As an association, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy’s primary goal is to advocate for the profession of marriage and family therapy. We are also extremely sensitive to policies affecting individuals and families spanning a wide range of issues.
AAMFT strives to be clear and vocal in its position that as an association, discrimination will not be tolerated on any basis. AAMFT finds the volume and increasingly extreme anti-transgender legislation efforts across the country alarming. We reiterate our global commitment to diversity, equity, inclusivity, and a fundamental belief in the power of relationships upon which our profession is built. We recognize the adverse effects of anti-transgender legislation on the livelihood of the transgender and gender-diverse community, including depression, increased suicide and attempted suicide, and fewer safe, inclusive spaces to thrive. AAMFT opposes legislation that discriminates against the LGBTQIA+ population and legislation that seeks to limit MFTs’ ability to provide gender-affirmative care.
Many marriage and family therapists currently have an active and affirming role with transgender and gender-diverse clients, supporting them throughout their journey of self-discovery, self-acceptance, and transition. Further, MFTs have occupied an integral role in supporting these individuals within their family systems, facilitating enriching, stable relationships that are fundamental to their well-being. We honor the contributions and influence on our field and within our own community by systemic therapists who identify as transgender or gender diverse.
"We are seeing a frightening pattern of anti-transgender measures being passed across the country. This assault on gender-affirming care is staggering. AAMFT remains steadfast that evidence-based gender-affirming care is essential and provides critical health benefits to the transgender community. We hope the resources on our new Transgender Resources for MFTs page will provide helpful information to our MFT community and the clients they serve. Furthermore, to increase AAMFT’s LGBTQIA+ advocacy influence, we have created a work group that will evolve into a Family Team in 2024. AAMFT is proud to support the Queer & Trans Advocacy Network (QTAN), a topical interest network that among its many goals is to increase professional competency to better serve all sexual and gender minority (SGM) clients and to advocate for SGM health and well-being stated”, Chris Michaels, CEO of AAMFT.
This new resource page, developed in collaboration with QTAN, will be updated with new resources as they become available.
Then why is AAMFT still holding the 2024 Systemic Family Therapy Conference (SFTC) in Orlando, Florida, where anti-transgender legislation and other harmful legislative actions have passed against marginalized communities?
Historically, AAMFT has never shied away from the responsibility we carry into the states where we hold conferences. Unfortunately, Florida is not the first state that has enacted discriminatory legislation over the years where we were hosting an event. Each time, AAMFT committed to hold the event and implemented efforts to push back. Efforts have included reach outs to legislative decision-makers in the areas, educational sessions, as well as efforts such as the implementation of AAMFT's attendee inclusivity statement, gender-neutral bathrooms, pronoun stickers, and more. Holding the conference in Florida sends a powerful message of support to our members, other systemic therapists, and our clients residing and practicing in the state and who are facing these challenges head-on.
Further, in-person event logistics necessitate conference location decisions being made many years in advance. The decision to have the conference in Orlando was made before COVID-19, with the original conference scheduled for 2020. Of course, the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic forced organizations to cancel many events over the past three years. The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotel without hesitation, allowed AAMFT to shift our event from 2020 to 2024 without incurring the $500,000 in cancellation penalties. Canceling this time would result in the activation of the cancellation fee. Spending half of a million dollars of member funds with no demonstrable return on investment is not fiscally responsible and would be a significant loss on many levels for the association, the profession, and the many marginalized communities that rely heavily on the tourism industry and who are still recovering from the impact of Covid-19.
Instead, by holding the conference, we can ensure our presence has a positive impact as we work to raise awareness by inviting local community groups to exhibit at the conference for free, allowing them to educate attendees on the issues they are facing, and the helpful action attendees can take to help drive change in the community.
AAMFT is working closely with Disney, the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotel, and the Orlando Convention and Visitors Bureau, prioritizing the safety and well-being of conference attendees and implementing measures to ensure an environment free from discrimination. In addition, AAMFT is collaborating with its topical interest networks, including the Queer and Trans Advocacy Network and Margins to Center: Cultural Connections Among C/MFTs, to find ways to create a welcoming and safe space for our attendees and to bring awareness to these issues.
This event in Florida is still over a year and a half away. Between now and then, much can – and likely will – change politically and practically. While AAMFT will share the early stages of our plans this summer (2023) so attendees have adequate time to discuss and share concerns and ideas, we anticipate adding and refining our plans until the 2024 event. To this end, AAMFT is monitoring all events being held in the area this year to understand the challenges they encounter, as well as gather new information and ideas about how we can continue to hold a safe and inclusive event.
Also, the 2023, 2025, and 2026 events will be held virtually, allowing for alternative training and networking opportunities. These virtual events provide vital systemic training to our global systemic therapists who cannot afford to attend in-person events. As we have done for the past three virtual SFTC events, all AAMFT student members will be able to attend for free.
While we regret that some may be unable or choose not to attend our event in 2024, we hope that you will understand and join us in fully supporting our AAMFT members, systemic therapists, and clients in Florida as they navigate these troubling discriminatory attacks.