This was the first Esprit conference in three years-after Covid derailed the 2020 and 2021 events. Sadly, we lost some folks from the past years, and we treasure their memories. And due to lingering uncertainty and some travel issues for some folks, attendance this year was a tad on the lower side than in recent years. Yet still, as with every year, a certain excitement built as the calendar flipped to May.
There are two main definitions of magic: first is “the use of means (such as charms or spells) believed to have supernatural power over natural forces;” secondly, “an extraordinary power or influence seemingly from a supernatural force-something that seems to cast a spell: ENCHANTMENT.” All of that applies to Esprit.
The road winds through the valleys and hills on the way to the Olympic Peninsula where the smell of the water and the sounds of the sea begin to cast their spell. As we pass Sequim, we know we are getting close… then the Red Lion appears, our home for the next eight glorious days and nights. As we share drinks at the welcome cocktail reception, old friends and new attendees greet each other. (Some catching up after three years apart.)-but also meeting and welcoming new folks. This is one of the best aspects of Esprit-from the first night, newcomers are treated the same as folks who’ve attended for 10, 20, or more years. I wrote about that in my 2018 Esprit article that coming here is truly “coming home!”
I won’t go into detail about all the numerous events of the week that one can partake in. There is a partial list: the Pool tournament at the Elks, Ascot Races, Pickleball, Golf, Croquet, dancing (both at the Red Lion and in town), the fashion show, the talent show, graduation and the gala, and finally the Sunday farewell brunch. We enjoy the classes, the vendors, the clothing exchange, and- uniquely a genuine engagement with the town and people of Port Angeles. This small town with a huge heart has welcomed Esprit for over thirty years. While other conferences may be larger in attendance, and often less remote, none seem to have quite the magic and engagement with the community that Esprit and Port Angeles do. Here, the Townsfolk can and do attend several of the events, and in our interactions, we serve as ambassadors from our community to the world at large. We are as unique and extraordinary, or as ordinary as any other group of 100 or so folks. To me, that is the essence of what we have to show to the world. Whether full or part-time crossdressers, in midst of or having completed transitioning, we are first and foremost “people”… as worthy of respect and courtesy as anyone else.
I did want to go into a bit more detail on Friday night’s talent show. So many of our attendees, newcomers, and veterans alike are extremely talented. Margo drafted me into her Trans-Jeopardy skit. Though terrified, I had a blast doing it. We all made mistakes-flubbing lines, missing cues, and misplacing props, but it all seemed to add to the audience’s enjoyment. There was singing, and dancing, some told jokes, and others played instruments. It was, however, newcomer, Lyria (pardon me if I misspelled her name), who stole the show. I have performed in choirs and ensembles before, but rarely do you see a performer capture the audience quite the way she did. Singing a song she wrote herself, ACAPELLA, her voice carried a mournful tune reminiscent of an old Irish folk ballad.. the audience was so dead silent that you could have heard a pin drop, so intensive was the spell she wove.
The most amazing thing to me was when the sound technician, who took ill mere minutes before dinner started, with the show to follow, there was no panic. A bit of frantic shuffling until others stepped in to help the show go on. Though not without a hitch here and there, there were few in the audience who knew. Similarly, there were a few glitches as the dancing went on into the night, but a great time was had by all. (If you haven’t heard the story of mine and Margo’s late night/early am adventure, ask one of us the next time you see us. LOL)
As always, one of the most awesome parts of the week was not an “official” part of the conference, but has become a vital part of the shared experience. I speak of course of “Club 130,” which originally started as an impromptu dance party but morphed into so much more. Even though in recent years it has moved into Room 148, it has retained the atmosphere it began with a dozen or so years ago. Hosted by the irrepressible, irascible, incredible Tiessa (with the help of magic elves), it epitomizes the reason the conferences exist, at least it does for me. Rather than just one large circle of folks talking one person at a time, it is a host of multiple intimate gatherings of 2-5 folks (totaling as few as 5-8 folks at times but as many as 25-35 people in the room at others), supporting each other, talking through serious and not-so-serious issues, and helping each person in finding their own unique path. It isn’t the final destination; it’s the journey itself that is the most important! Becoming whomever we are each truly meant to be.
As all enchanted stories must do, the conference came to its end. Ginger, as always, encapsulated the week in her inimitable way during Sunday’s farewell brunch. But the Magic… oh, no, it doesn’t end! It lives on within each of us. It sustains us through the weeks and months to come until we all gather together again in 2023. Though we may be dozens, hundreds, even thousands of miles apart in the physical world, we are together in spirit. I cherish each and every one of the friends I have made at the four Esprits I have attended. I’m sure many others feel the same. The slightly lower attendance this year allowed me the opportunity to get to know more folks and to better deepen those friendships. I’ll end this article as I do many, with a poem.
The sights, the sounds, the smells-they each called out to me by name
Reminding me once more of all the reasons that I came.
The staff of the Red Lion were as friendly as can be
With smiles they bid us welcome and were clearly glad to see
The ladies who’ve been coming here for over thirty years
And showed the new attendees that there was no need to fear.
Acquaintances both new and old are welcome in this place
And each of us are treated well with courtesy and grace.
Though there are many things to do, some new and some quite old,
The most important things would take the whole week to unfold.
Activities are great, but they are just the very start-
But all the conversations…THAT’S the most important part.
We learn about each other and about ourselves as well-
And often someone here might be the first one that you tell
The secrets you have ne’er revealed to any other soul-
And in that telling something may begin to fill that hole
That we have felt inside without admitting to our self.
The fears that once controlled us can be put upon a shelf,
And we can start to live our lives the way they’re meant to be.
The prison doors fly open and the world begins to see
The great and wondrous creature that we long had learned to hide
For fear of what the world would think of what we’d held inside.
But now our wings are spreading-we no longer have to crawl.
The single solitary voice is now a clarion call.
We stand as one-but still retain our own identity
Time to throw our shackles off and say “Hey world-I’m free!”
The joy we feel as we embark on new and wondrous trips
Is clear as each excited word escapes our very lips.
So share the news-invite more folks to come in ‘23
To truly feel the magic that’s embodied as Esprit.
My hope is that my words, simple as they are, might help someone else reach for their dreams. And that I can do for others as much as my sisters at Esprit, Keystone, Diva Las Vegas, Southern Comfort, and Crossdresser Heaven have done for me.
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