My experience at the 2022 Keystone Conference (March 23-26, officially) in Harrisburg, PA was the single-most defining period of my life, other than my relationship with Jesus Christ, my marriage, and the birth and marriage of our daughter. This was a first for me in several ways: first overland trip en femme, first hotel stay en femme, first TG/CD conference, first time with no guy clothes as a “safety net”, first time presenting a workshop related to my faith and the LGBTQ community, and first time interacting with more than a dozen fellow trans people before.
I started preparing at the end of the 2021, getting new outfits, shoes, and jewelry. The time spent on these tasks kept me from thinking about it too much and talking myself out of going. My choice of gown arrived, and I was disappointed to find it looked too small to even bother trying on. I decided to add it to several other items I was bringing to donate at the consignment shop. I ordered two other possibilities, but they didn’t look quite as well as the original one. Oh well, I wasn’t going there to impress anyone; I was going to learn about what it means to be trans and how to manage my transition in a way that will be best for me.
I was relieved to find my Trans Theology workshop which I’d agreed to help Marcie Rose with was not until Friday morning at 9 AM. So I signed up to volunteer putting all the attendees’ packets together from 1 to 3:30 Tuesday afternoon. Tuesday morning, I was up early and got ready in a relaxed fashion. I dressed for travel – a cute top, sweater shrug, jeans, and pull-on sneakers. Of course full makeup including false eyelashes. It’s about a 4-hour drive to Harrisburg and traffic was light. I had a very pleasant drive but had to use the ladies’ room at a service plaza about 2-1/2 hours along. Again, I was fortunate the building wasn’t busy. There was a lady just finishing up drying her hands as I walked in. I smiled and went into a stall to do what I had to do. As I was leaving after I’d also washed my hands and fixed my hair, two or three women came in together and I just kind of looked down as I went around the partition to leave. No reactions, no problems.
As I arrived at the hotel around noon, I started to get butterflies. I should have been terrified and not gotten out of the car, but I was excited to see everyone and immerse myself in femininity for the next several days. The staff at registration was super sweet and they had a room available early! So, I moved my stuff in before the volunteer work at 1 PM. I went to the meeting room and joined about a dozen others collating the various flyers, business cards, and the program brochure that went into a manila envelope. As these were being assembled, some of us took the ID badges and individual meal coupons and added these. Finally, we took each packet and arranged them alphabetically. It was a very fun environment, and I even spotted my own packet near the end and set it aside.
Wednesday was full, with workshops and a trip to the nail salon. I got an email from Marcie, my Friday co-presenter, that they had positive COVID at home and they couldn’t come. Now I was really beginning to feel a bit nervous! But the workshops are not a formal kind of event. It was all very laid back and casual. I met another CDH member at dinner who I wanted to see. Roberta Broussard is from Baton Rouge. My wife grew up west of there and is an LSU grad. We had a wonderful meal, but when it was time to settle the bills, Roberta was shocked to find her wallet with all her cash and credit cards missing! I paid for her dinner, we asked around, checked the bus where we sat, but came up empty. When we got back to the hotel, she was relieved to find the front desk had it. We told them what happened, and the clerks were like “aww that’s so sweet” for my paying. But that’s just how we roll, right?
Thursday was more workshop time; I tried to link up with some others I knew for lunch but didn’t locate them. I found a seat next to a nice-looking woman who I took to be an attendee. I saw her badge and realized it was Amanda Jette Knox, the Saturday lunch keynote speaker! We had a great time talking about our respective marriages and families. I hadn’t read her book nor was familiar with her story. I’m glad I wasn’t – I probably would have been too intimidated to chat! She was kind enough to share a selfie (which is on this article banner). More on Amanda later.
I went to one workshop that afternoon, then back to my room to prep for my workshop Friday morning. Dinner was at the Rubicon in downtown Harrisburg. A very nice place I’d like to go back to sometime. Great atmosphere and great conversation. Just what I needed! When I got back to the hotel, I texted my daughter in Maryland. I asked if we could do brunch on Sunday before I drove home on Sunday. Not only did she want to, but she also agreed to come all the way up to Harrisburg! She knew I didn’t have “dad clothes” and it wouldn’t matter a bit.
Friday morning – my big day! I got dressed early and took my stuff down to set up for the workshop. I wore a modest dress, white with a black flower print on the bottom and solid black top half, knee length and appropriate. We had about 15 people attend and I had them pull the chairs in closer for intimacy. At least two of the attendees knew as much about the subject of trans people being cast out by the conservative Christians with the “clobber passages” many of us know by heart. It was a great meeting. The next session was about finding inner calm through meditation and visualization – perfect!
Later in the day, I was going back to my room, a man came out of his room, and we almost bumped into one another. As I stopped, he said how pretty I was, and could he buy me a drink sometime? I continued walking and pivoted around playfully saying I was very flattered, but my wife might not appreciate it much! Another first – being hit on by a guy in my hotel hallway!
I attended one more workshop that afternoon, and thought I’d try on my first-choice gown before I donated it. It had a lot more stretch than I thought and it fit! Later, I went to dinner at Carley’s Restaurant. This was my favorite spot of the week. Great food, wonderful service, and the best Manhattans in the state, I’m told. I got to chat a lot with Melanie Elizabeth (author of “24 Hours of Keystone, a First-Timers Experience” here on CDH).
Saturday was the final workshop day, then lunch where Amanda Knox spoke. She had a tough time growing up (to put it mildly) and was bullied severely. She eventually met her future husband, had three kids, and was on the way to a “normal” family life. Within the space of two years, her 11-year-old and then her spouse came out as trans. Her book “Love Lives Here” tells how they coped with two transwomen in one family. It’s inspiring, heart-rending, and one of the best books I’ve ever read! I was fortunate to get a signed copy after her talk. I think I went to one last workshop and then upstairs to rest and dress for the Gala dinner!
I never saw so much sparkle and sequins with nary a female voice in my life! Everyone was dressed to the nines. I signed up for a “studio” photoshoot by Cassandra Storm after dinner and took some of my own photos while waiting for the doors to open. I was looking forward to finally eating with Carole, Cyn, and the others, but there weren’t enough seats so I found one at another table nearby. By chance, I sat next to Savannah Hauk and we had a nice chat during the dinner. I went to my photoshoot afterwards and hung around the lobby for a bit. Then Cinderella got back into her carriage (well, elevator) and left the ball.
Sunday was bright and windy. I packed my car and got checked out in time to relax in the hotel lobby for a bit before my daughter arrived. She’d seen a few pictures of me but hadn’t met Brielle face-to-face yet. She was more nervous than I – afraid to call me “Dad” or the wrong pronoun. I told her how loose the week had been and that all the restaurants nearby were well-used to TGs and CDs. We had a lovely early lunch and talked for a couple of hours, but soon, it was time for me to point my car West and head home. I drove straight through and pulled into our garage as quietly as I’d left.
I can’t wait for the next time!
Thank you for taking the time to read my article! Now please feel free to either leave a response to my article or one or more of the three questions I’ve posed to you below:
1. Do you think you would want to go to a major event like Keystone? What are the things that would stop you?
2. If you have been or are planning to go to a major event, do you have the support of your SO? Have/will they go with you?
3. Do you have opportunities to go out in public in girl mode and if so, where do you usually go and what do you usually like to wear?
More Articles by Brielle
- My New Name
- Pittsburgh Trans Pride Swim Party
- I Found Myself at 66 Years of Age
- Coming Out to My Daughter as Trans
- First Time Out in Public!