Charlene Arcila dedicated her life to service and to the empowerment of disenfranchised, oppressed, and underrepresented people. Her life’s mission was to create change. Moving to Philadelphia in 1991 from Jackson, Mississippi, Mrs. Arcila leaped immediately into being a fierce visionary, activist, educator, and advocate within the transgender, faith, recovery, and HIV/AIDS communities.
Charlene Arcila’s accomplishments have significantly impacted the communities. She worked for The Philadelphia AIDS Consortium, served on the board of directors for the Mazzoni Center, and was the treasurer for the William Way Center. She is best known for founding the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference (now known as the Philadelphia Trans-Wellness Conference) and for removing the gender markers from SEPTA’s transportation passes.
In 2000, Charlene Arcila saw that, for people who were most marginalized in the communities, resources and support were scarce. To meet that need, she established the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference, which began as a one-day event providing professionals training on how to become a competent health care providers for transgender patients. Mrs. Arcila remained involved with the conference for many years after it became a program of Mazzoni Center in 2006 by serving as Planning Committee Co-Chair and People of Color Working Group Lead. She was a driving force for recruiting planning committee members globally as well as advising the programming for many years.
PTWC is now the largest conference in the world for transgender, gender-nonconforming, nonbinary and intersex people. It has grown into a 3-day conference with free general admission to attendees and a thriving professional track for medical, behavioral, and legal providers. It has grown to provide a safe, affirming, and inclusive space for children in our Kids Camp and Youth Space and so much more!
“The important thing is to feel connected to people or communities beyond yourself. That plays a major role in reducing isolation and helping us get out of our own heads, gives us a framework for coping and provides support when things get tough.”
The Philadelphia Trans-Wellness Conference now honors Charlene Arcila’s incredible work for her community by offering the “Charlene Arcila Pioneer Award”. This award celebrates groundbreaking trans, gender-nonconforming, nonbinary and intersex individuals who are committed to the success of the PTWC. It is because of Charlene Arcila’s bravery, selflessness, and being a true champion of humanity that we are able to continue her work through this conference.