Tag Archives: Fantasia Fair

Are Transgender Conferences Fading?

The last few years have brought about some changes in the world of transgender conferences.  And it’s a little concerning to those of us who enjoy attending this type of event.

After 10 or 15 years of status quo, the first thing to shake the tree was the disappearance of  the Be-All conference in Chicago.  Although where were rumors of infighting and mismanagement, most of us will never know why the management team decided to call it quits.

Most recently, the Southern Comfort Conference organizers announced they’re moving the event from Atlanta to Weston Florida in the Fort Lauderdale area.  It was no surprise, really, that changes were necessary but I always thought the location was the best thing about SCC.  I loved that hotel!

When I was there in 2013, the only three ‘seminars’ that even remotely appealed to me were all cancelled on the ‘day of’, and it seemed we were in charge of making our own fun.  Generally speaking, I came away wondering what exactly I had paid for.  My response to a request for post-event comments was met with hostility because I had negative observations and no suggestions for improvement.  Improvement, for me, is to stop giving them my money.

The organizing team are presenting positive attitude after announcing the change but we all know they must be concerned.  In spite of some pretty decent media coverage, the move isn’t being very well received except by those who live in Florida.

Gal’s Spring Fling, here in Ontario, might also be on the chopping block.  The organization of the event is in the hands of a single person who seems to have lost the energy to continue.  Time will tell but I would expect an announcement in a few months.

From my observations, it appears that Keystone Conference, First Event, Colorado Gold Rush and Erie Sisters Gala are all doing well and growing.  Although there are many other events, I can’t comment if I’m not aware of them.

Fantasia Fair is a big question mark for me.  Although it appears to have very loyal attendees, the clique and attitude is best suited to the mature transgender to the extent that young trans folk might not feel welcome.

It appears they’re struggling to find a suitable location in Provincetown to accommodate current attendee numbers for their Saturday night gala so maybe growing the numbers isn’t desirable.  But who will be there, in the not too distant future, when the small and aging crowd can no longer attend?

So, in summary, I have to wonder if large, all encompassing transgender events have run their course.  Back in the days when most of us were forced to remain stealth, getting together occasionally with like-minded spirits was huge.   And that enormity was a motivator for organizers.   These days, with Girl’s Night Out’s and Pub Nights happening monthly in many areas, the need for large gatherings has lessened; similar, maybe, to the effect that small casinos have had on Las Vegas.

I just returned from Fantasia Fair and will review this year’s conference in a separate blog post.  But the highlight of my year will continue to be the Keystone Conference in the spring.

Please, Keystone organizers … don’t change a thing!

Fantasia Fair 2014

SeleenaK_3382sFor those of you who are not aware, Fantasia Fair is an annual transgender event held in Provincetown Massachusetts. It’s the longest running trans event in the US, possibly the world, and it celebrated it’s 40th anniversary this year.

I attended the conference once again in 2014 (my 5th) and had a fabulous time as always. But reflecting on my time there, I have to admit that my enjoyment came more from the town and the time I spent with friends than it did from the actual event.

So what has changed? Did I change or did the event change? A little of both, I suspect.

I’ve changed in that I expect more for my event dollar than ever .  Or more accurately, although I’ve always felt that financially supporting events like this is a good, honorable thing to do, I’m feeling like an outsider who’s enjoyment SeleenaK_3363sis on no one’s mind.  The kumbaya stuff from years ago means little to me now and seeing  a handful of new introverted girls “blossom” has lost  it’s shine.

**** And due to the “wedge” that still seems to exist due to a persistent “I’m more trans than you” hierarchy, I’m just not comfortable financially supporting an hugely unbalanced itinerary. I felt this at Southern Comfort Conference and I felt it at Fantasia Fair.  It cost me the same to attend zero seminars as it did the person who attended them “all”.  ***

But the event has changed too. In my opinion, it’s gotten a little more cliquish than it was, and has lost a lot of it’s youthful vibe.

Side note in this regard: Online warnings prior to the event about the hazards of wearing heels in P-town felt excessive. No matter how good the intentions of the ‘flats-only’ preachers, the vast majority of the tgirls out there and potential attendees love their heels. Yet rather than provide advice on how to make high heel wearing work on the streets of Ptown, the official word was “don’t” –  you’re  foolish if you do (I paraphrase). Talk about scaring away potential newbies and making the heel-wearing crowd (me, included)  feel self-conscious!

Fan Fair spends way too much time honoring someone (usually themselves) and not enough time with the peons who pay the bills and quietly attend looking for a fun time.

