Probably my favorite memory of this last weekend’s Gender Spectrum conference (besides a really nice lunch-time conversation with a sexology colleague and her husband) was the “slap-bracelet” incident. Let me explain.
I was doing something I’ve never done before. I presented three times in one weekend! Twice for the teen conference (back to back sessions on Saturday) and once for adults (first thing on Sunday morning). For those who don’t know, the Gender Spectrum Family Conference, which is by and for people who are transgender or otherwise gender variant (and their parents and allies), is probably one of the most awesome annual occurances on the planet – for me, far more significant than Burning Man – because a new world really is being birthed by GS conference attendees and organizers, throughout the year, 24/7, parent by parent, child by child, activist by activist, teacher by teacher, and so on. When I’m at this conference I’m living briefly in a world almost entirely without hate, though hate and fear knocks on all our doors.
Gender Spectrum includes Kids Camps and a Teen Conference. And I’ve always loved the fact that the kids are there, wandering shyly in search of their parents or friends, or swirling through the corridors with their pals. They are all free to be themselves in an accepting environment that should exist naturally for them (and all children and youth) all the rest of the year. And so they dodge past the grownups in the halls with computer cases and tote bags, and race after their group, eager for the next activity or adventure. And the teens – serving as panelists, speaking truth to adults – and otherwise making their presence felt… I always feel in awe of them. They know so much.
So, though I’ve presented before at the Gender Spectrum Conference, I’ve never been honored with presenting a program to the teenagers. I must confess I was a bit nervous! I even had my younger kid (age 16) check out my slide show beforehand, and give me some tips on what works for his age group, and what doesn’t. After that, I figured that if I flopped I could blame it on him!
So, the first session was packed with the older teen group, at least 20 kids! A lively, amazing bunch. I couldn’t have asked for a better, more engaged, fun and funnier group. The topic was “Beat Stress with Easy Mind-Body Self-Help Skills,” and so it was pretty interactive. The kids were intrigued with hypnosis too – and because several of them really wanted to be hypnotized, I did a short, progressive relaxation induction at the end, with a few suggestions for feeling great, empowered, and so on. I had a wonderful time. I hope they did too.
After lunch, a quieter experience though again, quite delightful! Only three girls – younger teens – and two camp counselors in attendance. It was nice to go through the same program again, in a more conversational way, and to also bring the counselors into the dialogue. All three girls had very different fashion styles. I really enjoyed seeing how they were bringing their personalities into the world in such individual ways. One of the girls mentioned that she had several nervous habits, and toward the end, she began rolling and unrolling her slap bracelet, and slapping it back into shape. Now I am easily distracted by repetitive noises. I lose my focus. It’s kind of weird, actually. And so I had to ask her to stop. She was too apologetic when I mentioned my predicament. I regretted having to say something, because there seemed to be a delicacy in our rapport. I felt like she may have been admonished too often, too many times, by teachers. I didn’t want to be just another grown-up stepping on her expression.
Anyway, I think well of her, and of all the youngsters who attended my two presentations. What they went home thinking and feeling about my sessions, I’ll never know. I hope some of what I taught will be useful for them. I am not sure why I feel that this is one of my favorite memories, but it is. There’s some lesson for me, perhaps, that I haven’t fully realized.
I enjoyed the next day’s session with the adults – another great bunch, another great learning experience. The handout I used is here, at the link below.
I have one other experience to share. My experience at the conference was marred by quite a lot of exposures to fragrances, both in other sessions and in corridors between sessions. I left early both days, in order to take care of myself – and so I really didn’t get my “money’s worth” from the conference in terms of being able to attend all sessions. And I am sorry to say that one woman was quite snippy with me in response to the sign I posted, asking for fragrance-free attendees in my Sunday workshop. That encounter left an ugly taste. But – really – shared air space is important. That’s why we don’t let people smoke inside anymore. And though I was probably the only person with environmental illness in attendance, I can’t have been the only person who suffers from asthma. They too, must have found this challenging!
I attended the last session in a face mask, unfortunately sitting in the front row and hopefully not unnerving the speakers. Usually I sit way at the back, as far away from other people as I can manage (for air space), but my sexology colleague wanted to be right up front and I wanted to sit with her. Next year, I’ll be asking the conference organizers for a fragrance-free sentence added to my workshop description, should they accept a presentation proposal from me.
Mostly, though, I am just so grateful to have had the chance to participate once again in this amazing event. It means a lot to me to participate. I live in such an isolated manner. Kudos to all who organized, spoke, and attended!