This post comes from Michael Woodward:

In keeping with its theme “Toward a Greater Diversity”, the IFGE Annual conference has successfully engaged many leaders and champions for the FTM community to take part in its 23rd Annual Conference. The conference, which runs from Monday, March 31, 2008, to Saturday, April 5, 2008, is being held in Tucson, Arizona at the Doubletree Reid Park Hotel. Wingspan’s Southern Arizona Gender Alliance (SAGA) is the local host committee. Past conferences have been decidedly transfeminine-oriented, but organizers made concerted outreach efforts for 2008 to transgender men, as well as people of color and allies of all ages, to ensure a broad range of issues, identities, and dialogues are represented in Tucson.

While pre-conference excursions and social activities start Monday, the actual conference program kicks off Thursday morning, April 3, with a plenary session featuring renowned activist Jamison Green, author of the prize-winning book Becoming a Visible Man. Green has served on numerous national and international boards and received many awards for his work. Following a welcome by Tucson Mayor Robert Walkup, Mr. Green will address the attendees on the Conference theme of diversity. His international travel in service to the transgender community has introduced him to an amazing array of transgender expression, yet he has observed distinct similarities among diverse groups. In this session, he will reflect on the evolution of the transgender community-or communities-and the meaning and importance of diversity for our movement. Later in the conference, Green will also present a workshop session titled “Identity Crisis-an open discussion about who we are.”

“So I get on my knees and pray … we won’t get fooled again!” — the Who

Fresh on the heels of Southern Comfort Conference (SCC), many of the transgender community reveled in what seemed a penultimate victory: HRC – yes, the Human Rights Campaign – was actually appearing to take the transgender community as equals. (Obviously the ultimate victory would be equal rights for us all, jobs and all.) All of the years of HRC’s historic missteps seemed to magically disappear. We’re now a welcome, if amnesiac community for the Equal Sign people.

During the speeches there was much congratulation and self-congratulation, and plenty of high spirits about the impending bills in Congress awaiting votes: Hate Crimes (already passed inclusively in the House) currently awaiting Senate approval, and the all-important Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) approaching the House vote. All seemed right with the world in Trans America’s focus point that weekend at SCC in Atlanta. All seemed eerily right to some of us long-timers with memories intact as well. Eerily too right.

After the speech, everyone clapped, ate, enjoyed the rest of SCC and went home. Most of us waited with baited anticipation. Myself, I couldn’t get over how this reminded me of 2002.

At the SCC in 2002, HRC came down and made the big presentation again, and ushered in the coming out of a brand new national activist on the scene, Mara Keisling formerly of then-disbanded WGTE – the group name under which a study in concert with HRC was conducted. She was planning to open shop with an org of her own. No more WGTE, now NATE or NOTE was the names she was hashing over at the time (later settling on NCTE).

HRC was not going to deal with the existing trans orgs — NTAC nor IFGE, while GenderPAC left the trans fold to focus on “gender.” So Mara’s sudden emergence fit them to a T, literally, and was welcomed in the HRC fold.

However, it wasn’t just HRC’s king or queen-making within the trans community that was the draw of this presentation. This was more about the study findings, ballyhooed as changing the minds of HRC about trans inclusion in legislation. Word went out, there at that conference, that HRC was behind transgender inclusion and would begin such a push immediately.

The question from the skeptical among us was posed as to what would happen if this ran up the HRC flagpole, and they instead decided “Nah!” and let Mara twist in the wind. Mara responded that they wouldn’t dare try, “and if they did, [she’d] rip them a new asshole for publicly trashing her political credibility.” I’ll never forget the look on David Smith’s face at her answer … curious.