Veni, Vidi, Vestibule

Originally appeared in Transgender Tapestry #102, Summer 2003.

by Lacey Leigh

Attending a gender convention such as Southern Comfort Conference can be an empowering
experience. For three or four magical days, the normally closeted transgendered individual finds
caring company, strength in numbers, and abundant opportunities for open and joyous expression
of gender.

Some never leave the refuge of the conference hotel, preferring to enjoy the comfort and support of peers while taking in the myriad discussions, seminars, and workshops. Those who are a touch more adventurous sally forth with like-minded friends to savor the exhilarating experience of public social interaction. They learn to mingle with the unenlightened public and are often surprised at the absence of the dreaded disfavor so often imagined. They utilize municipal transportation, engage in conversations with non-TGs at coffee shops and nail salons, and perform personal outreach at delicatessens and Kinko?s copy shops.
Perhaps of greatest impact is the lesson learned that the gender police aren?t summoned, klaxons don?t blare a transgender alert warning, and people?for the most part?are indifferent to
our colorful fringe at the edge of society?s quilt.

Conference attendees are delighted to discover their worst and most self-limiting fears are groundless and that John Q and Jane Q Public can express a great deal of tolerance, and often outright curiosity. It?s in these situations that we make the greatest difference?not for ourselves, although it can be said we teach that which we need most to learn?but for the public at large.

Given the anonymity of distance and venue, attendees feel empowered to become roving
ambassadors, taking those first few tenuous steps out of their self-constructed closets to savor the new set of social interactions allowed by their openly expressed gender. Freedom is such a heady brew, even though the glass from which we drink it is much too small!

Sunday morning comes all too soon. Attendees burdened with roll-on luggage bulging with
alter-ego accouterments queue up in the hotel lobby?s checkout line while sideliners with later departure times play the Guess Who game. Heartfelt hugs and ?see you next year? promises are exchanged as shuttle vans are boarded and taxicabs whisk their passengers away.

I feel an overwhelming sense of melancholy on those end of conference mornings. It?s not a sadness that the shared moments have come to an end, because each is indelibly etched in memory to be
relived forever. Instead, I?m mournful because so many of these wonderful, colorful, expressive,
loving, and forgiving people are returning to what they perceive as unaccepting, uncaring, and
uncomfortable environments. Rather than taking all those priceless and recently reinforced lessons with them to teach anew in their own hometowns, they excuse their inaction with justifications. ?I have too much to lose,? or ?Atlanta is a big, metropolitan city?my town isn?t ready yet,? or ?People back home just don?t get it.?

If not now, when? If not you, who?

Veni, vidi, vestibule. I came, I saw, I went back into the closet.

Lacey Leigh is the author of Out & About: The Emancipated Crossdresser.

She can be contacted through her website: