The Texas Transgender Nondiscrimination Summit kicked off Friday morning with several presentations at Texas A&M University–Central Texas, and had an even bigger crowd than organizer Josephine Tittsworth expected.
In previous years, the summit reached a record capacity of 85 people. More than 118 registered people showed up to the opening ceremony Friday.
“It’s going really well,” Tittsworth said. “We’re breaking attendance records. Our opening process was well received – the provost (Dr. Peg Gray-Vickrey) came out and did just a really great job of welcoming everyone.”
The summit, chaired by Tittsworth, is in its eighth year after beginning at the University of Houston back in 2009. The program is designed to help initiate policy change on transgender issues at universities across Texas.
Participants traveled to Killeen from across Texas and the entire United States to be a part of the event, and presenters mentioned that the proximity to Fort Hood was important for the 2016 summit. The Army recently loosened up policies allowing open transgenders to serve.
“People keep telling us that (Killeen) is a very central location for them to come,” Tittsworth said. “So we’re drawing people in from all over. We have people here from Colorado. We have people here from the Valley. El Paso is here, Lubbock and Amarillo is here.”
As things kicked off Friday morning, Tittsworth extended an appreciation award to Lisa Landen of A&M-Central Texas, who helped to coordinate food for the summit. Additionally, the A&M-Central Texas Social Work department and student organizations — including Warriors for Shelter Pets, Gay Straight Alliance Warriors (GSAW), Student Association of Social Workers (SASW) and the Phi Alpha Pi Rho honor society — worked together to collect donations for a raffle.
The raffle winners will be drawn this afternoon, and all proceeds will be donated back to the Texas Transgender Nondiscrimination Summit.
“It takes several thousands of dollars to put this event on,” Landen said. “I think it would be awesome if we could raise enough money to help invest in future summits.”
A total of 23 speakers and presenters will be talking on a wide range of topics relating to the transgender community during the two-day event. The summit has a full slate of presentations for the record-setting crowd.
“I’m excited for all of them,” Tittsworth said. “I really am.”
Monica Roberts — author of “TransGriot” and the 2015 Virginia Prince Transgender Pioneer Award recipient — and Phyllis R. Frye — the first openly transgender judge in the nation — are the two keynote speakers for the event, and have an extensive background as transgender advocates in Texas and throughout the United States.
Roberts was the first keynote presentation Friday afternoon, and gave an impassioned speech on the transgender intolerance that is taking place in Texas politics.
“I will be making as many trips to our State Capitol in Austin as my schedule allows,” Roberts said. “I hope others join us when we make those trips to the State Capitol — when we will attempt to kill whatever bad legislation they try to pass.”
The summit will continue this morning with activities running from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Frye will give her keynote presentation at 11:15 a.m.