Monday, October 14, 2013

Southern Comfort Odyssey Part II: Meeting Icons

Tuesday I had some things to do. 

After my "Big Sister" Mel and I checked into the hotel, we got our luggage from my car.  On our way in, I bumped into three women, one of whom was Ana Christina Garcia.  I was star struck!  She was more beautiful in person than in her pictures!  I said "hi" but I was in drab so she had no idea who I was.  (We are Facebook friends.)

After getting set up in the room, Mel and I went to the bar and had some lunch.  Mel introduced me to the two bartenders who have been there for years.  I then went upstairs and put on my face and some casual clothes.  After all, I wanted to get a pedicure. 

So I went to Classic Nails and had a wonderful relaxing time.  Then, I made a decision.  I'd been thrown out of my house.  Who did I have to hide from anymore?  I went to the mall, to one of those places that do eyebrows with strings.  One of the thinks I've always hated about my face were my huge eyebrows.  I didn't cut them down to keep up a semi male appearance.  Well, not any more. 

My eyebrows are now feminine.  By the way, those strings?  HURT!

I returned to the hotel, and I went upstairs to change.  It was my first night in Atlanta, and I wanted to have fun!

New Brows and Ready for Fun!

So I threw on my favorite rockabilly dress, and headed downstairs for karaoke.  First, I stopped at the bar where I bumped into my friend Olivia Loren.  She was being hit on by a local who wasn't the brightest bulb.  She and I looked at each other and smiled- a silent agreement to screw with this guy's head.  he offered to buy me a drink, which I accepted.  Soon Mel joined us and I suggested we go to the Italian Restaurant for dinner.  The Four Star Expensive One: La Grotta.  I invited Olivia and the Cletus the Slack jawed Yokel to join us.  He walked downstairs with us, but saw the menu posted at the door and stopped.  He explained to Olivia that he couldn't afford the place and so he couldn't join us...

...exactly as I suspected.  So Olivia, Mel and I had a wonderful dinner and two bottles of wine.  Then I went to the bar and had some more to drink.  What's that I hear?  Singing?  Oh right!  Karaoke!  So downstairs I went... listing slightly to starboard.  The guy didn't have any of my usual songs, so I tried things out of my range.  As if I could find the right key with a map at that point!

While there, I met some wonderful people... who bought me drinks.  So I sang some more...

And someone took a video... and I drank more...

It didn't end well.

In any case, I fell asleep next to a very good porcelain friend on a nice cool tile floor.

The next morning I just wasn't feeling my best.  Go figure.  A nice shower and a LOT of water later, I threw on my face and went to the lobby.  I bumped into some people and hugs ensued.  Then I saw my friend Stephanie from Canada.  She was going full time at work when she arrived home, and she was GLOWING!  We hugged, and I looked around.  You see, I knew with whom she was travelling.

There I saw Linda Lewis

Linda was one of my earliest inspirations.  I found her website before I re-emerged and I remember thinking "Wow, she's gorgeous!  And so very happy looking!  And courageous!"  (I read her interviews she posted on her site.)  I saw her pictures on Flickr wearing her cleavage top from Proactive prosthetics and thinking "they look perfect!"  So I ordered them.  I sent her an email asking about her Veronica 5 as well, and she answered!  I was so impressed that she did that! 

Anyway, years later, we started messaging each other on Facialbook.  And we became friends.  I couldn't believe how friendly and down to Earth she was!  She's been having some money issues related to her lack of a job, so Stephanie and I paid her way to SCC.  More Stephanie than me, but still- we got her there. 

And there she was!

We hugged. 

She then went to find Devrah, with whom she was staying (and who was paying for Linda's part of the room as well.  Many thanks to her for her generosity!)

I went downstairs to eat, as I was starving and dehydrated.  Eventually, Stephanie and Linda joined me. 

Shopping with Linda

After breakfast, Devrah, Linda and I went shopping!  First to a makeup store so Linda could help Devrah select a palate for herself, then to the mall... and Victoria's Secret!  Linda was fitted for a bra, and I bought a few myself.  Devrah wasn't feeling good, so we cut this trip short and went back to the hotel. 

Later that same day, I sat in the bar with Big Sister Mel. She was joined by Donna Rose and two women I didn’t know. Mel seemed very excited to see them, which is saying something, as she is very even-keeled. I knew that Donna was one of Mel’s “Big Sisters” and I had heard of her other one — Sarah. Well, one of these women was Sarah, who Mel hadn’t seen in a while and wasn’t expecting. Sarah projected a Zen-like calm. Seriously! Just being in her presence was comforting. We were joined by another of my heroes, Lana Moore, who is a firefighter from Ohio who transitioned on the job. I was speechless — sitting with people I admire and being welcomed as an equal.  Or not being rejected outright anyway.

Skip forward a few hours.  A year earlier, when I was going to attend SCC in 2012, I scheduled a makeup session with the beautiful Monica Prata.  Well, I didn't go.  We moved it to keystone.  She couldn't make it.  So we moved it to that night.  I was all made up and ready for dinner.  Dinner at Maggianos, and I was in a sparkly cocktail dress.  A bit overdressed?  Well normally, yes.  But not this night.

This night I would be "pinned in" as a sister of Vanity Club

The event was held upstairs, and there was a bar there.  I had drinks with many of the women who inspired me.  I felt like a jabbering fan girl.  Of course, there were cameras everywhere. 

