Monday, September 28, 2009

The Southern Comfort Conference 2009

Day 2 – Tuesday
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The following morning we got up at a decent hour, not too early and not too late, got properly dressed, and headed out for Atlanta! Shortly after we hit the road, I started getting text messages from my wife and my uncle warning me about severe flooding in the Atlanta area, but looking around us at all of the sunshine in Mississippi, it was kind of hard to get worked up about it.
About three and half hours into our little journey we realized that we might not have considered all of the complications in making a road trip in drag. At the risk of being a bit crude, we had to go the bathroom, and we weren’t entirely comfortable with any of our options. As the need grew more and more desperate over the next hour or so, we considered our options, and eventually reached the point where we just had to bite the bullet and stop at a rest area. As we approached the door of  the building with the facilities, we could see that there was an attendant sitting at the desk, and I heard Teree say something along the lines of “Oh shit”. More than a bit nervous myself at the possibility of being confronted by the attendant, I glanced back at Teree and told her to just keep walking, and we did! On what seemed like a damn long hike from the bathroom back to the car, Teree and I got a good laugh when we looked up the hill and saw two grounds keepers leaning on their tools and watching us the entire way.
In about six hours we approached the city of Atlanta on Interstate 20 while hearing dire news on the radio about flooding and closed roads and bridges. We thought there was a chance that things were being exaggerated though, as we had not seen anything other than sprinkles ourselves, but our luck ran out just before we reached the Chattahoochee river and we were forced off of interstate 20 due to the freeway being closed. As we exited the freeway, we discovered that there was not a single detour sign and absolutely nothing to help motorists that were shoved off of the interstate to find their way.  No worries though, because I had my GPS, and so we followed it’s instructions and headed North East on an alternate route. After about half an hour we approached the next bridge across the river and we found it to be closed as well. Once again, no signs, no police, and no suggested alternate routes for how to get to Atlanta. We had been following a commercial semi truck and thought that maybe being local, and with dispatchers and that sort of thing, he might know where he was going, and so we followed him when he headed south to the next bridge. Half an hour or so later we came to the next bridge toward Atlanta and found it closed as well. Unlike the other bridges, we got close enough to this bridge to actually see the water flowing over it. I looked at Teree and laughed that at least we knew they weren’t exaggerating or over reacting when they had closed the bridges. Having been to two bridges North of I20 that were closed, we decided to see if any of the bridges farther south might be open. Shortly we found ourselves stuck in a very long line of cars, and on the rare occasion that they moved at all, it was at maybe 5 MPH. After more than an hour stuck in this, we hear on the radio that the bridge we are headed for is also closed, as well as the next bridge farther south of it. Almost out of desperation, we headed back north east -  the very direction where we had come from.
Due to all of the roads in to Atlanta from the west being closed, we have now been going for five or six hours since our last visit to a bathroom and we were both getting pretty desperate. As a result of our decision to try and get as far north of Atlanta as we could in the hopes of finding an open bridge, we were driving through some fairly rural areas of Georgia and neither of us was pleased with any of our choices. Ultimately we came across a very large Target and were so desperate that we had little choice but to stop and enter it for the bathroom. As we entered the bathroom, we saw a woman standing nearby but I really thought nothing of it, but shortly after I entered the stall, I hear a woman enter and call out.
“Tomica, let’s go!” she called out, and then I hear a young lady calling back and telling her mother she would be right there. My heart just sank, because I felt so guilty. I have a little girl myself and even being educated about the transgendered, I am not at all sure how I would feel seeing a cross dresser enter the bathroom where my daughter might be. Clearly the woman calling for her daughter was the woman I had seen standing outside, and clearly she had very quickly realized that we were not women when we walked by. I had seriously considered not writing this in my blog, after all, I don’t want this to be the blog about going to the bathroom, but Teree and I talked about it and agreed that we owed it to anyone reading this to be honest about what had seemed like such a small complication when we left, but had turned into a significant problem for us.
Three and a half hours after we were forced off of I20 on the outskirts of Atlanta, we finally found an open route and bridge and approached the Crown Plaza – the current home of the Southern Comfort Conference.

Day 3 – Wednesday

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Myself and Teree Webster

We met up with a lot of people that we knew were going to be there, and a lot of people that we didn’t know. As always with a group of TG’s, there was a wide variety of people there – big, small, short, tall, lovely, plain, gorgeous, average, super model, and soccer moms.
The Female to Male transgendered folks there were really kind of a surprise. I wasn’t surprised that they existed, after all, I’ve been part of the TG world long enough that this didn’t come as a surprise. No, what surprised me was the quality and quantity of them. There were a LOT of transmen there, and they looked flawless. Most I would not have known were trans had they not been introduced to us that way.

