We just arrived home yesterday fro the Southern Comfort Conference, the largest transgender conference in the United States. It was fantastic to be surrounded by so many loving and wonderful people and to be able to share a bit of our lives and experiences with one another.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about this conference were the experiences which my spouse, Joanne had while there. The fact alone that my spouse joined me for this conference is almost too staggering for words. There were only a very few - and I mean less than a handful - of spouses attending with their partners at this conference. In fact, the majority of the transgender population there was either divorced or in the process of separation. It is the rare person who can come to understand the true nature of what lies beneath the shell of the body they occupy and to see the true person beneath!
On our first afternoon at the conference, we were invited to lunch with Chloe and Lana at a local Italian Restaurant adjacent to the large shopping mall across the street. It was both a privilege to be able to have some time to chat with them both as much as it was an honor to be able to have my spouse join me and to be so comfortable out with me as well! It was following lunch and while walking back across the parking lot to our hotel that Joanne mentioned how much her feet were killing her from her new shoes. I suggested that I could take a run into the mall with her and find a drugstore for some bandages. It was wonderful how confident she felt without any support structure around her as we cruised back in via a Macy's and out into the mainstream mall.
We never did find that drugstore for as we sauntered down the main promenade, we chanced upon a Sephora. Both Joanne and I are like little children in playschool when we see a makeup store and of course whatever it was we may have had in our mental agenda was immediately wiped clean as we entered.
Joanne suggested I try getting a makeover and of course I didn't need to be asked twice. It was liberating to be treated with the courtesy as any other woman would by both the makeup artist working on me as by the sales associates. It is my stance that even if I'm not passing as a natal woman with 100 percent assuredness, that at least I should be able to garner the respect as one so long as I present respectably.
I had one other experience in a Lush Store which was quite interesting of its own accord. As I entered the store, a group of the sales associates were taking advantage of their moment without any customers to engage in some dance moves with each other. As we entered, one of the girls dancing asked if either of us would enjoy stepping in! It was an honor to accept and I spent the next few moments between the bath soap aisle and the face scrubs learning a few new dance moves with one of the associates!
She and the others seemed to be curious to learn more about what it means to be transgender and my spouse and I spent the better part of a half hour explaining and allowing them to ask questions. I cleared up quite a few mis-conceptions and we both learned a lot in the process. She learned what it really meant to be truly transgender, how it was not simply fetishistic for most of us and how it really was a manifestation of the true identity we held inside.
One of the girls who was most able to understand, equate, and to ask questions was also dealing with a situation where she had to cope with social variances in her own life. Her brother suffers from autism and she had learned first hand what society can be like when one is not able to conform to the rigorous social norms which seem to be demanded from each of us as human beings.
I think the biggest thing we all came away with from our experiences talking, sharing, listening and educating each other- was the wonderfully powerful feeling that we had, in some small way, made a positive difference. It was a difference which lead to greater understanding of who I am as a person and who we are as a community. It was the satisfaction of knowing that if one is proud to be seen as who they are and not seen as a threat, then we can create an environment that is conducive to allowing for greater levels of communication and of understanding at a grassroots level. We left the store with a lot more than a purchase on that day!