I kept telling people Southern Comfort was not what I expected but I wasn't sure what I expected. A conversation with a friend this afternoon cleared up for me what I might have been expecting when she said, "thank goodness you were able to avoid all the drag queens and kings." In retrospect, I guess that is what I was expecting......people way over dressed with extreme dress prevailing. That was not what Southern Comfort was about. I kept telling Sarah the range of people I saw was what I saw when I had attended women's health conferences in the past. People with lots of different styles of dress. A few may have been a little exaggerated but that was definitely in the minority.
Sarah and I had the best time!! Some of the workshops we attended were Transgender Spiritual Traditions, Transgender and Spirituality, Writing Your Transgender Memoir, Telling Our Stories, Raising Our Southern Voices: Transgender Activism in a (Sometimes) Hostile Region. If you are really interested in what all the workshops are you can find them here and quite a few more.
We met well known transgender people: Donna Rose, a transgender activist and author; Jennifer Boylan, a transgender English professor who has written several books; Mara Keisling, the Executive Director for the National Center for Transgender Equality and Cole Thaler, a lawyer with Lambda Legal. We met a lot of transgender people who were not so well known but were just as wonderful! We exchanged lots of email addresses and hope to keep contact with a fabulous group of people.
The only thing that I attended that did not live up to my expectations was the Comfort Zone, a group for SOFFA (significant others, friends, family and allies) of MTF trangender women. I qualified for the group as a wife of a MTF. The group was predominately made up of wives of cross dressers with about 4 of us being partners or wives of transgender people. One of the wives had found out within the past year that her husband was transgender and had gone directly into transition. She was unhappy but it sounded like they didn't have the best relationship before transition. There were two other women and me who were really happy in our relationships. It appears we all left before the meeting was over. The next morning Sarah and met two young women who had not been eligible for the group since their partners were FTM. They were in happy relationships. We exchanged email address and may try to put something on the internet for happy partners and wives of trans people.
Another highlight was the workshop on community building presented by Lance Helms, regional director of PFLAG and Rev. Paul Turner, pastor of Gentle Spirit Church. I just know we will be seeing more of them. We are going to try to have Rev. Turner and his group meet our PFLAG group on his way to Spring Conference in Orlando and provide a meal for them. These two men are incredible and spend their lives fighting for social justice and building community.
We met a college professor from north Georgia who had brought four students to Southern Comfort. We sat with them at lunch on Saturday. One of the young men asked Sarah and I to tell our story. So we obliged them. At the end of our story, the young man said, "that is a beautiful story!" We exchanged emails with the student and the professor. Many thanks to the professor and the students. A few more people now have faces to go with their ideas of what transgender is.
We are soooooooo grateful for all the wonderful people we met, all the things we learned and for the whole weekend. Yeahhhhhhhhhhhh life!!