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Myself and Teree Webster
Teree and I were standing down in the lobby socializing when an attractive woman approached us.
“We are going to lunch across the street – would you care to join us?”  I looked at her trying to figure out of she was a Genetic Girl (GG) or transgendered. Honestly, I think that’s a hell of a compliment considering how much experience I have with TG’s. She was with others that I knew were TG, but I still wasn’t sure about her, and thought she might be someone’s spouse. I looked at Teree who nodded, agreeing that it beat the hell outta going by ourselves, and so off we went. Well it turned out that the lady who had invited us was none other than Chloe Prince of Pink Essence, and we were joining their club get together. While waiting in the entrance area, I was looking at a tall and thin woman facing away from me, wishing like hell I had a figure like hers, when she turned to glance at me. It took me a split second to realize it was Nicole Meadows from Dallas Texas! We had met several years ago in restaurant in the Dallas area where I was honored to be there for her first time out. I was astounded in the difference in her appearance and in her confidence. When I first met her, she had been quite pretty, but very pensive and sort of timid. Here and now she was standing tall and proud, and was absolutely gorgeous in her confidence. We had a ball having lunch with the Pink Essence crowd as several of their members were just a riot.
After lunch, Teree and I walked through a bit of the mall so I could look for a birthday gift for my daughter who is turning six in a few days. My wife had told me that my daughter wanted a tutu, and so as silly as it sounds, here was a crossdresser walking through the mall looking for a Tutu that would fit a six year old. I didn’t find a tutu, but I did find a cute little pink skirt with ruffles from hell. The sales lady was grinning from ear to ear while we talked and was just sweet as heck. I noticed she was wearing some huge dangly ear rings and laughed while I warned her that she was going to get lots of compliments from people like me about them. On the way out of that store, I saw that Dillards was just a store or two down and talked Teree into going in so I could look at the shoes on sale. I have been looking for some brown sandals, not high heels, but just the standard kind of sandals that most girls and women wear these days, but I just haven’t found any that called out to me. Imagine my delight when I find a pair on the sales rack that are exactly what I have been looking for AND they are $100 shes on sale for $25! As soon as I paid for them, I sat back down to put them on and wear them back to the hotel when Teree walked up and looks at them.
“You actually like those?” she asked, with a tone that made it clear she thought they were ugly. I was instantly deflated and crushed that someone whose style I had admired thought these shoes were ugly, and so I looked up at her with hurt in my eyes. She started to laugh at me and then spoke.
“You are SO easy, it’s just no challenge at all!”  Having made it clear that she was picking on me, I wasn’t sure if I should laugh in relief or strike her. Knowing what she used to do for a living in the military, I wisely chose to laugh, but I haven’t forgotten that I owe her one, and one of these days I’m gonna collect on it.
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Teree Webster, Dita, Janie, myself

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MJ, Janie, Tracy

Along with so many other people, we hooked up with Becki and her wife and sat in the bar laughing until very late in the night and morning. Unfortunatly, they Becki was drab and asked me not to post those pics. Before the week was out, this couple had become well known as the people to hang out with if you wanted to laugh and have fun. I also met someone new to me - Janie (Shown above in the white top). A real cute person, and I'm speaking of more than just her looks. She was just a real sweetheart to sit and chat with.
Day 4 – Thursday
Having been up so late the night before, we didn’t really get moving until about lunch time, so kind of dragging my tail behind me, Teree and I headed down stairs where we cruised the venders for a bit and then went to our first SCC lunch. Would you believe that I forgot to take a single pic of my own outfit for that lunch? Shocking I tell ya', just shocking!

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Teree Webster

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Tracy Shapes

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After lunch I had to audition for the talent show and so grabbed my guitar while the others took off. Funny, I love to play and sing, but doing it from a stage in front of people just scares the hell outta me. I guess I looked as scared as I felt because people kept coming up to me and telling me that they had seen my audition videos, and that I looked and sounded great, and so shouldn’t worry about anything. Despite this, and despite there being only the bus boys and folks running the sound equipment there, my hands were shaking so bad I could hardly play the guitar. I managed to make it through the song and was assured that I would be welcome at the talent show, and so I headed out the door – hands still shaking and with my body and face covered in perspiration. Once again I cruised the vendors who were more or less adjacent to the ball room, and when I was done and walking back through the bal room area I noticed two or three musicians sort of sitting there and jamming, so I got my guitar and joined them. We sat there for a few hours taking turns, making some music, making some noise, and just thoroughly enjoying ourselves.