But on a positive note, the lunches were excellent and the (provided ) dinners were decent. The registration process was lightning fast and, although my “package” lacked a couple “coupons” for things I had paid to attend, hassle-free.

The welcome reception at the sushi restaurant, Saki’s, was a lot of fun but the “Town and Gown” event was good and not so good.  Christine Howey’s one-woman play, “Exact Change” was  fabulous!  But the event was billed as a Town & Gown event.  A handful of us did dress accordingly yet they served hamburgers and hotdogs, buffet style for dinner.  Wasn’t expecting that .. lol.  Did I not get the memo?

One thing that I did miss  this year was the charm. Each year we’ve received a Fantasia Fair keepSeleenaK_3410ssake suitable for putting on a bracelet, yet this year, and on an anniversary year at that, there was none. I later learned that only those who attended the farewell brunch got one. No explanation offered and no apologies given if it was an oversight.   Kinda makes heeding the”let’s all be there to celebrate our 40th” request seem a little one-sided.

But back to my thoughts on the planned activities. The Saturday night Gala was fun! Our friends at The Crown & Anchor did a wonderful job with the room and the food. Bravo to all involved.  And seeing everyone looking so glamorous is always a treat.

The Wednesday evening fashion show was fun too but, to be totally honest, I miss hostesses Robyn and Liz terribly. (Their removal as hostesses smells political and seems quite unfair.)  The current hostesses are wonderful individuals but the cohesion between them is still developing and is painfully missing.  Please, can we have Robyn and Liz back?

Now the talent show, the Fantasia Fair Follies, was a train wreck, in my opinion. Far too much lip synch without a dynamic stage show to support it. Yes, there were a few lip synch performers that were a little fun to watch but they were the exception.  I do understand how being supportive is a good thing and that participation in something like this can be a confidence booster for some but still .. townspeople, as well as the rest of us, pay money to attend and therefore a show with a slightly higher degree of entertainment value and professionalism seems only reasonable.  The townsfolk seated in my general area spent more time looking at each other with a raised eyebrow than they did laughing or applauding.  And I could totally sympathize with their feelings and felt embarrassed.

And there was a coupleSeleenaK_3393s tasteless, inappropriate bits in the show too.

To further mess with my trannier-than-thou sensitivity,  a post op girl did a comedy(?) bit about her vaginal dilation exercises after genital reconstruction surgery, complete with her collections of dilators/dildos. I’m no prude but found that performance pretty tasteless.  Although I’m no stranger to dildo’s, the entire bit seemed to be a “look at me, I’ve had the surgery!” ego trip.  My spouse, a genetic woman, was in attendance and found the entire piece quite disgusting.

As well, there was the “Fuck You” song. A song that repeatedly used to phrase “fuck you”, played to a slideshow of US Republican politicians and conservative public figures. Also, not funny and very tasteless, in my opinion.  The phrase “Fuck you” is NOT offensive to me, in fact, I love CeeLo Green’s Fuck You song but this event is no place for silly US partisan politics.  The song’s words a quite judgmental and more than a little hateful … not exactly appropriate for a group that pleads for tolerance.  But then tolerance is a one-sided concept, isn’t it?

I know, I know.  Why so negative? It’s because I spent almost $1200 USD for my Kim and I to attend an event that barely made me smile.  And that’s the conference cost alone.  Accommodations in P-town were way more than that.

SeleenaK_3399sBut I still did have a great time!  I shopped at Klymaxx Unliminited, Provincetown’s premier shop for bling, cosmetics, skin-care for both men and women, jewelry, drag accessories, wigs and handbags.  I bought some fabulous bling and a new shoulder bag from Hera and Michele.

I also shopped at the Golden Horn where I found more great bling.

I stayed at the Brass Key Guesthouse again and was totally delighted as always.  Thanks, Rick, for being so cool.

Away from the event, evening dining was fabulous at Jimmy’s Hideaway, Ross’s Grill and The Mews as were the Fantasia  Fair lunches at Bayside Betsey’s, The Post Office Cabaret and Cafe and The Crown & Anchor.

So, in closing, I had a fabulous time! The best time ever in Provincetown but little of it had to do with the Fantasia Fair event. I’ll certainly return in the future but will be much more selective regarding how much money I give to the event. And no  more donations to the scholarship fund for this girl.

Sadly, I have to wonder what the future holds for this event.

Move over, SCC, as you grasp at redefining yourself. You’ll have company soon.

SeleenaK_3391s