Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Keystone Conference, Part 1

Ok, as I mentioned before, I attended the Keystone Conference last week.

My TG Forum column about it is HERE.  (Registration needed, but it's free.)

I am really still processing all that happened.  You know, getting it straight in my head.

I went to therapy this morning and discussed it with Dr. Osborne.  We discussed the conference (which she attended and at which she gave seminars) and some shared experiences there.

So, in effort to sort all this out in my head, and reach some conclusions about How the conference affected my development as a Woman and as a person, I'm going to write it all down here and attempt to make sense of it.

You lucky people!

In any case, I'll probably do this over multiple entries as I can definitely see two times when, for me, the tone of the conference changed.  There were moments of realization there.  Part 1 will be up to including one moment.  Part 2 will be to the second, as it were.  Part 3 will finish it up.

Chapter content subject to change without notice.  Offer void where prohibited.  Always wear your seat belt. Always read prospectus before investing.  Do not attempt this at home.  Deluxe model shown.  Fnord.

Anyway.  The Keystone Conference was last week- Thursday March 14- Saturday March 16, 2013, at the Sheraton Harrisburg/Hershey.  The conference is run by Trans-Central PA, who are a bunch of very hard working and dedicated people.  And dear friends as well.

So the conference started on Tuesday.  I registered last December and submitted my proposal for my presentation, which was accepted.  I'd be presenting at Keystone for the third time.  The title and basic objectives of the presentation would remain the same, but I had some different ideas for it.

Back in December I also reserved the hotel room.  I knew waiting would be bad.  I expected to room with my friend Jen, but she got her own room in case her wife came up again.  So I started saving in case I couldn't find another roomie.

So now it was time.  I arrived Tuesday night- two days early.  I just wanted more time, and to help set up.  And to get Away from well, everything.  And so I did.

Tuesday Afternoon Casual

I arrived and immediately changed.  Showered, Naired, shaved.  makeup.  Casual top.  Denim skirt.
Then off to get a pedicure at Lee Nails. 

Then to the Dog and Pony Bar... but first a stop at the room to drop off some things.

As I walked past the room next to mine the door opened. I saw a person in their late fifties, maybe five foot six with tired eyes, graying hair, and a battered ball cap. I smiled and said “hi.”
The person’s eyes lit up, and they said “Are you with the Conference?” I said that I was.

This person was one of us — here only for a couple nights. She would leave Wednesday night for work in Baltimore.

She had never been outside her hotel room as a woman — ever.

We spoke briefly, and I invited the person to the bar for a drink.  Her name was Miranda.  Turns out she reads my blog. In the bar, Miranda told me her story. Like many of us, she’d been dressing since a young age. In her case, she traveled a lot on business, so brought a few girl things along and would dress in her room.

“More of a hobby, really” she said.

When we arrived at the bar, the bar manager shouted my name across the room.  She remembered me from years past.  That made me feel wonderful. 

At the bar, I introduced her to a few people. We talked about those awful, terrible frightening first steps out the door. I told her about mine. She smiled sadly. After we ate, she disappeared. I told her I’d be in the bar later as well. I walked back to my room, and as I walked past hers, the door cracked open.



“Could you knock on my door in ten minutes?”

And I did. The woman who answered the door was petite with a cute black bob and wearing a black top with a denim skirt. She wore very modest heels. Her eyes showed none of the sadness I saw earlier. Here was a happy, vibrant, alive woman. I complimented her and her appearance. A few minutes later she walked out the hotel room door, and we spent much of the night in the bar, with Miranda meeting people, smiling and laughing.

The next night, Miranda had an appointment with Amanda Richards. She was going to Carabba’s for dinner with fifty other girls. I’d changed my reservation to a different place, as I’d heard good things about it. I saw Miranda in Amanda’s chair, being made beautiful for her dinner. She was beaming. She’d never before had a makeover.

I’m told she had a great time at the restaurant. And she was gone before dawn the next morning — her Keystone experience over. I’ll never forget her smile as she sat in Amanda’s chair.

Wednesday I woke up around 8.  Showered, shaved, and made up my face.  I took extra time, as I was on a mission that day.

Last year, I wanted to go to downtown Harrisburg alone, in my suit, and have lunch.  I didn't, as I was too afraid. 

