Be sure to read Cynthia’s adventures with the TSA in traveling to Esprit 2017!
After spending the night near the airport in Seattle, April and I arose at the crack of noon on Sunday. We drove the two plus hours from Seattle to Port Angeles and checked in to the conference and hotel. The room was nice and even had two sinks and mirrors so we would not have to take turns doing hair and makeup. Later that evening, we attended the welcome party for first time attendees, where we meet up with Darcy Bainsley, another long-time member of Crossdresser Heaven. (with whom we ended up spending a lot of time).
Monday was a relaxed day. April and I did some shopping around town. We also attended a few of the classes including a self-defense class where we learned how to avoid and defuse dangerous situations. Monday evening, the local Elks Lodge hosted a the pool tournament for conference attendees. I was a little nervous as this was Cyn’s first time playing pool outside of my house, but it went quite well. There were thirty-two participants and the tournament consisted of five single elimination rounds including the finals. After the first few rounds, my confidence grew and I breezed through the remaining rounds, winning the final match in just two innings! First prize was $70!
Tuesday was a long day which began with a ferry ride over to Victoria, British Columbia, Canada across the Strait of Juan De Fuca. This was Cyn’s first border crossing. The customs experience was uneventful; no questions were asked as customs agent compared my male mode passport with the somewhat more feminine visage standing before them! The only glitch was when I stepped onto the ferry. I realized that I had left my purse back in the departure lounge. After a brief quarter-mile out-of-breath run to get it, all was well. (Lesson # 1 – always remember not to forget the purse!!). We all rode in a horse-drawn carriage around Victoria before taking high tea at the stately Empress Hotel. While high tea was an interesting experience especially for one who neither drinks tea nor eats the tiny food creations served with it, I will not repeat that aspect of the Victoria trip. I ended up spending 86 dollars on a bottle of Coors Light beer! Returning to the hotel Tuesday night, we attended the “Ascot Races”. This involved dressing up in finest race attire and watching horse races on big screen televisions. These races were prerecorded events overdubbed with new names for the horses. We each started out with 4000 dollars to bet on eight races. The third place winner was CDH’s own April who received a lovely makeup brush set! CDH represented well in several events!!!
Wednesday saw more classes and a dinner trip out to the Lake Crescent Lodge about thirty minutes into the nearby Olympic National Park. We enjoyed beautiful scenery, great food, and delightful company. It was a great experience, and we also met Mysti (who we later discovered was yet another CDH member who had joined the site last Christmas season). On Thursday, I took the daytime hours to relax as the late nights and alcohol had began to catch up just a bit, (more on the late nights in just a little bit!). Thursday evening, April and I attended a renewing the vows ceremony between two conference attendees. Both looked lovely in their wedding gowns! Later that night, we went to a bar / club where the DJ was playing an 80s-theme dance party. Tentatively at first and later more confidently, I discovered that while male-mode me does not dance, Cyn loves to dance. And amazingly enough did not do an impression of Elaine from Seinfeld or Joey from Friends dancing! Two hours later, a tired, but happy Cyn, April, and Darcy returned to the hotel.
On Friday, there were more classes and seminars. I also was able to get a mani-pedi and makeover in the vendor area — both great experiences! By the way, Esprit also has a fabulous clothing exchange where you can pick up or drop off clothing and accessories for free! It reminded me of Cyn’s boutique in my home back in Virginia. LOL! Friday night, we returned to the Elks Lodge where the Talent Show was held. There were a variety of musical acts and even a unicycling juggler — these girls had quite a bit of talent! After the show, several of us went out to the same bar / club from Thursday, the “Metta Room”, where the transgender rock band, the Nasty Habits, played 80s covers to which to dance. These incredible vocalists and musicians played for about a hundred people on the dance floor! April, Darcy, and I stayed for all three sets and had the time of our lives. Saturday was another day of resting up for me before the gala dinner that night and an encore concert at the club again. I danced more on any one of those nights than I had in the first 52 years of my life. And I was was dressed in much hotter attire (three strapless dresses – white on Thursday, gold on Friday, and silver on Saturday) than I had ever danced in before too! I also had a late night visit to the hotel hot tub at 1:30 a.m. Saturday night! Sunday, April and I packed up and attended the farewell brunch. Later that day, we spent a few hours shopping in downtown Seattle before I checked into my red-eye flight back to the east coast late Sunday night.
Here are a few other odds and ends about Esprit. There are a few great programs that are run at the Esprit conference. One is the Big Sister / Little Sister program which pairs up new attendees with experienced hands who help the first-timers enjoy the experience and encourage them to leave their rooms to mingle and enjoy. The conference also has a “Kaffeeklatsch” at 9:00 a.m. every morning where first-timers can meet to talk about the previous day, etc. I went to the first one, but since I had been to SCC before and 9:00 am comes way too early for someone like me who is not a morning person, I skipped the rest of those. There is also an extensive program to help provide support for significant others who attend the conference. Significant others are also welcome to attend some of the classes as well. There are vendors for hair, makeup, nails, hair removal, and the aforementioned clothing exchange as well. Another great experience, while not an official part of the conference, was one of the most fun parts. It is called Club 130, and is hosted by a couple of the girls in their room. They open the door around 8 p.m. each night and keep it open until whenever, (often 4 or 5 a.m.), offering free alcohol and mixers. (Folks bring donations, restocking it each day). Club 130 is a place you can go and chat with as few as 2 – 3 or as many as 20 – 30 other girls on any subject, far and wide. Basically, think of the CDH chat room, but live and in person. I was there until it closed on five of the seven nights. It was one of the most meaningful and helpful parts of the entire experience.
Does this sound like fun? Can you see yourself going to an event like this? This particular conference has been going on for 27 years, and many have been attending for several years – some for all 27! The total cost for the conference registration varies depending on when you sign up (the closer to the event the higher it goes), but tops out at about 480 dollars for the week long session. The hotel and transportation costs will vary depending on length of stay, (the host hotel had full week, half week, and weekend only packages.), and method of transportation. For me, the entire cost was $440 for registration (which included lunch and dinner on Friday and Saturday, and brunch on Sunday), $450 for the cross-country flight, and spliting the hotel room cost with April for about $450. In total, Esprit 2017 cost me about 1500 dollars plus food and alcohol. That was comparable to last year’s SCC, except that I drove so the transportation cost was lower. Sharing rides or rooms saves money, and many conferences do have some need-based financial assistance that can help defray the cost. While these conferences do cost a bit, where else will you have the chance to be yourself without fear of ridicule or embarrassment? They are a great way to step out of the shadows, and let yourself shine! There are similar conferences around the country. I think the Keystone Conference in Pennsylvania has links on their website to a number of different events. I highly recommend the experience. I hope to see you at one of the conferences in the coming year!
Be sure to read Cynthia’s reflection on her experience and thoughts about how it has affected her life and future path.