The first Atlanta trans man conference that includes a series of workshops and seminars as well as a bodybuilding competition is set for Oct. 2-4 at the Georgia State University Student Center.
Néo Sandja, 30, is the organizer of the event that includes keynote speakers Buck Angel, Tiq Milan and Louis Mitchell.
“FTM Fitness World started on a whim,” Sandja said. “I was about to start a 90-day workout program and I asked in a Facebook group that I belonged if anybody was willing to join us. Someone proposed that we should start our own separate group to stay accountable and that’s how the FTM Fitness group came about.”
Within a couple of weeks more than 300 people had joined the social media group. Sandja then created a website for everyone to write blogs and share their experiences. He began receiving emails from trans men around the world asking for fitness tips.
Realizing he was no fitness expert, Sandja decided he could gather information and teach what he learned. He also expanded from just fitness and nutrition to include wellness, sexuality, spirituality and finances.
Everywhere you look in the LGBT world, you will notice “the T is not so invisible,” Sandja said about now being the right time to host FTM Fitness World.
Sandja, who was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said he always knew he was a boy. As a teen, he was forced through a sort of conversion therapy by a group of church leaders. He fled to the U.S. in 2004 and found a safe haven in Iowa at a private Lutheran college where he heard for the first time from a college pastor that how he felt was nothing to be ashamed of. He moved to Georgia two years later and watched the film “Boys Don’t Cry,” about Brandon Teena, who was killed after it was discovered he was a trans man.
Sandja said depression caused him to nearly take his life. But after being saved by a police officer, he decided to transition.
“When my dad heard my decision to transition he completely cut me off; needless to say I’ve always been a disappointment to him since day one,” Sandja said. “I lost everything in material form and I gained everything that can never be bought, starting with happiness for finding who I really am.”
Being an out trans man means being a role model for others who are searching for their way, he said.
“Being an out trans man means educating the world about us so that parents learn to love their children unconditionally,” he said. It also means using his experience and faith to tell the church to stop preaching evil.
“It means being that voice, that example and that light for that one person who might be thinking about committing suicide but doesn’t do it because I gave them hope,” he added. “I cannot afford to hide my identity out of selfishness even if it hurts sometimes because it’s not just about me. It’s about my purpose.”
Georgia State University Student Center 44 Courtland St. SE Atlanta GA 30303
THURSDAY, OCT. 2 • Registration/Badge Pick-Up: 8-10 a.m./1:30-3:30 p.m. • Exhibit tables: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. • Massages by Harmony McGill and Kennedy Page • Health Fair: If you registered for the health fair, meet in Lobby off of Gilmer St. at 11:45 am for a ride. You will be given a contact phone number at registration in case you get lost. • 8:30-9:30 a.m.: Opening keynote: Neo L. Sandja • 9:45-10:45 a.m.: Workshop sessions 1 • 11 a.m.-12 p.m,: Workshop sessions 2 • 12-1:15pm: Lunch • 1:30-3 p.m.: Workshop sessions 3 • 3:15-4:45 p.m.: Workshop sessions 4 • Dinner TBA
EVENING EVENTS My Sister’s Room 1271 Glenwood Ave. SE, Atlanta, GA 30316
• 7 pm Buck Angel Keynote Address • Speed Dating Mixer • Latin Dance Lessons by Salsa Y Arte
FRIDAY, OCT. 3
DAY EVENTS: Georgia State University Student Center 44 Courtland St. SE Atlanta GA 30303
• Registration/Badge Pick-Up: 8-10am/1:30-3:30pm • Exhibit tables: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. • Massages by Harmony McGill and Kennedy Page
EVENING EVENTS My Sister’s Room 1271 Glenwood Ave. SE, Atlanta, GA 30316 *Mandatory Conference Badges for entry *Rides will be given throughout the evening • 6 pm Tiq Milan Keynote Address • Bodybuilding Competition • Entertainment
SATURDAY, OCT. 4
DAY EVENTS: Georgia State University Student Center 44 Courtland St. SE Atlanta GA 30303 *Registration/Badge Pick-Up: 8-10am/1:30-3:30pm *Exhibit tables: 8am to 5pm *Massages by Harmony McGill and Kennedy Page
• 7-9 a.m. Fitness Bootcamp with Noori Jerrard • 8-10 a.m.: Yoga with Sonali Sadequee/Sustainable Health • 9-11:45 a.m.: Activities and Assessments • 12-1:15 p.m.: Lunch • 1:30-2 p.m.: Louis Mitchell Keynote Address • 2:15-4:15 p.m.: Manning Up Group Discussion • 4:30 p.m.: Closing keynote address/Group photos • 6 p.m.: Dinner TBA
EVENING EVENTS: My Sister’s Room 1271 Glenwood Ave. SE, Atlanta, GA 30316 *Mandatory Conference Badges for entry *Rides will be given throughout the evening • 10pm Dance Party