This year, I did just that.

I put on my suit and looked in the mirror.  I'd lost weight since the last time I wore the suit- a year ago.  But it still fit.  I smiled, and the reflected woman smiled back.

On my way to my car, I bumped into Cassandra Storm.  She was carrying a large box and said that I just HAD to see what was in it.  Ok.  She and her mother (who helped her at the conference) unpacked the box and showed their fancy new lighted sign.

I was stunned!  Speechless!  She said she didn't think I'd mind as she knew I was a little more "out and about" than others. 

I've never been a cover girl before this.  Never imagined I COULD be one.  Yet there I was- my face in lights.

Perhaps she was trying to scare away business?  Or saying "If I can make HER look good, think what I can do for YOU?"

For the rest of the conference I was floating about, marvelling at the idea that a GG thought I was pretty enough to use on a very expensive sign. 

In any case, wearing the very suit in that picture, I drove to downtown Harrisburg and parked.  I walked across the sun- bathed street to Stocks on Second.  My shoulders were back and my head held high as I walked... and no one gave me a second look.  I sat at the bar and had lunch. 

At Stocks.  Bartender had shaky hands

As i ate, an old man sat at the end of the bar.  He was old and bald on top with long stringy gray hair- like a character from a Dickens novel.  The bartender called him "Louie" and made him a Manhattan up with beer chaser.  When i finished my lunch and paid, I started out.  he looked at me and said "Hello Gorgeous!"

I smiled at him.

Then I turned left out the door and walked around the block as planned.  My skirt was tight around my legs as I walked.  It was such a beautiful day, and I was so happy!  As I approached the Capitol Building, a man in a nice suit walked toward me and glared.  On his lapel was a pin in the shape of an elephant with "GOP" on it.  He was the only one to show any kind of disapproval on this trip.  And I take HIS glare as a badge of honor.

I smiled at him as well.

I returned to my car, drove back to the hotel and changed in to jeans and a t-shirt for the afternoon.  I helped people carry things in as they arrived.  I reconnected with people.  I was happy.

That night was an organized dinner.  The past few years there were impromptu trips, but enough people were around to make it a trip.  I went to the Devon Seafood Grill in Hershey, as I'd heard good things about it.  They set up a special room for us.  We got a few looks, but nothing out of the ordinary.  The staff was great and the food superb.

"What a Long Strange Trip it's Been"

Back at the hotel there was karaoke in the bar.  I sang "Truckin'" to the assembled throng.  See, there was a group of computer programmers there for the night- mostly Indians and Asians.  And they accepted the growing number of transgenders in the bar without complaint.  But they didn't sing along to the Grateful Dead, either.  When my dear friend Vanessa sang Joe Jackson, everyone joined in.  And she sang it so very very well.

I didn't drink much, as the next morning was my presentation.  I had a makeup appointment at 8 AM with Amanda Richards.  I wanted to look my best.

My topic was "Writing Transgender Fiction: Releasing your Inner Person."

I arrived at my assigned room.  There was my requested flip chart and markers.  I brought pens and note cards.  On the first page of the flip chart I wrote "Why are we here?"

Soon enough, I had seventeen people in the room and the chairs arraigned in a semi-circle.  To my mild surprise, there were five cisgender women and two cisgender men. 

I started by saying "Welcome to Advanced String Theory and Physics.  If you're not in here for this, you're in the wrong room." 

Polite laughter.

Then I flipped the flip chart page to "Writing TG Fiction."  Three women and one guy stood and said "oh, we thought this was Buddhism."  Well... I could see why! 

So in the end, I had thirteen people, including two cis women and one cis man.  I would learn that he was studying transgenderism to understand us for his practice as a social worker.  One of the women, I never found out about, but the other was the spouse of a TG woman.  She writes a blog on the topic, a link to which is HERE.  She has 77 followers to my 58, but I'm not jealous.  Really.  *grumble*

Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, and I think I was able to achieve the Learning Objectives I set.  (that's teacher jargon.)  ;)

Ready to Teach!

After the session, I went upstairs and had a photo session with Cassandra Storm.  Then lunch.

