Tag Archives: transgender event

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

Gal’s Spring Fling

an early morning walkWhat is it?

Gal’s Spring Fling is the premier transgender event  in Canada.  It’s primarily a Gender Mosaic (Ottawa ON) event, with assistance from Xpressions (Toronto ON).  I’m a member of the latter.  It’s more of a social event and less about support and education (which is perfect for this girl) than some of the other events.

When is it?

It’s an annual event held late in May.

Where is it?

Gananoque (pronounced gan-a-NOK-way) Ontario, or “Gan” to the locals, is the host city for this event.  Gan is known as the Canadian Gateway to the Thousand Islands, a scenic area where the Great Lakes, and more specifically Lake Ontario, empties into the St Lawrence River, which connects the lakes to the Atlantic Ocean.

sitting outside my room

My Thoughts

Although this is closest trans event to where I live, the timing has always been difficult for me.  But this year, the planets aligned and I was able to attend.  And what a pleasant surprise it was!

What really set this one apart for me were the people .. the attendees.  Around 60 of us were in attendance including a relatively large number of significant others.  Friendly?  Yes!  This was, by far, the most approachable group I’ve encountered at a trans event.

Of those in attendance, a couple were friends, I had met a couple more and had chatted online with another two so it wasn’t like I was among strangers, even on the first day.

The town is just starting it’s tourist season so it was pretty quiet.  I sensed almost everyone we encountered were locals, and they were quite welcoming.  A couple of the girls mentioned hearing comments they didn’t exactly appreciate but none were humiliating or confrontational.

The Ramada Provincial Inn was quaint.  Motor Inn style.  Park outside the room; enter the room directly from outside.  The rooms were on the small side of average size but were comfortable and clean.  Not exactly SCC-luxurious outside restaurant at the hotel but they were fine.  The room rate was very good and a full breakfast was included.  Grouping of fifteen or twenty attached rooms were scattered around the rather large property so depending where your room was, the walk to the restaurant or bar  could be substantial, especially in heels and bad weather, but it certainly was not a problem for this girl.

The weather this year included mostly sunny, mild days with rain showers late in the afternoon or evening.

I arrived the day before the event started, got checked in, unpacked and met a small group of girls in the lobby area.  We all went to dinner at an Italian restaurant in town called Riva.    Although dinners were included in with the conference registration, Tuesday night’s dinner at Riva was not but it was fabulous!  In my opinion, the nicest dinner I had all week.  Classy, a wonderful menu with fabulous food and top notch service (although a gentleman a few tables from us suffered some type of medical emergency during dinner and required EMT’s and transport to the hospital.  Hope he’s okay!)

The other (included) dinners were good too, but the service wasn’t exactly impressive at either the Glen House or Ivy Lea Club.

The 1000 Islands boat tour was awesome.  Dinner on the boat while traveling around a gorgeous part of Canada was great fun andtook up most of a sunny and warm afternoon.  Just perfect!

Although I didn’t attend, the free makeup sessions in the cosmetic department at Shoppers Drug Mart were well received.   And the fashion show girls had a great time selecting clothes and getting fitted at Sear in Kingston ON.

Side note about the fashion show;  the organizers like to get first time attendees to participate in the fashion show.  I was to be one of the eight but while talking with a girl I had just met, I sensed that, although she was on standby (the 9th girl in an 8 girl show), she seemed more keen than me to get involved.  So I spoke to Amanda, the organizer, and opted out so the other girl could jump in.  And it worked fantastically well.  She did a great job and had a lot of fun.

Besides .. the event I really wanted to participate in was the Best Legs Contest.  And guess what?  I won!  Quite an honor considering thegetting the Best Legs trophy from Samantha other leggy entrants but my leather short shorts, Wolford hosiery and Santana stilettos surely helped.  I get to keep the trophy at home until next year’s even when I’ll get my name engraved on it for posterity.

The other conference event that always gets a lot of attention is the evening at the Legion.  Royal Canadian Legion Branch 92 puts on a big dinner and dancing evening for us every year.   It’s our best opportunity to mingle with the locals.  Dinner was good and so was the band but honestly, I can’t really get into an evening of dancing and drinking.  And having to drive back to the hotel afterwards adds another challenge.

Finally, the Gala.  The big dinner dance on the final night.  This one was held at the host hotel and is was wonderful!  Food was great and a wonderful slide show during dinner reminded us of the fun we had all week.  And I was able to have a whole lot of adult beverages but again, didn’t dance much.    And, of course, dance music makes it difficult to chat (Listen to me?  Do I sound like an old lady?  haha!)

But honestly, playing footsy under the table in a dark piano bar is more my speed these days.  Did enough dancing when I was young and even survived the disco years so Iwith my friend Pauline‘m just not interested in that anymore.

To this event, I wore my long black skirt that’s “slit up to here”; a sheer black turtleneck under a purple satin bolero jacket  and black sheer to waist pantyhose from Stockingirl.com.  I know .. stockings and a garter belt are my usual legware but there would have been no way to hide my stocking tops with the rather extreme slit skirt and it just didn’t seem like the slutty look was right for this one.

In Summary

GSF is a fun event!  Relatively inexpensive; extremely friendly people, a nice laid back feel, a good motel and held in a beautiful little town.  I came away from this event with more new friends than I ever have at any event in the past.  Did I mention friendly people?

early arrivals group photo after the boat rideYes, if transportation between events was provided I could have hit the wine a little harder.  Yes, registration was a little confusing.  And yes, me and a small handful of others would have preferred a little less dancing but, all in all, this event is a great time.  Although attendance growth is usually a sign of success, I hope this one continues forever and never grows.  This size was just perfect.

My spouse accompanied me to this event and she had a wonderful time too!  So if you’re thinking of attending, and have a supportive spouse, please bring her or him along.

A Special Thank You

It appears that circumstances this year left a single girl with the responsibility of organizing and planning the entire show.  Amanda Ryan, your selflessness and organizational skills were greatly appreciated.   Not only did you do so much yourself, you were totally sweet during the whole event.  I’ve never come away from an event in the past where I felt like I needed to hug an organizer (and never let go) but I did this time.  You’re a special lady and I hope you have the energy to continue to do this forever.

And to my non-Canadian friends, come to Canada!  You’ll have a great time.