This weekend is all about the “T” in LGBT.
“It is time for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitor’s Bureau to emphasize the importance of the T in LGBT,” says Richard Gray, the Bureau’s managing director of LGBT tourism in a promotional video for the Southern Comfort Conference.
The 2016 Southern Comfort Conference, now in its 26th year, returns to Broward County this week with activities, seminars and networking opportunities scheduled. The Bonaventure Resort in Spa in Weston, 250 Racquet Club Road, is the host hotel for the second year in a row.
“I want transgender travelers to be like all travelers,” Gray says in the video posted on the conference website. “Free to be themselves, free to be accepted and most of all welcome and safe here in greater Fort Lauderdale.”
Appearances by several well-known figures in the trans community are expected this weekend. The conference’s keynote speakers include Schuyler Bailar, a Harvard swimmer and Kellie Maloney, former manager of heavyweight boxing champion Lennox Lewis.
Locally, Atticus Ranck, director of social services at SunServe, is presenting a seminar on Thursday titled “How to Name Change.” Since going to work at SunServe, Ranck has helped 87 individuals navigate the name change process in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade Counties.
This will be Ranck’s second year attending the conference.
“People come to the conference to be who they are,” Ranck said. “It has literally saved lives.”
The transgender community, Ranck said, is not monolithic.
“It started as a lot of cross dressers from rural areas and now you are beginning to see young people who are transitioning medically participating as well,” Ranck said.
Other seminars are focused on mental health, cosemtic surgery, voice modification, defeating discrimination, yoga, HIV/AIDS, bathroom politics and marriage.
Various activities are planned for conference attendees as well, ranging from airboat tours of the Everglades to shopping on Las Olas Boulevard, a visit to the Hard Rock Casino and a dinner show at Lips.
Highlighting the “T” in LGBT is a bold proposition for any organization. There is very little hard data on trans lives in the United States. A recent 2016 study by the University of California Los Angeles School of Law’s Williams Institute estimated the country’s transgender population to be about 1.4 million adults.
Presently, there is no option on U.S. Census forms to identify as a gender other than male or female.
The National Center for Transgender Equality recently released details from its National Transgender Discrimination Survey. Conducted with the National LGBTQ Task Force, the survey found that 90 percent of respondents experienced harassment, mistreatment or discrimination on the job or took actions like hiding who they are to avoid it.
Most alarming is that 41 percent of survey respondents reported attempting suicide compared to just 1.6 percent of the general public.
For more information, visit www.southerncomfortconference.org