This weekend Rose and I attended the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference.  It was our second year going and we were quite excited to see all the wonderful people we had met the year prior.  We were equally excited that we would be bringing our awesome friend J who had told us right before our 1st conference that he, too, was trans.  It would be his first year and we couldn’t wait for him to be able to relax a bit and feel like he belonged completely.

When we walked into the conference Rose was immediately recognized by none other than Aydian Dowling himself.  She was on cloud 9 as he called to her by name and commented on how tall she had gotten and how long her hair had grown since he’d seen her last year.  You see, she is completely, totally and madly in love with Aydian!

As we moved around we met up with Jason Ballard (Founder of FTM Magazine).  He and his wife commented on how much taller she was and how awesome her hair was and just generally caught up on life.  (They really are an adorable couple). We met up with some of our less famous but MAJORLY important friends as well, like Kathryn. We just got into our Conference Groove.  Even though I sat in on so many presentations last year I know there was still more of my daughter’s world that I need to learn how to navigate so I took off to sit in on some sessions while my mini-celeb child hung out with Kathryn, her Uncle Corey and numerous other grown ups who absolutely love and admire her.  She even got to hang out and chat with Sophie Labelle (creator of the Assigned Male comics).

Later that night came the pizza/pool party with Jazz Jennings who, you guessed it, remembered Rose from last year and was amazed at how much she had changed.  Jazz barely had to lean down this year to match Rose’s height and the change in her is amazing as well.

 

On Saturday, as the conference was ending, we hung out with Skylar Kergil (an amazing musician… check him out if you don’t know who he is already).  He too remembered Rose and was having a blast talking to J who had met him just the day before and was already being asked to perform at the conference with him next year!!!  I was a very proud stand in mom for J as his own mother had to leave earlier that day!  (How awesome do they all look in their Trans Proud shirts!?)

When we returned to our hotel room that night I made a comment, never know that it would be semi-prophetic.

I sat with Kathryn, J, Rose and a new friend (Luigi) and made the comment “We’re all standing here in our “THIS IS WHAT TRANS LOOKS LIKE”, “Pretty Fly for a Trans Guy” and “OMG KAREN. YOU CAN’T JUST ASK PEOPLE WHAT’S IN THEIR PANTS” shirts and we have not a care in the world.  How safe will we feel tomorrow walking through the city in shirts like these now that the conference is over!?”  Everyone kinda acknowledged how much different “tomorrow” would be and we moved on to talking about where we’d eat dinner.

 

Then came Sunday.  We heard there was a shooting at Pulse in Orlando.  We went about eating breakfast, packing our bags, checking out of the hotel and planning whether we’d march in the Philly Pride Parade that day.  We decided to find Nellie Fitzpatrick (from the mayor’s office) and see if we could march with her.  We were given the go ahead, then the REAL news reached our ears.  The news that this was the LARGEST mass shooting in history.  There were 50 people dead and (at that point) 40 known injured.  We were out on the streets of Philly where there was no shielding Rose from overhearing the news that EVERYONE was talking about.  I waited to see what reaction she would have to the news.  I thought I would see terror in her eyes at the though of still marching in the parade.  That was not the reaction that she had.  My 10-year-old grabbed her flag (the largest one we could find the street vendors selling) and got behind the Mayor’s float (after taking a few groupies of course.  My daughter raised her flag as high as she could with PRIDE, with appreciation for the lives that had been lost, in solidarity with her LGBTQIA family.

 

We have talked a LOT since leaving Philly late Sunday afternoon.  We have voiced our fear, our sadness, our outrage and our love.  We mourn those who were lost as well as those who still may die.  We grieve for their family and friends who have felt the impact of this tragedy so deeply and will continue to feel it long after the world at large forgets and moves on.  Once all the vigils and the social media posts come to an end, they will still be there.  It will still be a part of their every day life.  They will still grieve.

Rose and I (as well as many others in the LGBTQIA community at large) have made vows to not let our fear or anger have a negative impact on our world.  We will instead turn that fear, grief and anger towards speaking out more, being more visible, being more vigilant when we encounter others who need our help and to spread more love in our daily lives.

We will do so in honor of all those who died in Orlando on June 12, 2016 as well as all of those in the LGBTQIA community (named and unnamed) who have been the victims of hate and violence.

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Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34

Stanley Almodovar III, 23

Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20

Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22

Kimberly Morris, 37

Luis S. Vielma, 22

Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30

Amanda Alvear, 25

Enrique L. Rios Jr., 25

Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35

Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32

Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24

Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40

Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37

Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25

Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22

Darryl Roman Burt II, 29

Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32

Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21

Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25

Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25

Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50

Martin Benitez Torres, 33

Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26

Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35

Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25

Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31

Oscar A. Aracena-Montero, 26

Miguel Angel Honorato, 30

Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32

Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19

Cory James Connell, 21

Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37

Luis Daniel Conde, 39

Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33

Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25

Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36

Jerald Arthur Wright, 31

Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25

Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27

Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33

Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49

Yilmary Rodriguez Sulivan, 24

Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32

Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28

Frank Hernandez, 27

Paul Terrell Henry, 41

Antonio Davon Brown, 29

Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24

Akyra Murray, 18

 

 

 

 

 

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