The Philadelphia Trans Health Conference—an annual meeting of transgender people, advocates, and health care providers—announced Tuesday that they are canceling two panels, one on detransitioning and one on alternate ways of dealing with gender dysphoria besides medical transition.
In a statement, conference organizers wrote:
For this year’s conference, two workshops, ‘Alternate ways of working with gender dysphoria’ and ‘Detransition: A panel discussion’ have become the center of a debate. Detransition is, without a doubt, a difficult and sometimes controversial topic. These two workshops brought impassioned conversation to the forefront for conference planners and community stakeholders. Individuals have come out on both sides with very strong opinions on whether these workshops should be permitted to be presented at the conference to what type of content and comments would be presented by the facilitators going off of what they have posted they have on social media.
When a topic becomes controversial, such as this one has turned on social media, there is a duty to make sure that the debate does not get out of control at the conference itself. After several days of considerations and reviewing feedback, the planning committee voted that the workshops, while valid, cannot be presented at the conference as planned.
The difficult decision to pull these workshops ultimately came down to the level of heated conversation and controversy surrounding the two workshops. This was detracting from our overall mission of the conference, to provide an accessible and respectful environment that centers the experiences of the transgender and gender non-conforming/non-binary (GNC/NB) community.
Controversial is, perhaps, an understatement. Detransitioning is a fraught subject within the transgender community and detransitioners who are open about their status are frequently targets of harassment.
According to conference organizers, after complaints from attendees and others in the trans community, there was an internal vote on whether or not to include the sessions (which had already been accepted into the conference) and, in the end, the detransitioners lost.
I reached out to Carey Callahan, a detransitioner herself and one of the panel organizers. Callahan wrote:
The panelists worked hard to create material that was useful to and respectful of people with many different experiences of gender. People bought plane tickets, took time off of work, participated in lots of meetings to make these panels happen.
I'm feeling disheartened at being mischaracterized as trans-exclusionary when I've repeatedly, emphatically stated that transition is a good thing in many people's lives. I hope the Philly organizers and attendees come to view these cancellations as a lost opportunity for education and dialogue, and that next year we're all feeling silly about how scared we used to be of each other. Detransitioners generally feel protective of trans people's rights and well-being, and it would go a long way to see some of that concern reciprocated.
I've asked the conference if they will be reimbursing panelists for their expenses and will update when/if I hear back.
Update: I heard back from R Perry Monastero, director of development and marketing at the Mazzoni Center, which hosts the conference. Monastero says: "The committee understands the gravity of the decision to cancel these two workshops. Given the overwhelming reactions that evolved around this topic, the committee and Mazzoni Center were concerned about our ability to preserve a safe environment. We’ve reached out to both presenters and assured them that Mazzoni Center will reimburse travel expenses that they may have already incurred."