Southern Comfort Conference – a little background

Having written at length about the process of getting to the Southern Comfort Conference, it is now time to write about what actually happened once I got there. In some sense, nothing much “happened” to me at the conference but it was still very memorable time for me.

For those of you who are not familiar with the Southern Comfort Conference, I thought a bit of explanation would be helpful. If you are familar with SCC or other gender conferences, feel free to skip this posting.

SCC, as the conference is generally known, is perhaps the largest “gender” conference in the world. It is held once a year, usually in September, in Atlanta. It usually runs from Tuesday to Saturday. It has been going on for 20 years and has attracted up to 1000 or more attendees. In many ways it is typical of any type of conference, it is held at a nice hotel and has seminars, social events, and vendors selling their wares. The conference attendees usually does not take every room in the hotel and so there are typically many people at the hotel who are not associated with the conference and so the environment is very “mixed”.

What makes gender conferences interesting is the wide variety of TG people who show up. One really gets the whole spectrum at the conference. Most of the attendees are male to female crossdressers or transsexuals but there are an increasing number of “transmen” (female to male transsexuals). Some typical attendees include:

Crossdressers who pretty much never go out in public and for which the conference is their one chance to dress up in public. Some of these folks are pretty extreme in what they wear while others are conservative and dress in a very ordinary way. Many of these folks would never “pass” in public either because of body shape, choice in clothing, simply a general lack of interest in passing. For the conference is mostly an extension of their “closet.”

“Newbies” for which the conference is the first time they have appeared in public dressed as woman. They can be crossdressers venturing out the closet for the first time or early stage transsexuals trying to understand their situation (or both).

There are Crossdressers who are comfortable being in public situations and/or belong to support groups. They range from very passable to not passable at all. Most have worked to some extent on their appearance and feminine image. These folks often come just for the socials and to meet old friends although they may attend the seminars out of general interest or simply as a way of doing something en femme.

There are pre-op transsexuals in various phases of their transition. Some may already be living as women (or men for Female to Male) or thinking about it. They come, among other reasons, to meet with doctors who may perform some type of surgery on them such as Facial Feminization Surgery or Genital Reassignment Surgery. These folks are collecting information about life changing processes.

There are post-op transsexuals who may be there for to help run things, provide support, or simply to meet up with friends. They are also often politically active and involved with lobbying efforts to address discrimination against transgendered people.

There are spouses and significant others of attendees. These are most often genetic women who have some association with a TG woman. Some may be partners of transmen. The conference usually has special events just for them.

Finally, these days there are increasing numbers young people for whom their current and alternative gender is somewhat uncertain. For them gender is a much more of a fluid concept and for which the notion of “transitioning” is increasingly meaningless. This year I met a number of young people whose gender I could simply not determine.

There are also lots of people that don’t fit into one of these categories. You meet very large women who have fully transitioned but will never pass as a woman. These brave folks may have lost everything in their transition.

There are also part time crossdressers with faces and bodies that would be the envy of many generic women. Many have no interest in transitioning but are just having fun.

As I noted above, the format of the conference is much like any other conference. There are seminars, organized social events, vendors, and lots of free time for unstructured socializing. The seminars cover a range of topics including :

• Help to develop a more “feminine” style which includes movement, voice, fashion, makeup, etc.
• Lifestyle issues including how to transition, how to deal with work or family issues, TG sexuality, etc.
• Medical issues including surgery options, hormones, general health
• Political issues, including legislation, discrimination issues, etc.

The seminars occur during the day. In the evening there are a number of social events that allow people who may have never gone to a theater or restaurant “en femme” to do so. They pick places that are safe and accepting.

There are also special events such as the “pool party” which allows people to gather around the hotel’s pool wearing while wearing women’s swimsuits, pajama parties (all “girl” sleepovers), etc.. These are mostly intended to allow crossdressers who would never do these things in public to do so in a safe environment.

Finally there are formal dinners and dances which again allow attendees to get really dressed up in formal dresses or cocktail wear. Again, this provides an opportunity for attendees to do things in a “relative” public setting that they would never otherwise do.

In many ways the conference is just an excuse to provide that safe haven for crossdressers to escape (or expand) their closets. It may be once a year escape or a simply the first (or second) escape that leads to a life outside the closet. A lot depends on what the individual is looking for.

Gender conferences can be very entertaining, very helpful, or very strange depending on you viewpoint.

For me, gender conferences have usually been the cause of great emotional stress and I tend to avoid them like the plague.

