I received a call yesterday from Mrs. Bellejambes who had just set out on the road:
“Darling, there seems to be a hair brush stuck below the windscreen around the wiper blades”
Hmmm. My mind flashed relievedly back to the closing moments of my week en Femme at Southern Comfort. Fresh from heartfelt hugs and warm so-long-for-now’s I had rooted fruitlessly about in my overstuffed bag for the damned car keys before giving up and just dumping everything out on the hood. The brush, it seems, did not make it back in.
I marvel at women who are able to find what they need, when they need it, somehow in the depths of the purse. All too often, I miss what is required and lose a nail or more in the hunt for it.
So it is with the memories of busy, happy times too. The recovery effort continues however here in Part 2 of ? essays on my first full week amongst the Sisters (and Brothers) of SCC. A little bit of the Who, What, and Where stuff will follow here today, starting with the Where.
Atlanta is a big, Blue city in the middle of a blood Red state. It is served by the busiest airport in the known world which makes it a fairly simple place to get to, and therefore ideal for big gatherings such as SCC. For the 5th year running now, the conference is held at the Crowne Plaza Ravinia, and I for one would be delighted to see another 5 years at this fine facility. The conference and banquet facilities are amply sized for the large crowds, but happily, the layout does not necessitate massive long walks in not-quite-practical shoes. Don’t sneer now: this is key to ones happiness.
The truly key thing though about this Crowne Plaza is staff. Clearly, everyone from Valet, to Front Desk, to Bar/Wait staff and Housekeeping are either people with absolutely no hang ups, or the beneficiaries of outstanding sensitivity training. Attentive, happy, prompt, courteous and constantly correct use of pronouns all around. I did not see a single incident of anything less than complete professionalism at any moment. Given that the countries of origin for many of hotel staffers are in South Asia, the Middle East, East Africa, and other generally more socially conservative parts of our little world, this attitude really stands out. Super hospitality. It was easy to smile, and to tip well. Every penny was fully earned.
All of us have to clear any number of hurdles to be who we are, and to get to where we want to be. It means much to be warmly welcomed, and respected once we arrive. Bravo to the Crowne.
On to the What stuff.
SCC, for those of you who have not attended is certainly one of the oldest, and arguably the worlds largest (measured in terms of attendance) conferences purpose built for the TG community. I finally made it for SCC # 20. 20 years is a whole generation, and it is staggering to think of what changes birds of our feathers have witnessed in that time. We, and the world around us have really only started to scratch the surface, and I think scratch our collective itches. The ~ 1,000 ++ or so attendees this year represent a fraction of all of those who have visited before, and the tiniest tip of the iceberg of those who might, should, will or cannot attend.
The conference is organized to provide value, and value comes at a price. Single admission, full conference privileges ran me $325 US, which is not couch cushion change, but worth every cent. For the investment, you get fed, and quite nicely too (by global conference standards) and you have access to as many of the 70-80 presentations, panel discussions, seminars, how-to’s and etc. delivered by legions of really expert people.
The variety of content is wide, and I found time for about a half dozen sessions over the 3 main conference days (Thurs – Sat) which focused largely on matters of Style, Deportment, and Make-up. I learned that I am not really making any style mistakes, that my deportment is fine, and that I am truly a ham-fisted and poorly educated make up artist. Must, must must work on that aspect of my life.
Thanks to Ann Grogan, Monica Prata, Beth Boye, Chloe Prince, and especially my dear old friend Ramona whose presentations I enjoyed fully.
Like any other conference, the vendors are lurking with crooked fingers pulling you to their stalls in the hopes of winning a newish customer or two. Surgical consults, wigs, shoes, figure enhancing fashions and prosthetics, make-up, literature, you name it, the whole shooting works really
Too many other receptions, excursions and activities to name. A very full week, capped off by a really nice gala dinner, replete with tuxedos, ball gowns, smart cocktail dresses, and the odd expression of slightly out there fetishy fashion sense on display on Saturday night.
And finally, the Who.
The full spectrum of gender identity and expression. Educated guesses follow:
- Female-to-Male (transitioned and transitioning) perhaps 15% of the attendees
- Post-Transition Women, the plurality of attendees at ~ 35%
- Transitioning M2F, either living 24/7 or on a certain path towards that objective weighing in at 25%
- Periodic, currently non-transitioning Cross Dressers and other gender-curious types perhaps claiming another 20%
- Partners, supporters, and a smattering of happy Admirers constitute the remaining 5% or so.
In short, however you view yourself, if you visit, you may be sure that you will find the company of people with whom you have more than a handful of uncommon things in common.
The nicest moments for me though came about in conversations with people that had absolutely nothing to do with matters of gender. Music (howdy Aislin!), physics (Lida), wine (Jennifer), shooting pool (Leslie), hockey (Gabrielle), career (Brittney), Bangladeshi Cuisine (Audrey) and too many other moments of normal intimacy to either recall or recount. The beautiful moments when the visibility of our “differences” from the rest of world disappear, the opportunity for some uncluttered attention to somebody else presents itself, and is seized. Can’t buy those moments.
But for a few hundred dollars you can put yourself in the room, smile, be yourself, grow a little, and perhaps help someone else do the same thing. Priceless.
If you haven’t attended, and want to know yourself better, set aside $1.00 a day for the next year and plan on visiting in 2011. Simple, right?
If you and I met, we likely did not exchange contact info in part because I could not find a pen in my purse. Please say hello by way of a comment, or via email (contact info in my Blogger profile).
I’d be very happy to know you better before we meet again next year.