Expansion of Organizations and Activities
As visibility and empowerment grew in Pennsylvania, it was realized that an entity needed to exist in Washington D.C. to push for gender identity and expression protections and rights at the federal level. Mara Kiesling, a Central PA native and member of Renaissance, stepped up and founded the National Center for Transgender Equality in 2003. The Center became a lobbying group in the nation’s capital urging lawmakers to create laws for the transgender peoples. As the organization developed it became the leading transgender focused advocates at the federal level. The International Bill of Gender Rights now had a speaker in the halls of federal power.
As the years passed, the achievements of the early 2000s were not sustained in the PA state legislature or in D.C. However, the lack of progress legally did not alter the hopes and aspirations of transgender and gender nonconforming individuals in Pennsylvania. In 2007, under the leadership of Jeanine Ruhsam, TransCentral PA was established. It grew out of Renaissance and created an independent entity for the Central PA region that was separate from the more eastern centered Renaissance. TransCentral PA is a non-profit organization that focuses on advocacy, education, and support. The organization holds events, monthly meetings, outreach programs, and provides resources for the transgender community of Central PA. One of their major events is the Keystone Conference.
Jeanine Ruhsam describes the creation of Keystone,
its growth, purpose, and impacts. (Audio Only)
The Keystone Conference has become one of the leading conferences focusing on transgender, gender identity, and expression in the United States. It was started by TransCentral PA as a local community event, but it has grown over the years with over 700 people attending in 2019. It primarily focuses on providing education on gender identity and expression topics and providing resources for those within the community. The conference is a prime example of the hard work and dedication of the community within Central PA. Their ability to establish national connections and to continue its growth show its success and appeal.
Mara Kiesling talks about the formation of the
National Center for Transgender Equality. (Audio Only)