I started this article on Monday, the day after returning from the 14th annual Keystone Conference in Harrisburg, PA. It was my second time attending. Yes, I’m exhausted and my feet still hurt, but I felt the need to put some thoughts on paper while the glow from being surrounded by hundreds of trans ladies for five days was still fresh.

I want to do is to thank TransCentralPA, and the other local trans groups and individual volunteers who worked hard all year so the rest of us could enjoy ourselves. Take a minute to think about all the coordination needed in dealing with scheduling the many presenters, dealing with the hotel on guest and conference rooms, planning the numerous activities, dealing with restaurants and the associated transportation, communicating with the public, coordinating the printing and collating of guest badges, meal tickets, welcome packets, along with the production of the 92-page conference guidebook, and you get an inkling of what goes on behind the scene.

It’s a well-deserved thank you to all involved. I felt as if the total attendance was down somewhat from last year when 750 people attended. I heard one unofficial comment that put the number around 700. It was still a good-sized crowd and a good time was had by all. The city of Harrisburg is a nice location for the event. Attendees can visit the Susquehanna Art Museum, the National Civil War Museum, or the State Capitol building for tours. The Hilton’s downtown location is convenient because there are restaurants, drug stores, and nail salons within easy walking distance. The Hilton is a very good venue for the conference.

I arrived in Harrisburg late on Tuesday and spent Wednesday settling in, meeting friends, and deciding what seminars to attend during the week. At Thursday’s lunch, I met a lady named Andrea and found out she lives a half mile from where I grew up. We had a nice chat about my old neighborhood. That evening it was off to Rubicon for dinner, which was good. But after returning to the hotel, I discovered my gold bracelet was missing. This was very upsetting because the bracelet belonged to my late wife and had significant sentimental value. Every time I leave the house, I wear at least one piece of her jewelry as a way of remembering her. I got a hold of Vanity Club sisters DeeDee Allen and Coleen O’Donnell who put me in touch with our bus driver. He searched the bus but no bracelet. I then called Rubicon and the waitress who answered just happened to be holding it in her hand after finding it! She was just about to leave for home but volunteered to drive by the Hilton and return it to me. After explaining how important the bracelet was to me, I gave her a well-deserved hug. A very happy ending and a super nice gesture on her part.

En Femme Style

Friday was a special day! At Keystone, the previous year, I was invited to dinner offsite one night where 25 of us were sitting at a long table. I was sitting with a group of ladies who all happened to be Vanity Club (VC) members. We had a nice time, and I met several other club members over the next few days. I came away from the conference impressed by how welcoming, open, and friendly everyone was after meeting me. I soon contacted Jan, a VC member I knew, who sponsored me for membership. I was voted in last summer. Friday was special because at the Vanity Club dinner in the hotel, there was a welcoming ceremony for new members. Jan could not attend Keystone this year so Katie O’Malley, the club’s President, officially welcomed me into the club by presenting me with my VC pin and a red rose.

This was the highlight moment of the conference for me. The Vanity Club had a little over 50 members attend this year and I had a chance to meet many new members in addition to those I met last year. I consider myself very fortunate because, besides VC members, I have many friends and acquaintances in attendance at Keystone through my membership in both the CrossDressers International (CDI) organization which had 25 members attend, and the Crossdresser Heaven (CDH) website, which had close to 50 members attend. Every time I turned around, I ran into someone I knew, which made being at the conference an extra special experience.

And speaking of CDI, two of our members came to the rescue when the Keystone organizers ran into a problem with Saturday night’s entertainment. Originally, a duo consisting of a standup bass player and a piano player were going to perform at the pre-Gala cocktail hour. The piano player couldn’t make it due to an illness. Keystone contacted two CDI members who are musicians, Maria (piano, vocals) and Burnice (accordion) who stepped in and rehearsed for three days with Nikita, the original bass player, and they came up with 15 songs to play at the cocktail hour. The set included a mix of jazz, rock, and some songs written by Maria and was well received by the crowd. Maria is a prolific songwriter and has recently completed writing a musical about her emergence and life as a trans woman.

