FIRST EVENT DIARY – 2018
DAY 7, Saturday, 02/03/18
Emily Jo Donatello
(call me “Em”)
Please open the audio below in another window and listen while reading this entry:
“…Many thangs is on my mind, words in the way…”
First Event is so much more than an occasion for socializing, partying, although those do take up many hours for many of us. For me the Conference part is vital too. So much information is available through various means, all included in the standard registration.
Some of the information comes from the always available pamphlets, brochures, and business cards, common to all…
…or some is as commercial as “a word from our sponsor.”
The sponsors are vitally important to the success of conferences like First Event. They pay substantial fees to present themselves to the assembled transgender folks; those fees defray many incidental expenses for the organizers. During my time on site I greet as many of the sponsors as I can, thanking all. One, in particular, Dr. Sherman Leis, has become a friend.
In full disclosure I must report that Dr. Leis did major facial surgery on one of my close friends eight years ago. Afterwards, she touted him to me, saying he, unlike others among the facial surgeons, did not try to standardize “his” look, like so many Levitt homes. Instead, she said, together with the patient, he would find the look best suited to the individual. Certainly in her case he succeeded. She’s a most beautiful woman; more beautiful today, eight years later. His work then wears well.
Dr. Leis has not done any surgery on me. I’m not quite ready for that, although I am considering it. Instead he has done two series of “filler” injections in my face: lips and lower eyes. The procedure is a little thrilling but not overly painful. Let’s call it a tad uncomfortable. But I’m satisfied and some have – very, very generously – complimented my “young” appearance.
One other thing I’ve observed in the surgeons who specialize in working with transgender folks: supreme confidence! Dr. Leis certainly has it.
“…Everyday people, sing a simple song
Mama’s so happy, Mama start to cry
Papa still singin’, you can make it if you try…”
I’m not a member of the First Event organizing committee, but I have “adjunct” status, as I’ve been volunteering these past two years. I’ve found that doing whatever I can to help out is my small way of contributing to First Event’s success.
Besides, by being “out and about” through Friday and Saturday I benefit too – meeting new people, answering the big questions: “where is the ladies room?” “where is the makeup seminar?” I can handle those. “Who am I?” That I don’t know myself.
So, when I can, I get to a seminar or two to see what I may learn to further my attempt to answer that huge question. In advance this year I’d pointed to 3 seminar/workshops I thought would help me. I got to them all and still volunteered.
One seminar was a highlight for me. It’s Lezli Whitehouse (and company). She calls it “Voice Therapy 101, Finding Your Communication Style.” Now I’ve been to Lezli’s seminars in the past and have always found her both informative and entertaining. She’s an actress/speech pathologist who has a marvelous, engaging style. Nowadays she brings colleagues, Speech Pathologists all. Together they demonstrate tips and tricks for finding your “authentic” voice.
It’s in there somewhere! Unsurprisingly their most insistent tip: practice, practice, practice.
Another seminar for me was really more of a workshop: “Feminine Comportment Dining.” This too is one I’ve attended in the past; helps to build confidence, I’ve found. This year’s was presented by Andrea Ziff, a Conference Co-Chair, a cis-woman whose husband is a transgender woman. Andrea had an easy and supportive style. She’d had 15 people signed up for the workshop; strangely only 8 of us came. She demonstrated numerous tips over a lunch of soup, salad, and sandwich. With my growing confidence I was able to conquer the cranberry which slipped through the sandwich dressing and onto the napkin in my lap, which was overlapped in the correct ladylike manner. Neither Joan, on one side, nor Marissa on the other, noticed. I did, of course, and kept my mortification to myself.
My third seminar was Jennie White’s “Trans-Women Who are Part-Time. We are Trans too!” Jennie had been anxious about doing this ever since she submitted the proposal. She pleaded with me and a few of her other friends to attend, so, she said, some people would be there. Just before her session was to begin, I stepped up to her at the front of the room to see if she was coping with her nerves. She said, “I’m hoping for 5 or 6.” I said I was confident she’d have more; “double digits,” I predicted. “From your lips to God’s ears,” she retorted. I should have bet her. Thirteen attended. We all enjoyed Jennie’s personal story, told so expressively.
The theme for this year’s First Event is “Making a Better World.” Certainly those who work so hard to put the conference together do their part, as they always have.
Thank you falettinme be mice elf agin
Slyly put, that.
Translation: “Thank you for lettin’ me be myself again.”
email: firstname.lastname@example.org (mind the underscores, or you’ll — like me — trip in writing)