I wrote an earlier features about my experiences at Esprit 2017, which was more of a travelogue of the events at the conference. However, I also wanted to convey some thoughts about what my time at the conference helped me to learn about myself and the others who attended. Like the members at our own Crossdresser Heaven, the attendees of the conference are a diverse group. They range from folks going out in public dressed for the first time to those who have been coming here for many years, and include those who are only occasional crossdressers, those who present female nearly full time, and those who have are in the midst of transitioning to some extent. Each attendee brings her own expectations.
Having attended the Southern Comfort Conference last fall, I was a “newbie” to this particular conference (and indeed to the Pacific Northwest of the United States), but had some experience of letting the Cyn side of me have a fuller rein than has normally been the case. The first thing that I learned to appreciate was the value of having a friend who cares about you. This trip might not have happened for me had April, the Pacific Princess, not invited me to come visit and room with her at the conference. We had had many late night conversations about each of our circumstances, and that friendship only deepened over the week we spent at Esprit.
The area where the conference took place, Port Angeles, Washington, outside Seattle, was amazingly welcoming, and was not just tolerant of the conference goers, but was actually friendly. Throughout the region, attendees were greeted with smiles and compliments, and treated as the ladies as whom we were presenting. I cannot recall a single time during the entire trip when I noticed anyone pointing or smirking, much less making any negative comments. For those of us who live in areas which are not always as friendly toward those who are seen as different, it was a refreshing and relaxing respite from the need to be constantly on guard. Port Angeles, I believe, is the model for what will hopefully and eventually become the norm across the world as people appreciate us for who we are individually, and not as members of any particular group.
This lack of animus toward us enabled me to allow more of myself to be seen than I ever previously have. While in guy mode, I have always been terrified of going out to a club or bar and dancing, fearing ridicule and laughter at my attempts. Cyn, however, was able (after a few rounds of liquid encouragement ) not only to step onto the dance floor, but to stay out there the entire evening, and enjoy herself. I also am not usually one to open up quickly to new folks whom I have not previously met, but the “old hands” at the conference made me feel welcome from the moment April and I arrived and registered.
But of all the experiences I had, the best part for me was not officially even a part of the conference, but has been there for years, and has made a huge impact on many people. That was a place called Club 130, which was an open room graciously hosted by a group of folks who opened their hearts and doors to anyone who wanted to stop in and visit, talk, drink, and commune with other attendees of the conference. As a regular participant in the public chat room on CDH, I have always tried to keep the conversations from being strictly about what kind of “undies” people like and whether or not someone is dressed at that moment. Those are okay for conversation starters, but the purpose of the chat room is to be a place where we can mix and mingle, and conversations can range freely (minus religion and politics ) about relationships with friends and family, discovering who we truly are, and getting advice about fashion, makeup, etc. Basically, it provides the ability to have friends who understand from where you are coming, and with whom you can have more than trite or superficial conversations. Club 130 was a face-to-face version of the chat room. The number of people in the room at any given time varied from as few as three or four to as many as thirty. From opening each evening around 8 p.m. until closing down around 4 or 5 a,m., the conversation might be amongst all present, or they might be multiple small conversations between different groups of two to four people. And just as we hope to do in chat, it is that building of friendships and relationships that I think is the true benefit of these conferences.
After all the fun of the classes, the seminars, and the other events, ultimately it is people reaching out to other people that is the highlight of the conferences like Esprit. It is these relationships that will help us through the inevitable difficult times which we will face, and provide an avenue to share the joy at each small triumph as we learn to accept ourselves. I hope that did not sound too sappy, but it is the part that I will remember and treasure in my heart and that makes me want to return next year.