The Saturday night Gala was a lot of fun. The guest speaker was Gabbi Tuft, a former WWE wrestling star who came out publicly as trans in 2021. She is now a fitness coach, keynote speaker, and an advocate for women’s rights, both transgender and genetic. I urge you to Google Gabbi and check out the before and after photos, it was a stunning transition.

EnFemme

A nice moment occurred after dinner at the Gala when I had the opportunity to introduce my good friend Allison Davis, CrossDressers International’s President to my new friend, Kathleen O’Malley, the Vanity Club’s recently elected President. In the accompanying photo, Katie is on the left and Allison is on the right.

A different band entertained after dinner this year; in my opinion, they were much better than last year’s band. After a lot of dancing, it was down to the bar to socialize and to finish out a wonderful evening. Eventually, it was time to say goodbye to all the friends and acquaintances that may not be seen for another year. I urge anyone sitting on the fence about attending a large gathering such as Keystone to please give it a try. Your makeup skills may not be perfect, you may not have the most glamorous wardrobe, and you may have never been out in public, but it does not matter. You will find everyone welcoming and friendly no matter what stage you are at in your journey. You are guaranteed to make new connections with others that will only enhance your dressing experience. Try and attend at least once. If you find it isn’t right for you, that’s fine; just cross it off your bucket list and stay within your own personal comfort zone.

In closing, I want to share a nice moment that unfolded late Saturday night as I headed to my room. As I got off the elevator another sister who I did not know got off the adjacent elevator at the same time. As she passed me she said “hello” and headed off in the opposite direction down the hallway. As I walked away I softly called out “Goodbye.” She in turn then softly called out “Hello, hello, you say hello …..” (paraphrasing the line from the Beatles song “Hello, Goodbye”) and I responded with “And I say goodbye.” It was a wonderful way to end my time at Keystone, and it’s also an appropriate way to end my article. So to all of you, I say goodbye!

EnFemme

 

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Marg Produe
Lady
Trusted Member
1 month ago

Thanks Fiona for this very nice article.  You certainly captured the spirit and flavor of Keystone and I really enjoyed the times that I ran into you and we had a little chat.  I’m so glad that you found the bracelet.  I also have a few precious things from my wife.  Hope to see you again next year.          Hugs,  Marg

Angela Booth
Member
Trusted Member
1 month ago

Your narrative encapsulated a wonderful event. My mind boggles at the amount of girls that attended as there is nothing here in the U.K.on that scale, but then everything is bigger in America. Thank you for sharing your lovely time there.

Marianne
Ambassador
Active Member
18 days ago
Reply to  Angela Booth

Having visited the Keystone conference in 2024, I think I can honestly say there is nothing on that scale anywhere in Europe. The only similar event I have heard of is Sparkles in Manchester UK.

Leonara
Ambassador
Trusted Member
1 month ago

Thank you Fiona, for your detailed account of your experience at Keystone 2024 convinced me to mark my calendar for Keystone 2025 Due to unforeseen personal circumstances I was not able to attend this year…your article certainly outline the “positives “ to attend and I am sure convinced anyone on the fence to place on their bucket list. Thank you again for taking the time to write the article.
warmest regards, Leonara

Gisela Claudine
Duchess
Active Member
1 month ago

Thank you for your wonderful article, Fiona. I enjoyed it and it took me by the hand through the recent past. It is fair to recognize that the organizers do a wonderful job so that one feels at home and can enjoy all the activities one can, in addition to all the benefits of the Conference. It is nice to have a helping and guiding hand, especially for inexperienced ladies like me. Glad you got the bracelet back!I second your advice that going to the Conference is essential. For me it has been a good decision. Just being there; nothing… Read more »

Maija
Lady
Member
26 days ago

Loved the article!

Harriette
Lady
Active Member
17 days ago

@Fiona Black I Googled the CrossDressers International (CDI) organization, but found a whole bunch of unrelated sites. There is an archive of newsletters, I guess, but I never found their site.

Serena Satin
Serena Satin
14 days ago

So lovely, thank you

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