Lessons from the first FtBCon trans panel

Our inaugural FtBCon transgender panel was fantastic in almost every way. 200 or more people saw it live, thousands more watched the recorded session on YouTube, our panelists had a great time, and many viewers had their questions answered at length. I’d like to express my deepest gratitude to Trinity, Autumn, Ellen and Amy for their participation, my fellow FTBers for putting the con together and making it happen, and all of our viewers for their interest.

Given the smashing success of the first panel, we’ve committed to doing a second in the series early next year. Crucially, our experience with this initial panel has illuminated a number of areas we must work on to make the next one even better. First and foremost:

DIVERSITY

Again: DIVERSITY. This year’s panel was white. White white white white white. It was also all-female, giving the false impression that “trans people” means “trans women”. Furthermore, all of us were from the US. We might as well have called it White Lady Chat Featuring Five White Ladies. This is exclusively my fault: in assembling this panel on short notice, I drew heavily on my immediate social circle, which does not reflect the vast and extensive diversity the event deserved. As a result, this year’s panel failed to include the voices and unique concerns of trans women of color, trans men and trans masculine people, genderqueer and non-binary people, trans people outside the US, and intersex people. The next panel will not occur unless I can ensure the presence and representation of all of these important voices.

Planning ahead

Again, this panel came together at the last minute, and we were left without sufficient time to gather a broader spectrum of panelists or assemble a more detailed agenda of topics to discuss. The event also could have used more extensive promotion and publicity in the weeks prior. By planning the next panel well in advance, we hope to invite some of the leading speakers in the field as well as everyday trans people from around the world, as well as develop a more structured format for the discussion.

Technical difficulties, please stand by

Most of us only familiarized ourselves with the technical aspects of Google Hangouts less than an hour before the event began, which resulted in a brief delay and some confusion. This is another Planning Ahead thing. Next time, we’ll make sure that all participants have their equipment set up properly, and that they have a solid grasp of the format long before the event airs.

Working overtime

I first scheduled the panel to last for one hour, and this turned out to be a mistake. Allotting just one hour to discuss trans people as a subject is like allotting just one hour to discuss the entirety of science, medicine, society, sexuality, and feminism. Obviously, at least two hours are required for that, and we ultimately had to extend the panel by another hour in order to cover trans topics adequately. Our next panel will likely be scheduled to last two hours, giving us the time we need to address the wide variety of subjects involved in trans issues.

YouTube comments considered harmful

Not having used Google Hangouts before, I was unaware of what would happen when the event began streaming live on my personal YouTube channel. This interacted badly with the fact that my channel has 40,500 subscribers and countless more casual viewers. Because this is YouTube, our panelists were exposed to the worst sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and general hate that the internet is capable of. One issue in particular was the number of comments where people felt it was necessary to offer their uninvited opinions on how ugly we were, how pretty we were, or how pretty or ugly we were compared to our fellow panelists. Having their looks positively or negatively judged, or compared to others, is a common experience for women who speak in public forums. For trans people, this also often becomes a referendum on the very legitimacy of our genders. Such comments are never acceptable – transphobia, homophobia, misogyny and hate are never acceptable. During the next event, these comments will either be actively and strictly moderated, or switched off entirely. In either case, the panel must remain a safe place for its participants.

Bathroom breaks

One word: Spironolactone. No way around it, really.

By making the effort to enact all of these improvements, I’m confident that the next trans panel will be an event of unsurpassed quality. I hope that all of you will tune in once again – we promise it’ll be worth your time.