the realistic part knows it would take away from all the good already being achieved.

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