Original (non-edited) article:
This year, people from across the globe traveled to Atlanta, GA for the Southern Comfort Conference (SCC), which focuses on the Transgender community.
As stated on their website, www.sccatl.org:
“Whatever your connection to the Transgender community – whether you are transsexual, a cross dresser or in between; a spouse, a partner or a family member; straight, gay, bi or omni-sexual; post-op, pre-op or non-op; young or old; married or single; FtM or MtF – if Transgender is an issue in your life, you are welcome!”
SCC celebrated their 20th anniversary this year with the theme “Party Hearty” and it took place at the Crown Plaza Ravinia Hotel September 6th – 12th. The efforts of all who helped with the planning of this conference paid off as it proved to be a very successful event. Special thanks extended to Blake Alford (President of Board of Directors) and Alexis Dee (2010 SCC Conference Chair).
The conference consists of daily informational seminars covering everything from renowned surgeons discussing their procedures to open discussions of a variety of topics pertaining to Transgender life. The seminars focus more on individual needs and the topics are more defined focusing in on either MTF, FTM, Intersexed or SOFFA’s, with some being all-inclusive.
On Thursday of SCC, a TransHealth Fair was provided which included many low-cost services and multiple free options, including HIV/STD testing and Flu shots. The Feminist Women’s Health Center hosted this event. We appreciate their support in helping to provide a bridge to close the gap with TransHealth issues.
Apart from the gourmet dining in the ballroom, scheduled events from morning until evening allowed everyone to meet and socialize. Some popular events included karaoke in the hotel lounge, casino night, Miss Kitty Meow’s pool party and the SCC formal dance, just to name a few. A shuttle was also available to take adventurers shopping at Perimeter Mall and on Saturday evening, many traveled to the New Le Buzz in Marietta where everyone felt very welcome and included.
A marketplace was setup in one part of the hotel that included vendors selling jewelry, hair essentials, clothing and accessories. There were also many make-up artists on site, including Atlanta’s own Bianca Nicole, the Goddess of Seduction. Other booths, including TQ Nation, Lambda Legal, YouthPride and others were spread out outside of the marketplace and lobby area.
One of the main highlights this year included the appearance of Trans-celebrity and advocate of sorts, Chaz Bono, who also participated in many of the events and even hosted one seminar on Media Activism Training with GLAAD Media Awards Communications Manager, Nick Adams.
Chaz mingled with the crowd each day and was very gracious with socializing. He even stood with a smile for non-stop photo-ops with those attending SCC. A documentary film crew followed him pretty much everywhere, yet I was able to set aside a time for him to speak to me exclusively for the readers of The GA Voice.
Tristan Skye: You have been an advocate for the Gay and Lesbian community for many years and now the Transgender community. What are the main goals you are trying to reach and is there a certain topic that is your main focus and priority?
Chaz Bono: In truth, I haven’t thought that much about that yet. I have been really focused on getting these projects [upcoming book, film and documentary] out and done. I also didn’t know anything about the Trans community. In the years that it took to get here that I knew I was Trans, but didn’t have the courage to transition, I really stayed away from the Trans community on purpose. I was afraid of the story getting out before I was ready for it. I have just been taking time and stepping back and seeing what the community’s needs are. With that said, one thing that immediately comes to mind is ENDA. That’s what got me involved in politics to begin with way back in 1995. That is something I have always wanted to see passed, I still want to see passed, but want to see passed with transgender people included. The only other stuff I’ve gotten really into is really young trans people. And one of the things I’m pretty interested in, especially for the kids and it’s not going to happen overnight, but seeing surgical requirements taken out of what you need to do to change your name and gender legally.
Tristan Skye: Yes, I think that’s great. I personally feel the Transgender community has looked for a type of spokesperson, a hero of sorts that can represent us in a very positive light and receive International attention and recognition. Now that you have come out as a Transgender advocate into the public eye, portraying and reflecting us in such a positive way, how do you feel about being seen as that hero for the Transgender community and being that person that can really help take us to where we need to be?
Chaz Bono: Okay, it’s a little complicated. First of all, on the one hand I’m very pragmatic and you know I do know the importance of having someone that is a public figure out there. It really does make a difference and I’m really happy to do it. Personally, in my personal life, I do not feel like a celebrity, especially growing up with huge celebrities. I’ve always tried to walk a tight rope between being public enough to do some good and private enough to have a life and just feel normal. Personally, my goal was never to be really famous – I kind of got born into this thing – I’ve had to make the best of it. I’ve seen, especially within the Gay and Lesbian community we see really clearly what having different people come out does and so I do hope for the Trans community I can do that. I hope that me coming out about this and transitioning publically will help people who haven’t found the courage to transition yet most of all. There are some great people who speak for us in the community and most of them are ladies, so it’s nice to have Jamison Green who is just amazing, and it’s nice to be another guy out there a little bit younger for all the guys out there and especially the up and coming guys.
Tristan Skye: That’s very true. I noticed in your seminar with Nick Adams, GLAAD Media Awards Communications Manager, that there was one question that was asked, “who first heard the word Transgender or first saw someone Transgender from the media?” and I noticed that even you raised your hand. I wondered if you wouldn’t mind telling me who was the first Transgender person you can recall that you saw in the media?
Chaz Bono: I think I’m sure the first Transgender person that I heard of was either Christine Jorgensen or Renee Richards when I was really young and didn’t really think about it. But, for me I’ve kind of tracked down when I started to realize I was Trans and it was about a year after “Boys Don’t Cry” came out. Though I didn’t have like an “Ah-Ha!” moment, I think that really did have an effect and really soak into my subconscious and I don’t think it was an accident that happened. It also seemed around that time, and maybe a little bit before and definitely after, there seemed to be all this news coming from San Francisco about all these guys transitioning and that was definitely being reported atleast in the gay media. You know, where are all the butches going…all the butches are becoming guys and stuff, so that is around the time, around 2000, I think when I started to figure out what was going on with me. To me, it’s definitely the media…I don’t think there is a stronger advocate tool than the medi. I really understood that working with GLAAD and I still believe that is where you get the most done is in the court of public opinion and that’s through the media.
Overall, this event ended with great success as it provided a place for those to be themselves, especially for those who traveled from areas where they feel they still must hide their true expression of gender. It was a moment in time where the “T” in LGBTQQIA was not silent, where the Transgender community could feel like the majority, not the minority. It is such an impactful conference, that once it ends, you can’t wait for it to begin again. Until next year, my brothers and sisters, be safe and keep advocating.
Written by Tristan “Shimmer” Skye
President and Co-Founder
“Best Transgender Rights Activist” – Southern Voice (2009), The GA Voice (2010)