I sat in a table at the back of the room with Linda and Stephanie.

Drinking with Linda

Before the ceremony, everyone stood and introduced themselves.  Eventually it was my turn, and I introduced myself to everyone.  I was so nervous!  I think I attempted some lame humor.

Dinner was wonderful, and afterwards I lined up with the others receiving their pins that night.  I was elected with one other person, but she couldn't make it to SCC.  So it was me and ten other women, all of them stunning, receiving or VC pins that night.  Mine was pinned on me by my sponsor, B'Ellana. 

My Pin

There were so many pictures taken!  And people were so friendly!  I'll discuss the whole Vanity Club thing: who, what, when, how, and why in a later entry.

During the night, I went downstairs to the main bar to get a round using my credit card as the upstairs bar was cash only.)  A few guys clocked me, and giggled, but nothing more.

The night ended and we all walked out into the sultry late summer night. 

By the time I reached the hotel, I was soaked in sweat.  Oh that dress needed cleaning!  Many of us headed to the bar.  I hung around for a while, talking to people, and I had a few drinks.  Mel was in the bar, and we hung out for a while.  Donna Rose also showed up, and we spoke for a bit.

Eventually, I went to the bed.  The next day I needed to be up early for a seminar.

Thursday was another hot and humid Southern day.  I showered and put on my face.  I've gotten so much faster with this lately.  I went downstairs to get a diet Coke and headed down to the only seminar I planned in advance to attend:  Donna Rose discussing writing a blog.

Yeah, you might say that I had an interest in that topic. 

I was headed to the room where the seminar was being held, when someone walked toward me and called my name.  Her name was Emma. She reads my blog and we’ve communicated on Facebook as well. She’d never been out in public en femme before this very day. And there she was! She introduced herself and we hugged. She wrote to me that she was coming to the conference to meet one of her “heroes:” Me.

I never had anyone call me that before.

Well maybe back in my paramedic days, but that was the job.

She said my words have helped her. That my being a woman and discussing my struggles have inspired her. I can’t describe how that made me feel. A bit self conscious? Happy? Validated? I’d said similar things to a few people myself, and meant them. But they? They were icons of the community. They are people who are activists, voices of the community: Heroines. I’m just me. In the end, I guess the word I’m grasping for is: Humbled. The fact that someone read my words and had them affect her life — in some ways that’s a Dream come true. After all, it’s why I write. But to actually have it happen? To have that particular dream bear fruit?

It’s humbling.

The Power of the Written Word.

The Wonder of it All.

Donna's seminar was rather informal, and quite good.  She pointed out that once a person's words are posted on the internet, they're out there for all to see.  She said there was danger to this, that of discovery.  She mentioned that we could be outed to employers, to friends, to FAMILY.  When she said "family" she said it with particular emphasis and looked directly at me.

In the Q&A part of the seminar, she asked me to relate the results of my MIL discovering my blog- of being thrown out.  Of my family sundered.  And several people had questions.

With one of my inspirations and my friend, Donna Rose

After the seminar, a woman stopped me in the hall.  She'd been in the seminar as well.  She was quite pretty, and had very short hair.  She said she was a grad student at UMass, and was doing her doctoral thesis on LGBT parenting.  She asked if she could interview me about this.  I agreed, and we headed for the empty bar for a quiet place to talk. 

She had many very good questions, and I cried more than once.  After maybe an hour, Mel joined us.  I explained to her what the woman and I were discussing, and I asked Mel if she would also talk about her experiences as a parent who fully transitioned.  She agreed and they talked.

While they did so, I walked around to stretch my legs, and I happened upon a group of my Vanity Club sisters posing for pictures.  I volunteered to take some for them.  And a two of them graciously agreed to pose with me as well.  Again, I was thrilled as both were early inspirations as well.  And here I was speaking with them!  Oh I am SUCH a fangirl!

With Ana Christina Garcia

Oh I looked like hell!  But I didn't mind. 

I went back to the bar, where Mel was finishing her discussion.  She invited me to lunch.  We ended up at PF Changs.  I'd never been there before, and loved it.  The waiter was very nice, and "maam"ed me several times.  I get a thrill when that happens!

After lunch I headed back to the hotel.  First I slipped into Kristin Beck's seminar, and was enthralled by her no-nonsense presence (and I LOVED her red dress!)  She even answered one of my questions!  A little later I spoke to her briefly.  She was very nice, if a bit rushed.  She had "handlers" spiriting her here and there. 

Kristin Beck

Then I read a bit of my "assigned reading" for my TG Forum book review.  As I was sitting in the bar, people popped in and out.  Eventually the bar opened and more people trickled in, including Linda.  We talked for a little while, when the UMass person walked back into the bar.  I invited her to join us.

Eventually, she and I went to dinner at the Italian place (Linda had a previous engagement.)  It was a wonderful time, and I learned a LOT about her.  She is a very driven woman, and for all the right reasons.  I know she will make her mark on the world. 

After dinner, she took her leave, as she was staying with friends nearby.  I went upstairs and changed into something more appropriate for the night. I then returned to the bar, where the action was in full swing. I drank with familiar faces and went to bed relatively early, as I simply needed sleep.

To be concluded

Part 1 is HERE.

Part 3 is HERE


No comments:

Post a Comment