That night they were having Karaoke downstairs in the hotel. As y’all probably know by now, I am a nerd and enjoy karaoke, so down stairs I went. When we first got there, it was almost empty, but soon the place was packed and everyone was having ball. Some people were fantastic, some were horrible, but all of us had a great time. Once again Teree and I spent the evening in the company of Becki and her wife, laughing the majority of the night, and once gain we drank far more, and stayed up far later, than we should have.

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Becki, Myself, Teree

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At last, Becki and I called it a night and headed out of the hotel bar. I can’t play one, but I’ve always loved pianos and recalled that in the ball room was a grand piano. Figuring the ball room would be empty at 230AM, I told Becki I was gonna try and sneak is there and play around with it. Apparently having nothing better to do at that 230AM, Becki decided to go with me. Hardly a surprise given the many thousands of dollars in sound equipment in the room, but we found all of the doors to the ball room locked and secured, and after checking every single door, I threw up my hands.
“Well damn! So much for that idea!” I said, clearly disappointed. Becki took one look at me and started to laugh.
“Oh no, we aren’t giving up that easy!” she said, and then she started walking to the service areas behind the ball room. As with the doors in the front, we found all of these doors secure as well. Then I see Becki get this evil looking smile on her face.
“Watch this.” She says, and strides up to a gentleman who is mopping the floor.
“Excuse me,” she said to him, just exuding confidence and authority, “We need to get into the ballroom for a moment. Would you mind opening it up for us?”   I swear the man didn’t hesitate even half a second, he just put the mop down and immediately unlocked the door for us. We walked in and as the door closed behind us, I almost fell down I was laughing so hard. So 3AM or there about, and Becki and Kimberly Huddle the red neck, are sitting in a posh and expensive hotel ball room playing a grand piano. (THANK YOU BECKI!)
Day 5 – Friday
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Me with new hair

I had been considering getting a new wig, thinking that as often as I have been wearing mine while traveling, it was just a question of time before it gets worn out. Once again, I headed for the venders area, but this time with a plan. The same lady I had bought my last long wig from was there again, and having been delighted with that purchase, I returned to her. She showed me a few options, and I found one that I think may work for me and that I can afford. She had some that I liked better, but at $450 they were WAY out of the question for my bank account. At last, I chose one and headed upstairs with it. Oddly enough, as soon as I got it upstairs I decided I didn’t like it – damn it. I’m hoping it was just nerves and that once I start playing with it I will change my mind.

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Believe it or not, this is Becki! lol

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Teree Webster

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Myself - would you believe this dress was almost an after thought?

