What are your PGP?
Connor Tinlin's tour guides, a lesbian couple, asked the Scottish dad that question during a visit to Seattle in 2012. "PGP" stands for preferred gender pronouns. Tinlin, then a recently out trans man with the peach fuzz and a changing voice to prove it, was deeply moved.
"I could have cried," Tinlin wrote in an e-mail from West Linton, a town near Edinburgh, where he lives. "It was, I don't know, relief? I thought that I want to feel this good, that my child should feel this good."
In August, Tinlin, 36, is returning to Seattle with Iona, his birth daughter, in order to attend Gender Odyssey, a three-day conference for transgender and gender-nonconforming people that kicks off on August 4. Tinlin and Iona, 8, will attend workshops, see performances and films, and participate in family events. Gender Odyssey Family, a special program for parents and children, includes activities for teenagers and kids under the age of 12.
Tinlin found out about Gender Odyssey while attending a baking conference in Skagit Valley in 2012. When he stopped through Seattle, he googled "trans Seattle" and happened upon the convention's website, where he read about their advocacy work in the community. He was impressed.
Years later, he finally committed to making the trip.
Although Tinlin, who is currently unemployed, was able to stay with a friend during the convention and secure a scholarship from Gender Odyssey to cover the cost of admission, he still couldn't afford the flights on his own. So he created a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for plane tickets and hit his fundraising goal in less than a month.
According to Aidan Key, the event's founder, it's not uncommon for families to fly in from overseas for Gender Odyssey, which is now in its 15th year.
Before making his transition from female to male in 1998, Key was active in Seattle's lesbian community, which was very tight-knit. When he began transitioning, he knew that some of his lesbian friends would be distressed, thinking he was leaving the community. According to Key, for some people, trans people "rock the boat" too much.
To prove that being trans wouldn't divide him from the lesbian community, Key set up a series of educational workshops over three months at Seattle Central Community College in 2000. Key and attendees discussed gender from a number of angles, including its intersections with age, race, and levels of ability.
"It was timely and a conversation that the gay and lesbian community [wasn't having] in a formalized way," said Key in an interview. "That was a pivotal and empowering time."
The workshop series was designed to "spark conversation and interest" in the first Gender Odyssey conference, which was already scheduled for the following year at the Doubletree Hotel in SeaTac, he said.
Inclusion is critical for Key, who said it's easy for trans and gender-nonconforming people to feel isolated among the lesbian, gay, and bisexual community. To make the event inclusive, Gender Odyssey has been offering scholarships waiving admission costs since the inaugural convention.
Trans and gender-nonconforming people often suffer extreme poverty, unemployment, underemployment, and workplace discrimination, which would make paying difficult. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality's discrimination survey, 26 percent of people reported losing a job due to being transgender or gender nonconforming. And it's important that Gender Odyssey be accepting—the more the merrier.
"It's no fun to throw a party and not have people show," he said.
According to Tinlin, it has been difficult for him to be accepted into LGBTQ spaces because he often passes as a single father—a single cisgender father.
"Most of the support out there is for trans people and partners or parents who have gender-nonconforming kids. We have literally never met anyone else in our situation," said Tinlin. "Iona loves [to see] pictures of 'families like us,' as she has wondered if she is the only kid out there with a mummy who's a boy," and he hopes Gender Odyssey will make Iona "feel less alone and more free."
For parents like him who have not been able to introduce their young children to other families with trans parents, the convention is an opportunity to find peers and support.
"If there's distress, anger, or fear, of course kids are going to be confused," Key said. "If there's acceptance and conversation, it's going to be a lot easier. That doesn't mean they won't have a question or two. But if they get those questions answered, they move forward very easily."
When Tinlin asked Iona what it would mean to her to go to the convention, she said she was excited to make friends and meet other people like her dad, who she still sometimes refers to as "mum."
Although they have met their fundraising goal, Tinlin's GoFundMe page is still up and still accepting donations. He hopes to raise a little money to take his daughter sightseeing and to the top of the Space Needle. But Iona is most excited about something that doesn't cost a dime: going swimming, but not for the usual reasons.
"She knows I'm nervous about that post top surgery!" he said.