My coming out is a story by itself and I promise to write it up when I have more time. For now, I want to tell you about The Second Big Event in my early transgender life…going to my first out of town gathering: Beauty and the Beach which was Joann Roberts’ (RIP) private party in Rehoboth, typically held in early November.
Rehoboth is very quiet at that time of the year. The big crowds are gone. But there is plenty of mild weather and most of the good restaurants are open, so there is plenty to do. I checked into the convention hotel only to learn that as the “New Girl” my room was at the other end of the hotel and I would be expected to hike a little bit to get to our events. The walking wasn’t a problem but I was a little scared when I learned that there were 120 women in the ballroom at a “quilting convention” and I would have to walk past their entryway each day. They were there for the entire week, just like me. I was hoping I could just slip by them without incident. I was wrong.
The very first time I walked past the ballroom the doors were propped open and at least 20 women looked at me…agape…as I wobbled by, impeccably over-dressed and somewhat typical, I’m afraid, of the new, unseasoned cross-dresser. Two more “passings” ensued and each time there seemed to be more eyes on me as I walked by. It was right then and there that I learned to walk and smile at the same time! On the third trip, one of the women waved to me and I made a spur of the moment decision to simply walk into their space, smiling at them as most of them smiled back at me. “I’ll bet you have a question?" I began. “We do, we do,’ a few of them seemed to speak at the same time. We all laughed and then I went on to explain who we were, and that we come to Rehoboth each year, just looking for the chance to be our feminine selves. They were very kind and I hoped that I had made a few new friends.
The next night was our “formal night” and I had the chance to wear a true cocktail dress to the cocktail event. As I walked by the ballroom the women noticed that I was all dressed up and two of them called out, “Katy! Come in! We want to see your dress!” I was stunned. No one ever asked me to “see my dress” and it just struck me that had I grown up as maybe I should have, this would have happened to be when I was 13 or 14, not 51. “Come in and show us your dress!” they called again. I was stopped in my tracks, not really knowing what to do, but I turned and went into the main ballroom and somehow, nature took over and I just held the edge of my skirt with one hand and I twirled around so they could all see my dress. They all approved and were very sweet with their comments. I left there with a sense of confidence that is with me to this day. These strangers just saw the real me and they seemed to like and approve of what they saw. Nothing could have meant more to me at that moment. Nothing. It was my first “twirl” and it really meant something to me.
Epilog: One of my girlfriends came up with the idea that we should have a “Pajama Party” on our final night. We all agreed, thinking that almost all of us had missed that kind of event when we were teenagers. So one gal brought a 45 RPM record player and records, another brought chips and pretzels and someone else brought Coke and Pepsi. I found an old wig and I put it up in curlers and I wore fuzzy PJ’s and fuzzy matching slippers. Earlier that day I stopped in the ballroom and invited the Quilters. Mostly, they laughed, but one or two seemed interested.
When the night came and we gathered in the lounge for our Pajama Party I was delighted to find that three or four of the Quilters came in to join us. They were all married, some with grown children, but they sat cross-legged on the floor like the rest of us and listened to the music. Linda, who was one of their leaders, said, “you know, all week we watched you guys truly enjoying yourselves as women, and seeing you reminded many of us just how much fun it was to be a girl. We’ve kind of let husbands, children and careers, get in the way of that fun, but you’ve reminded us of the fun we all had growing up. Thank you so much!”
I was stunned. We hugged, tears rolling down our cheeks.
The next year, Joann was forced to change the date of our meeting to one week later in the year. When the Quilters learned we had changed our dates they changed their dates to coincide with ours. Only lately have I realized how much we have learned from each other. All it took was a smile and a “I bet you have a question…”