That night was the Casino trip, and I went again, if only to eat at the Final Cut.    I wore a low cut blouse and conservative black skirt.  During dinner, I told the waitress that it was Jennifur's birthday (something I do to someone every year- especially if it ISN'T their birthday).  She was shocked as they brought her dessert and we all sang loudly to her.

Yes, I'm a bitch.

I didn't gamble this time, but I did walk around the casino a bit.  There was a little confusion about the buses, but eventually I made it back to the hotel.  There I sang karaoke again, and had a couple more drinks with friends, including "Henry."

I met Henry at Laptop Lounge a couple months ago.  He's a trans-man, in his early thirties, and was one of the growing numbers of trans-men attending Keystone. He is a sharp dresser, slim, maybe five seven, with gelled blond hair. He spoke with an accent slightly flavored by the Heartland.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it.  Henry was quite popular at the conference, as he was a member of the staff. He was everywhere — opening doors for ladies, smiling, laughing, and moving among others with an easy confidence.

I also drank with a very nice TG at the bar.  We spoke a bit on the bus back and continued in the bar.  The topic quickly became politics.  I once again was questioning WHY, WHY, WHY any trans-person supports the GOP when they actively want us to be stripped of what rights we have, or worse.  We discussed Bush's illegal war, and I started to cry. 

I lost two friends in that war, but that's not the reason I cried.  As a guy, I NEVER cry.  Ever.  Just my emotions got the better of me.  I learned an important lesson:  Hormones and alcohol don't mix.

Emotional Wreck

Later that night, I encountered a spot of difficulty in the bar with a rather aggressive admirer.  Just after last call, a blond GG tapped my shoulder and said she wanted to buy me a drink.  I never saw her before (or since.)  I thanked her, but said the bar was closing and I'd had enough already.

She called the bartender over and ordered us both shots of flavored rum.  I smiled, rolled my eyes and drank it.  That's when I noticed her boyfriend.  To my drunk eyes he looked like a young, tall Andy Garcia.  He was an Italian national and his English was broken.  And he was laying it on thick.

"You are so beautiful!  A Woman among girls!"

"I'm married" I said.

"Ah, you are a married MAN, but not a married WOMAN!"

"I am married."

he kept inching closer.  Gazing into my eyes.  I looked back at him, choosing targets in case this were to become... uncomfortable.  I'd be lying if I said I wasn't flattered by the attention, though.  He touched my hair... tried to kiss me...

Before I had a chance to react, Henry and another trans-man were between the Italian and myself. The other guy, all five foot seven of him, was in the man’s face as Henry gently escorted me through the nearby bar door. Outside in the lobby, I steadied myself on my heels, staggered a bit, and thanked him for his courtesy. I told him I could handle myself. He smiled, and reminded me that not only was I drunk, but I was wearing heels which were not suited to a bar fight.

That's when one of my hip pads plopped to the floor.  With all the drunken dignity I could muster, I picked it up. 

He then offered his arm, and escorted me back to my room.  At my door, I kissed him in the cheek and thanked him, inadvertently leaving a lipstick mark.  I then safely went into my room and plopped onto my bed.  I'm told he took a little ribbing for that lipstick on his cheek, but he took it in stride.

I lay on my bed, looking at the ceiling.  The next day my Big Sis would be coming up and staying in the room with me.  There would be more sessions, and I'd meet Jennifer Finney Boylan.  I was drunk, but the room wasn't spinning.  I looked around, and started tidying up.  After all, I wouldn't want Big Sis to think me a slob.

And I thought about the night.  I thought about my Tears.  I thought about my Destination.  My eyes began to mist again, but this time with happiness.  I was on my way.  I'd grown so much in a year. 

I WILL be a Woman, Body and Soul.

It will just take Time.

End Part 1

Part 2 HERE

Part 3 HERE


1 comment:

  1. OMG - Thank you for the shout out! I am enjoying reading about your thoughts/experiences about the conference and am looking forward to reading parts 2 and 3. Your class was the first one I attended EVER at a TG conference and it was the perfect one to do so. You bought out so much creativity in ourselves in a safe way over a subject that we are all still trying to figure out in our own journeys. You present yourself so confidently that it's an honor to read your honesty regarding your vulnerabilities and fears. Yes... you will be a Woman, Body and Soul - you are already on the way.