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Conference a learning opportunity on trans, faith issues

Organizers welcome all with ‘open hearts, minds and spirits’

Trans rapper Rocco Katastrophe will join Charlotte’s Freedom Center for Justice for a Saturday, Aug. 18 party during the TransFaith In Color Conference.
Photo courtesy Rocco Katastrophe, via TransFaith In Color.

CHARLOTTE — Organizers of the TransFaith In Color Conference say they are expecting growth and new opportunities for learning at their second event hosted in the Queen City, slated this year for Aug. 17-19.

The conference was first held in Charlotte last year. It originally grew out of a summit of transgender people of faith and people of color held in 2010. The event features live performances, receptions and parties, workshops and seminars, activism and advocacy training and interfaith worship.

Conference founder Bishop Tonyia Rawls, of Unity Fellowship Church Charlotte, says the event is special for Charlotte and surrounding areas.

“I think there are other events that happen that draw broad appeal but one of the things that is unique is that we are a southern-based gathering and one that is also primarily people of color and people of faith,” Rawls says. “When you talk about transgender people of faith and color and allies, that’s a pretty unique kind of gathering.”

Throughout the weekend event, conference attendees and leaders will be working to bridge differences and brainstorm ways to create more safe and equal places for all people and especially for those who are transgender or gender-variant.

Rawls hopes people will come with honest questions and be ready for honest conversations.

“One of the things we definitely need to own within the progressive community and especially within the [lesbian, gay and bisexual] community is that we say ‘LGBT’ and it rolls very easily off our tongues,” she says. “But, in terms of the lived experience, [transgender people] in most instances are invisible and are often times actually harmed in terms of the way we interact.”

Those people of faith working with the conference, Rawls says, have been willing to step up to the plate and examine where gay and transgender people fit into the lives of their communities.

“I had to own my own need to learn and to grow around my transgender sisters and brothers,” Rawls recounts, once asking herself how much she really understood about the people around here. These days, Rawls says, transgender people are integral members of her own congregation.

The conference, which is free to attend, is expected to draw upwards of 300 or more attendees. On Saturday, attendees will be able to attend “Sweet-T,” billed as a “southern-style” party hosted by The Freedom Center for Social Justice, Red Frog Entertainment and Sophisticated Lyfe. The event will feature a “mini-ball” with area drag and performance houses and trans rapper Rocco Katastrophe whose music has been featured on Showtime’s “The L Word.”

“It’s really going to be an incredible night,” Rawls says. “We’re bringing together the ball community, the house community, rap community, young people — it really promises to be one of the more diverse gatherings we’ve had in our community in a long time.”

The events are open to the public.

“As long as they come with open, respectful hearts, minds and spirits, they are welcome,” Rawls says.

• • •

If you go

What: TransFaith In Color

When: Aug. 17-19

Where: University Place Hilton, 8629 JM Keynes Dr.

Cost: Free registration (does not include Saturday night “Sweet-T” party or hotel lodging)

More Info: transfaithincolor.org

Sweet-T Party: Held Aug. 18 at the Hilton Hotel featuring a “mini-ball” with area houses and hosted by Red Frog Productions, Sophisticated Lyfe and The Freedom Center for Social Justice. Featuring trans rapper Rocco Katastrophe. For more information, visit transfaithincolor.org.

Conference Speakers: Panelists and special guests at the conference will include Allyson Robinson (Human Rights Campaign), Charlotte City Councilmember LaWana Mayfield, Southerners on New Ground Executive Director Caitlin Breedlove, local psychologist Dr. Lisa Griffin and lawyer and Trans People of Color Coalition founder Kylar Broadus, among others.

Posted by Matt Comer

Matt Comer is a staff writer for QNotes. He previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015.