Another Diversion – The Renaissance Faire en Femme

Another Diversion – Renaissance Faire

I was going to start writing about my experiences at the Southern Comfort Conference but decided instead to write about my recent en femme visit to a local “Renaissance Faire”. For those of you who don’t know about these faires, you should go at least once as they are lots of fun.

The basic idea of a Renaissance Faire (or any of the various “reenactment faires”) is to recreate an idealized village from long ago and populate it with shops, entertainment, and suitably dressed people. Think of it as your local “art and wine festival” but moved back in time a few hundred years. The largest have dozens to hundreds of shops, food vendors, wandering singers and actors, etc. Many these day have “combat” times in which suitably dressed “knights” (or whatever the period soldier is) hack away at each other. They are usually held in the country and so the ground is either dirt or grass or some combination and the shops are often tents or similar period correct structures. It gives it a nice rustic appeal. There is usually much drinking, eating, and merriment for all. To really enjoy it though you have to get “into” the scene and one of the best ways is dress up.

I like going to these faires because they are fun and provide a great opportunity for going “en femme”. Since lots of people are oddly dressed anyway, nobody cares how you look (provided you are “period correct”). In the several faires I have attended en femme, I have never gotten any reaction at all from anyone (except for the one saleswoman who told me she liked my nails).

I have two faire dresses that I bought on Ebay. One is sort of a peasant look with a red lace-up bodice and long blue skirt. The bodice is like a vest but laces up in the front using ribbon. One can use it to expose as much cleavage as you want (and those who are suitably endowed tend to show lots, unlike myself who has little to show…).

The skirt is very simple, rather full, made with plain blue fabric, and with an elastic waistband. I wear both over a white chemise. The chemise is basically a long sleeve, floor length undergarment that is very full and flowing. It made out of a rather sheer plain white cotton fabric that is usually “one size fits all”. To this outfit I add a black belt, leather purse, hat, knife, and sandals. It makes for a very peasant look. Its fun to wear and I really like it.

The other dress is more fancy and is made of a rich green, velvet-like fabric. It also has a lace-up bodice and full skirt but is much nicer. It is not a peasant look nor the look of a noble. It is sort of in the middle. Unfortunately it’s a lot warmer to wear since the fabric is heavier and given the faires usually happen in the summer to fall, I tend to wear it less often.

For this last visit I wore the peasant look since it was a warm day. Some of the women wore much heavier outfits with high collars, long sleeves, and even more petticoats. They are usually portraying nobles and hence must bear the “burden” of their position in life…

One of the things I really like about Renaissance Faires is that lots of people dress up in clothing that fits the time period. I think of it as sort of a Renaissance “drag show” since people are wearing clothes that are extremely different that what they normally wear and they are doing just for fun. Women who normally live in jeans and sneakers suddenly appear in long dresses with multiple petticoats, jewelry galore, hats, etc. Men who go about in plain suits during the week appear in brightly colored shirts, leather vests, leggings, hats with feathers, and carry swords and knifes. Those who practice can speak with the vocabulary and accents of long ago.

In a lot of ways it reminds me a lot of the TG (especially the Crossdressing part of it) world, people dressing up in clothing that is very different than what they normally wear and doing it mostly for fun. But what also strikes me is how differently the two worlds are generally viewed. Dressing up in uncomfortable clothes from hundreds of years ago is generally viewed as “okay”, even charming. Dressing up in the current clothing styles of the “other” gender is viewed as “weird” or even perverse. It is interesting to ponder why this is so.

The faire itself was pretty fun and pleasantly uneventful. I bought my ticket and wandered around the grounds for much of the day. I watched various performers (singers and dancers) do their thing, purchased food and drink, wandered through endless shops looking and buying additional items for my outfit. Throughout the whole day I was unaware of any special attention and was treated well by shopkeepers, performers, and other guests. I even saw another TG woman and observed that we was also ignored by pretty much everyone (of course she was not dressed nearly as nice as I was…). The major challenge of the day was managing to use the “porta-potty” while wearing a full skirt. It is harder than it looks.

All and all, it was great day. I would recommend it to everyone.

Flying En Femme – The Trip Home

A lot happened at the SCC that I will cover in future posts but what I want to cover next is my trip home. Despite having a great trip en femme to Atlanta I decided not to fly back home in girl mode, at least not obviously so. I was tired and wanted less stress for the trip home. Besides I wanted to try another look.

