Sep 27, 2011

SCC After Words

The fragrant dust of the 21st Southern Comfort Conference has been settling a few days now, and I feel a little more certain of being able to start to tell you all about it. I cannot promise a great post here, dear friends. I am as much out of practice at blogging as I have been, until quite recently, at spending long hours in tall pumps. Nothing for it but to start and try, yes? On we go therefore.

Roughly 850 registered attendees (including a surprising 450 first timers) gathered with countless supportive friends and family, and a vibrant number of peripheral participants at Atlanta’s Crowne Plaza’s Perimeter for what I believe to be the largest Transgender conference known to man, woman and everyone somewhere in between last week. I was able to extract myself from work long enough to enjoy a good part of Thursday, much of Friday and practically every loving moment of Saturdays glamorous finale en Femme.

A mad gusher of posts emerged from my first visit to SCC last year, which you may find here, here and ooooh, I can barely reach it .. just over here. The Sophomore visit, with so many elements and sensations so familiar, leaves fewer themes to exploit. Some things need mentioning though, and the important ones have to do with gratitude.

I have spent many years attending conferences of many types over long decades, and must tell you this: SCC runs a tight ship. Not an easy thing to make the trans run on time darlings, and dammit but they do. Hats off to Lexi, her Committee Chairs, and the 100 or so volunteers who just put their backs in to a big piece of work. A special call out is due to Blake Alford whose tribute in words and pictures to Transgendered soldiers, sailors and aviators past and present was without doubt for me the most stirring moments of a great event.

Close in the stirring moments parade came Friday evening at a commitment ceremony for four beautiful couples, amongst them dear friends Cindy and Joanne, both radiant in white. Such a privilege to witness such an open, loving embrace of all the differences an individual can bring to and enlarge a home with. I missed the tossed bouquet by mere inches.

These moments were however eclipsed in the few hours that Mrs. Bellejambes was able to spend with my sisters, brothers and I. Again, I am thankful for much. I hope a fraction of that feeling shows in this picture.

More ponderings to follow as time allows. Let me leave you with a finishing thought:

If, in your journey, you have not enjoyed the luxury of time spent with people with whom you share a difference, you should. Put your spare change in a big jar. Mark your calendars. Visit Atlanta next year for Southern Comfort. You might catch the bouquet yourself.

See you here.

Sep 21, 2011

Petra is back. Still working on the front.

Voyages en Rose has been exhibiting a very faint and irregular heartbeat of late. Seven posts in eight months, a lamentable showing. Circumstances have conspired however to shake me out of the doldrums and provided some newish feminine fodder, Dear Reader, for pondering and prosing on about.

The recent loss of our friend Ramona certainly brought things into focus. Beyond that, well SCC is in full gear by now. Hooray! I am very much looking forward to participating, starting tomorrow evening, to giving long overdue air time to this other, integral part of me. If you are attending, please reach out or drop a note in the comments section here. It is a wonderful thing to meet blog friends in the flesh, yes? That’ll be me perched on a tall stool or teetering on tall heels where the nice people fix cocktails.

There will in short, be much to write about over the next few days, weeks and months. 

The wardrobe made the migration from attic to its more airy and organized closets in la Chambre de Petra. I did a rather thorough audit of this and that, and am alarmed to note that a few of my more clingy skirts are rather stressed at the seams. Borderline unseemly in fact. I have, it seems, lost a tooth or two in my metabolic machinery, and put on a little curve. Ravages of time I suppose, and approaching 50 as I am, well it is to be expected. In fairness, this a long time coming. I am suitably warned. It is time for me to be more mindful of lifestyle. 

I will be forming a relationship with a consignment shop shortly I fear. In the meantime I will be on the lookout for skinny girls at our conference in the hopes of finding a more suitable hostess for some pretty things that deserve to be worn well.

Life has not been without writing from my adoptive female perspective though. Many of you know that I have been doing the odd product review or fashion editorial for a special friend, Ally, the proprietress of Guilty Pleasures. Ally has been a wonderful source of insight and support. I am quite proud and really quite giddy about the reality that I can and do write with authority about the most intimate fashion category, intimates. Every now and then a smart parcel from a terrific vendor shows up in the mail, and I do my best to find accurate, engaging and honest words about the bras or knickers or tights contained therein. Life is full of surprises. My drawers runneth over. If you haven’t visited, please do. Here is a link to the collected works of your faux fashionista friend. 

Also on the fashion front, I splashed out a little on the weekend on a vendor whose business model and fashion sense has had me drooling in recent months. Rent the Runway is thriving online enterprise where a gal on a budget can take temporary possession of a serious party frock for a fractional fee. Tomorrow, a big box of beauty arrives. There is no godly or ungodly way I could ever justify spending $1,000 ++ on a dress. I can justify the $140 rental expense though. More than this, I have decided that I cannot afford to go without the experience of wearing a truly wonderfully made, current piece of serious pret-a-porter at least once in this life. My little heart is going pitter pat in anticipation.

The Christian Cota (top) will be sported at Saturday’s Dinner Gala, and I plan on slithering into the blue Christian Siriano to attend a wonderful Commitment ceremony at SCC. There will be a good number of couples renewing vows, and celebrating enduring love on Friday. I will be especially happy and honored to see Cindy and Joanne P take new vows. Hopefully the mascara will hold. These will be special nights, deserving of a little extra care and preening. I will surely share notes on the experience and other findings from the life en Femme here shortly.