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After dinner they called for everyone in the talent show to meet in a conference room, and so I excused myself and headed upstairs where I grabbed my guitar and headed for the specified rom. When I got there, I found one person there and warming up. She looked up at me, clearly a little startled and embarrassed at being caught.
“Oh hell, they’re gone already?” I asked her, a bit out of breath from my dash after the guitar. She pointed to the door they went through, but didn’t know where they had gone from there, so I frantically started dashing down the hallways and looking through doors, but couldn’t find anyone. I was actually starting to get upset, because I had gone through quite a bit of effort to be part of the talent show, and now I was gonna miss it because I hadn’t brought my guitar to dinner with me. Yeah I know that was silly now that I sit here writing about it, but at the time I was kind of upset. Anyway, I found someone that had a clue, they pointed me to the right place, and I joined the lineup. First I was told I was going to be fifth up, and then I was told second, then I was told third. Fortunately for me, they called me up second, getting me up there before I had the chance to sit there and get worked up and nervous. Still, I managed to get so nervous that I screwed up the lyrics to “Who’ll Stop the Rain” and wound up more or less singing the same verse twice. Still, singing the same verse twice isn’t as bad as yelling “Shit!” and stopping. . .   I stuck around for the rest of the show to support the others, and Becki and Teree both stayed with me. At one point, someone got up and played the piano and she was just fantastic. I glanced at Becki and leaned over and whispered in her ear.
“You know, we should have un-tuned that piano when we had the chance last night!” I said with a wink. The acts that really impressed me were the piano player, a dancer that did kind of an exotic dance routine, and woman that did a Marilyn Monroe routine of “Diamonds are Girls Best Friend”. The piano player was a pro – clearly very, very proficient, and I as just filled with envy. I’ve always dreamed of playing a piano like that – one of my favorite fantasies.
The dancer I sort of admired for several reasons. First, she was built like a brick . . . well, you know what I mean. Next, she could do things with her body that my own body hasn’t been capable of since I was a month old. Bones would have to be broken for me to try and do things she did. Third, she had a hell of a lot of confidence and you have to admire that.
The lady that did the Marilyn Monroe routine looked fantastic AND she sang her own lyrics and did it well. I’ve never been a big fan of lip syncing, so she really impressed me my doing her own singing.
Add to that the fact that she was clearly a confident performer and managed to get the crowd in to it, and you have a winner.
We talked about it after the show and Teree and I both agreed that we weren’t up for a long night, so we just headed down stairs where a game of Trivia was already in progress. When we arrived, they were already on question 17 and we figured we didn’t have a chance in hell of winning, but we had nothing better to do, so we went ahead and joined the game. Well, the last question was a bonus round where you are told the category, and each team bets as many of their points as they feel confident with. After hearing the category, we all agreed we didn’t stand a chance and bet only one point, while all of the other teams bet all of theirs. Since they all missed the question, and had bet all of their points, our team (“Big Hair Girls +1”) actually won the game. After we stopped laughing, I heard Teree say something about “Sometimes it’s better to be clever than smart!”  That was it for the night, I’d been up too late, too many nights in a row, and took my tired old behind to bed.
Day 6 – Saturday
Saturday, I woke up still feeling tired, and was just kind of burnt out on the constant shaving and makeup, and decided I’d spend the day drab until it was time for the ball. It was funny to see the difference in the way I was treated from Kimberly to Matt. Since I’m all over the internet, flapping my gums about traveling all over the US, there are a lot of people out there that have seen me, met me, or read my blog, and so pretty much every where I went I had people going out of their way to come tell me hello, or to smile and wave. When I walked around SCC as Matt, no one gave me a second look, and I’d swear there were even a few people distinctly looking down their noses at me.  What was really fun was walking up to people that I have met as Kim and making myself known as Matt. I made it a point to walk up to Amanda Richards who had spent every day “drab” and tap her on the shoulder. When she turned around, I introduced myself, rubbed the top of my head and told her I just came by to show her my own bald head!

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I hung out with my bud, Suzy Harrison for a while and just sat and talked. I’m glad I did the drab thing because it was like time slowed down and returned to it’s normal pace for an afternoon. From the moment we had arrived at SCC, time had just flown by, with the days and nights going by at such a pace that they were blurring together. Now sitting there drab and talking to Suzy for a couple of hours, things just seemed to return to a sane pace.

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We all decided to go see what things looked like at the pool party, but only Suzy was crazy enough to actually wear a swim suit. Eventually late afternoon rolled around and it was time to start getting ready for the evening! Tonight was going to be a couple of firsts for me. This was going to be my first time wearing a backless dress with spaghetti straps. While I did just recently try this for taking pics of dresses I wanted to sell on Ebay, this was my first time wearing them out and about, and I felt like I was naked most of the night.

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I had to laugh on the way to the ball room for dinner, because as I walked through the lobby on the way there, I noticed some exceptionally pretty young ladies, looking incredible in their gowns, and their complex hair updos. At first I was thinking that these were some of the prettiest transgendered ladies I had ever seen, but then I realized they were just too young and my brain did a little flip-flop and I realized that apparently the hotel was hosting some sort of high school home coming or dance. Imagine the story they are going to have to share for the rest of their lives, about having their event at the same hotel with over 600 transgendered.
We had a great dinner and then started taking group pictures. The first group I cued up with was the Vanity Club, and what a bunch or beautiful people!
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The next group I was involved with was More glamour, class, and personality than you can shake a stick at. So many of my very favorite people here, people that I consider friends, many of whom I’ve actually met before in my travels.
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At the end of the evening, I tried to sneak over to the Grand Piano and play with it a bit, but I found it aready in use:
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Probably my only regret is my own poor memory. I had so many people walk up and call me by name, but I’ve always sucked with names and came up short. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some people left the SCC thinking that I was a stuck up witch. Sorry folks, I am just an airhead that can’t remember all of the names for the several dozen folks I’ve met in the last year. If they hadn’t given me the badge when I got to SCC, I probably would have forgotten my own damn name.
All in all, the week was spent with some of the finest people I’ve ever met, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the last night:

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