The night before, I returned to the conference center for drinks and socializing, and to chat with that special someone. Of course, we both got carried away with meeting new people and conversations. During that time I met another charming young woman from California. Like many, she was living in the moment and we connected immediately. We eventually shared the dance floor during the final ball. I did finally get the chance to spend time and have a conversation with a transgender icon. It took a moment for her to recall the few email conversations we had exchanged 2 years ago. I again thanked her again for the advice and support she gave me as started to transition at school. She had a similar experience a few years earlier and her wisdom and generosity has been illuminating to many. She is more down to earth than I imagined, and we even talked about running. After a sweet and heartfelt hug it was goodnight, and I was off to another conversation with my black ankle boots.
While my stay in Atlanta was brief, the people I met gave the over-the-top conference a personal touch I wasn’t expecting. On one of the final nights I shared dinner with two of the presenters. They both had become close in the short time together and we ventured out to for a change of pace. Their company, sense of humor, and depth of character was welcoming and a touching sign of the trust they felt in me. It was sad to say farewell to my friends from Pennsylvania. I know our paths will cross again, hopefully over dumplings, sea bass, and karaoke.
In the four days in Atlanta filled with conference seminars I learned about modifying my voice, facial feminization surgeries, sexual reassignment surgery, trans rights on campuses, lobbying congress, feminist therapy, riding trains, the importance of tipping shuttle drivers, how to deal with creepy taxi drivers, and so much more. Most importantly, I learned that behind all the procedures, hormones, and high heels, are people. I once believed if I could find the right shoes, the perfect dress, and live as a woman, I would find happiness. I was wrong. Happiness is not a destination like a train station; it’s an ever evolving process of discovery. So, as I sat alone in the magnificent ballroom on the final night, why did I feel like a stranger in a strange and wonderful world? I think it’s because I didn’t understand what we all had common with each other. Being a transgender person is not a hobby, profession, or belief system. We're humans, like everyone else. I just need to find the real me.