I picked the third look I described previously: the ambiguous gender look. I still wore my wig and female/unisex clothes (jeans, top, and boots with a little heel) but that was it. No makeup, jewelry, or padding. I had my feminine styled notebook case but my purse was inside.  I used mannerisms and voice that were also in the middle between male and female. I was curious what the reactions of other people would be. Would I be read as male or female.?

My first reaction was when I returned by rental car to Avis. I drove into the return area, removed my suitcase, and waited for the agent to do the return paperworkk. The car was clearly in my male name, but the woman who checked my car in said:

“thank you for using Avis, Ms Jones”

Now that was unexpected and a pleasant surprise! I just love Avis agents.

The luggage check-in and security screening went smoothly. No extra inspections or questions this time but also no more “ma am”s. I purchased some dinner and noted that the pronouns were generally not used, just the generic “can I help you?” I boarded  the plane without incident. As I was sitting on the plane for the long ride home, I wondered what had triggered the extra inspections in SF? Was it the padding, the makeup, what? Was it the definite feminine appearance and male ID mismatch? Perhaps the agents picked up my nervousness when going through security? Was I just unlucky (but luckier than the woman behind me in line)? One can never know (sort of like whether you are passing or not) but it was interesting to think about.

I arrived back late into San Francisco and changed before heading home. All and all, it was a great trip that I never would have thought I could do. I am already planning another en femme trip soon, probably to Las Vegas as the airfare these days is really inexpensive. Its also close so that I don’t spend all the time on the plane. I will probably wear the same general outfit as I did for this trip. I will eventually go  really femme but not quite yet.

Flying En Femme – Arrival and Rental Car Fun

This is the last installment of my flying en femme journey to Atlanta. I will have one more post about my trip home.

After I arrived in Atlanta I retrieved my luggage and headed for the Avis rental counter. I fly often on business and am a member of Avis “Preferred” service which means they have all your information on file and hence there is often no need to stand in any line. You go to a special area and find your name on the display with a parking place location next to it. You can go to the car where your paperwork and key are waiting. You just need to show it to the guard at the gate and you are off. It saves hours at the airport.

That is how it is supposed to work and how I was hoping it would work. I had planned that my only human contact would be 20 seconds at the gate with me sitting in the car and the guard doing his normal quick check on things. Given how well things had gone in San Francisco I thought this would a piece of cake.

It was not to be.

I headed over to the Preferred area and was met with a virtually blank display, 20 people in line, one clerk, and virtually empty parking area (i.e. almost no cars available). It was not going to be as easy as I planned. Still I remained calm in my new found confidence. It was a little daunting though.

For the next 40 minutes I stood in a long line of mostly impatient businesspeople (mostly men) as we inched forward. The only thing that made it enjoyable was the handsome gentleman behind me with whom I talked for much of the time. We bemoaned the line, especially how we “frequent travelers” did not need this kind of delay. We swapped travel stories and were both amused by the very large man (at least 6’6” and 250 pounds) in front of us who was wearing size 16+ neon yellow sneakers and by his equally large (male) friend who was carrying a very small matching neon yellow purse!! The combination of matching shoes and purse on two very macho looking guys was really very funny. I still wonder what was going with the purse…

Eventually I reached the gate and handed my male ID to the agent and told her I had a reservation. She took my ID without a word, did some typing, printed out my contract, and handed both back to me with the words:

 “Thank you for selecting Avis and we apologize for the delay, MA’AM!!

 Thank YOU Avis !!

 Once again I was pleasantly surprised but less than before with the airline and TSA. I was finding that nobody really cared, just like I had been told. I had learned this lesson previously when I first out in public and every time after that. Most people are either unaware or simply do not care how you look. They either look briefly and conclude “female” or look more carefully and figure something is not right but don’t care (beyond idle curiosity). They have their own lives and worries and are not spending their time wondering if you are a boy or girl.

 I headed to my car, loaded my luggage, and drove to exit gate. This should be the easy part, I thought. I reached the exit, handed my contract and ID to the gate guard and waited. He looked at it, verified it was the right car, matched my ID to the contract, gave them both back to me, and said:

“thank you for selecting Avis”

It was the easiest thing I did all day.

I drove off feeling wonderful. I had made it all the way from San Francisco to Atlanta en femme and absolutely nothing bad had happened. Everyone had been very polite and professional.

The next stop was the Southern Comfort Conference hotel. I did not expect it to be a big deal as the hotel staff was already dealing with hundreds of TG people in a wide variety of looks. I do recall seeing a rather large person in a pink frilly dress checking in and the desk staff being completely cool and professional. After that I was a complete nonissue for them and checked in without a problem.