Happy dressing, and happy everything else wished your way.

Sep 18, 2011


Dear Friends,

First things first. All is well, genuinely so.

The genuinely good things will get only scant mention in this post though. I must share some sad news before all of that. The good things will follow not far behind this entry. All of you with whom I am close, and for those quiet, anonymous and not-known-by-name-to-me visitors may be fully assured that Petra has a bit of happy chatter in reserve. I am anxious in fact to unpack findings from my annual Summer Drabbatical, and sort them out here. I sense that the muse is back upon me. Thank you all for your patience in my absence. And now, as some say, to cases…

The last post on Voyages en Rose in May of this year mentioned a lovely visit with a very important person in my life, Ramona. Ramona passed away on September 1, after a valiant, inspiring and always hopeful battle with a determined foe. Would you mind if I shared a few thoughts with you?  


I found Ramona at the time my life that I decided to unlock and take full possession of the contents of my own Pandora’s Box. I had long decades of closely guarded curiosity and compulsion about gender behind me and a furtive future ahead. I had an awkward assortment of garments to my name, and a handful of public sorties en Femme that were not complete disasters to claim. The taste of honey felt worse than none at all.

And so I called Ramona. And so everything changed.

Ramona had, through a seemingly random series of connected events, caromed into the business of helping people like me become acquainted with their inner woman. And my, but she was good. I spent a lovely evening in her care, and for the first time in my life, stepped convincingly out on the town. I cannot describe adequately the impact this had on me. The impact was visible on my surfaces yes, but the internal impact was the thing, the real thing. Tectonic forces shifted the continental plates of my whole self, fertile new plains of undiscovered land emerged, enlarged, virgin and fertile, ripe for exploration.

That exploration unearthed within me a much happier person, much better prepared for understanding and living within a complex and challenging world.

That exploration helped me develop the character to share with my wife truths that I did not have the character to share 17 years earlier when we first met, courted and agreed to be each others everything.

And not trivially, that exploration provided me with experience that was too big, too rich and too damned vivid to not write about.  Much of that experience has been documented here on Voyages en Rose over the last three years in something north of 200,000 words in 227 posts. 340 pages of 10pt thoughts not counting the smoldering 10X heap of deleted detritus and still-borne simile.


I had long harbored suspicions that I could tell a story but felt as though the risks of working at the craft and failing were higher than the potential payoff of working at it, failing at it, and working again. Becoming “Petra”, I slid into a protective authorial prophylactic that shielded me (the broadly known me that is) from the full weight of those risks. And so I wrote, at a slight remove from responsibility.

The work of writing became a part of my emerging life. It then seeped into the rest of my life. White papers, commercial copywriting here and there, deeper more convincing thinking on the numbers that my clients businesses ran on. Words for money.

By late last year I had leveraged this newly found confidence and attracted an agent. I was offered a good contract to ghost a book for a notable executive on subject matter I had enough familiarity with to ghost well. At this exciting moment, a more sure and certain path opened up; a staff position in a less creative role with my biggest client. I opted for the staff position and returned the book contract. No great or at least permanent loss in my view. The path I am on will allow me to commit to independent creative efforts in a few years. I should have an adequately plump cushion beneath the high wire and my semi-retiring arse by then.

I have Ramona to thank for this entirely unexpected and exciting possibility. I have much else to thank her for, but of all of her gifts and her splendid friendship, this stands out.

And you, Dear Reader, if you feel your times here have been well spent, a quiet salute skyward might be indicated just now.


In her last year, Ramona found the company of a remarkable partner, Gabrielle. Ramona was giddy, girly, head-over-heels besotted for Gabrielle. What a privilege Ramona enjoyed. Her best times came as her last times.

Gabrielle stands now as the principal keeper of Ramona’s memories. There is a long line of people flanking Gabrielle, all touched and changed in ways great and small by the happy accident of finding Ramona. Finding her, and is so doing, finding themselves.


Ramona had never been much of church going lady, but this past spring, at Gabrielle’s urging, the two of them popped on smart Easter bonnets, attended a service at Atlanta’s First Metropolitan Community Church and were welcomed with open arms. Gabrielle had been raised, like so many Southerners, in a praise community, and wanted very much to find a place where the best parts of this tradition could be expressed joyfully and freely. More than this, she wanted to share the peace she knew could be found in the best of these places with the most important person in her life.

Ramona surprised herself, and me when she spoke about how much it meant to her to find and be welcomed by this community. When she faltered, they rallied to her side, held vigil and held hands with Gabrielle and others close to Ramona at the end.

Many gathered last Sunday, September 11 for a memorial service at FMCC. The choir sang. The piano rang. Moving tributes were paid. Many of us did our best to present in a way that would have made Ramona proud. She loved animal prints, and so I opted for the leopard sheath that I had worn on one happy day of shopping with her what now seems like forever ago, yesterday or so. I chronicled that day here. Ramona in fact took this picture, and then threatened me with the silent treatment if I did not stop dithering about which perfect skirt I would buy already. We had a busy day ahead after all.

Mrs. Bellejambes attended the service with me. When I told her of the loss and the plans for the memorial, without blinking she asked to attend. She never met Ramona, but recognized that an important person in our shared life had passed, and wanted to mark the moment with me. We will visit FMCC again, together. A final, parting gift into our home from an absolutely gifted woman. A woman I will miss dearly.

See you again here shortly.
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