Gender Blender

A report from the International Foundation for
Gender Education's 15th annual convention

By Trankila

As a newbie crossdresser, my experience dressing in public was limited to a friend's house and a local bar's regular fetish night. Now I can add the IFGE's meeting held in Arlington Heights, Illinois, where things got so hot this spring (at least smoky) that the local fire department felt obliged to drop in.

While creating a Spirit Circle, Board Member Yvonne Cook-Riley lit sage to purify the circle. The smoke got a bit intense, and the smoke alarms at the hotel went off. So pretty soon, we had a visit from the firemen, who were somewhat taken aback by this particular false alarm.

Among the things I learned at this year's conference is that dressing in public puts me one slot above the bottom of the transsexual/cross-dresser pecking order. At the top of the order, as outlined by Miqqi Gilbert, Philosophy professor at York University in Toronto, are post-op transsexuals, followed by pre-op transsexuals. Next come no-op transsexuals (because of lack of money and/or fear of surgery). Committed cross-dressers come next followed by crossdressers who only dress in the privacy of their own homes.

Fortunately for me when I attended my first IFGE conference last year in Washington, D.C., I felt accepted by two people I met that first morning: Virginia Prince, who pioneered transsexual politics in 1962, and Yvonne Cook-Riley, a member of the Board of Directors.

What most fascinated me at the first meeting was meeting so many attractive women, and then finding out that some of them formerly served as Navy Seals and Army Rangers! I was also intrigued to discover that many of the wonderful people I met, FtM (female to male) and MtF (male to female) were doing cutting--edge work in their non-conference time. It seemed to me, as a hypothesis, that people exploring their gender comfort zones, were people also attracted to cutting-edge areas in the rest of society.

One conference highlight was the clear and eloquent presentation by Jos Megens on the Dutch model for "The Treatment of Transsexuality." He noted that in Holland the attitude toward gender-shifting treatments has changed from negativity to a "a well-accepted medical treatment covered by insurance." He described how in that country pre-pubertal persons, if supported by their parents, and after evaluation by the Amsterdam Gender Team, can be started on hormonal treatments that can help male-to-female transsexuals to avoid the development of male pattern body hair and voice changes. In answer to critics who have voiced concern over providing such treatments for patients so young, Megens said that the Amsterdam Gender Team's research has shown that a young person with strong feelings about his or her gender role does not change his/her feelings later in life.

At the Banquet Saturday night, the most spectacular looking woman was Rosalyne Blumenstein. Rosalyne received her M.S.W. degree at the Hunter School of Social Work in 2000, and she is the director of the Gender Identity Project at the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center in New York City. A bodice of looping chains and golden gossamer harem pants set off her beautifully tanned centerfold body.

The conference brochure describes her as a "straight out woman of transsexual experience. Rosalyne also identifies as queer." She co-led a workshop with Carrie Davis "Creating a Community of Inclusion." Carrie is currently an MSW student at the Hunter College School of Social Work. The main focus of their workshop was to have each person speak using the pronoun "I" to acknowledge his/her individual opinions to increase self-awareness of gender prejudices within the group.

Thursday night, some of the group went to the Baton club, a cross-dresser, lip-synching extravaganza of song and costume, on Clark St. in Chicago. Two of the performers, Ginger and Chili Pepper, were terrific twenty-three years ago when I first went to the Baton, and they still are!

Another night, the group attended the opening of the Rikki Swin Institute. This institute is involved in facilitating the corporate environment/transgender interface. A video about the Institute played on the chartered bus during the 45-minute trip there from Arlington Heights. The reception had wonderful hors d'oeuvres, Rikki and her daughter were gracious, and the staff was friendly.

GenderPac is apparently going mainstream to try to achieve gender equality for all. Tranny people have some ambivalence, perhaps related to their desire for mainstream acceptance versus the cutting-edge nature of much of their lives.

The 2001 conference was held March 22-25 at the Radisson Hotel, Arlington Heights, Illinois.

Coming 2001 events of interest to trannies and those who love them:

June 21 - 24 (Thurs. - Sunday)
Spiritual circling in observance of Solstice, plus hiking, swimming and picnicking at Lake Lure, drumming at the Peace Chamber, and a very festive celebration. Your very own summer vacation with kindred spirits.

July 19 - 22 (Thurs. - Sunday)
For male-identified FTM's to socialize, discuss issues, hike, fish, river raft -- whatever. Safe space to explore yourself with others in a spirit of brotherhood. Lots to do, or simply sit back and be. Hosted by Marc Eden.

August 16 - 20 (Thurs. - Monday -- a day longer this year)
This event is reserved for veterans and new visionaries -- our only event not recommended for novices. If you bring new visions and expertise to Kindred Spirits, you are welcome to join with us.

August 31 - Sept. 3 (Fri. - Monday)
Spiritual circling over Labor Day in early observance of Equinox, plus hiking, swimming and picnicking at Lake Lure, drumming at the Peace Chamber, and a decadent slumber party. A festive celebration of summer's end.

September 17-23
Southern Comfort 2001
Atlanta, Georgia 303-424-2249 to register

November 8 - 11 (Thurs. - Sunday)
Frank, non-experiential sharing and exploration of the uncharted sexuality that results from gender-shifting beyond sex-role expectations. Singles, partners & couples welcome. Facilitated by Zantui & Holly. Info:

November 22 - 25 (Thurs. - Sunday)
We honor the core of Cherokee spirituality here, in their ancestral home, with a feast of thanksgiving on Saturday. No place at the table with blood kin? Come count your blessings with us.

December 29 - Jan. 1 (Sat. - Tuesday)
After the fever pitch of commercialized holidays, you are invited to retreat in quiet reverence with kindred spirits. Bring a log for our mountaintop bonfire under the full moon, and start your year in Yule Circle.