A Transformative Week as Fantasia Fair Becomes TransWeek

| Oct 31, 2022
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By Rhonda Williams

The third full week of October each year draws the transgender community from all over the world to Provincetown, MA. We come to celebrate Transgender Week, the longest running transgender conference in the world. TransWeek is full or crossdressers, transitioning people, non-binary folks, fully transitioned people, and all those who identify somewhere on the transgender color pallet and those who love them. Provincetown opens its doors, patios, dance floors, arms, and heart to us as we all come to, at least for one week, live our authentic selves.

TransWeek 2022 began with check-in on Sunday, October 16th at Provincetown’s famous Boatslip. Registrants received reusable thermo-lined lunch bags with a lighthouse logo for 2022. The bags contained a professionally published program book, daily schedules, lanyard, 2022 logo charm and pin, and, due to the proximity, Halloween candy. Each registrant was also issued a name badge with preferred pronouns, state or home country, and a photo symbol to appear or not appear in photos. They also received tickets to each event they selected to attend, and their chosen lunch locations for each day of the Fair. As the attendees filtered in through check-in, the Boatslip lobby became a family reunion of sorts; old friends seeing each other, newcomers being embraced by the TransWeek Welcome Committee, long distance travelers comparing stories of their pilgrimage, and everyone so very excited to be at the Fair. This year, the Fair attached attendees from 35 states three countries!Transgender week logo

To officially kick-off TransWeek, the Fair Planning and Welcome Committees hosted an Opening Night Welcome Reception, with the first-time attendees invited to arrive a half hour before the rest of the crowd to get comfortable with the scene. Held on the lower deck of the Boatslip jutting out over the high-tide bay, the reception did not disappoint; the hors d’oeuvres were wonderful, the drinks never empty, and the conversations the perfect icebreakers for the upcoming week.

Monday morning brought the official kick-off with a brunch and presentation o to help attendees familiarize themselves with the happenings and events of this year’s Fair. The Crown & Anchor Paramount Room was the setting, with a buffet of delicious breakfast foods and drinks. The Crown & Anchor updated their audio-visual equipment over the summer, and the screens were remarkably vibrant. I would love to say the customary PowerPoint presentation went off without a hitch, but what would a world class conference be if something didn’t malfunction? All attendees were spared yet another PowerPoint because it just didn’t seem to want to work. But the presentation itself by Fair Director, Dee LaValle, was simply perfect, even without the accompanying slides.

TransWeek is organized into tracks to help the attendees find their niche. There is a Trans Person Track, a Couples Track, and a Significant Ones (SOs) track. So, after the opening brunch the attendees separated into their tracks. The SOs have a tradition of a Meet-and-Greet lunch at the Lobster Pot, and each morning of the Fair there is a Trans coffee hour and an SO coffee hour. These relaxed conversational times are hosted by members of the Welcome Committee and are usually attended by first-timers and some old-timers. This circle of friends is a wonderful way to get to know other people that are on our journey, but on individual paths. There are also some workshops held specifically for Trans or SO attendees that focus on specific topics beneficial for the lives we all lead.

The Couples Track is a set of activities for those attending the Fair with their partners. These circles, along with the Trans and SO specific workshops, are hosted by professional counselors who have worked in the transgender community for decades, and are long time Fair contributors. Maureen Osborne, PhD and Carole McKenzie, LCSW run these tracks and are able to offer professional guidance on subjects that can be quite personal and frustrating. All who attend this track admit they walk away with a better understanding that they are not alone, and that there is no wrong path ahead of them. Offering such an activity for attendees to choose to participate in is one of the things that makes TransWeek so exceptional.

In addition to the Trans, SO, and Couples tracks, the Fair offers a keynote address each day that focuses on transgender issues and given by subject matter experts. The keynotes are open to all attendees and are heavily attended. This year’s Fair keynote offerings addressed a transgender parent and transgender child family; medical transitioning presented by long-time Fair attendee and physician Carolyn Wolf-Gould, MD; end of life issues for transgender people; transgender politics and how to advocate; and a conversation about what it means to have a vagina. The top-shelf professional subjects and presenters of the keynotes are another reason TransWeek is the longest running transgender conference in the world. People come with questions, and the keynotes try to provide answers. Or, at the very least, more questions.

The keynote addresses are one per day, but the rest of the mornings and afternoons are filled with activities, such as walking tours around town, group photo sessions, art gallery tours, and an amazing choice of workshops. While we come to TransWeek to discuss and learn about all things transgender, we’re still actual people with actual lives and we do actual things. Some of the Workshops have little or nothing to make them trans-specific, and all are offered by anyone who has something to show. This year the Fair offered a writing workshop, macrame, songwriting, a round table of how to continue to make the Fair better, improving your stage performance, policing and safety in Provincetown, and the ever-popular professional nail polish session. These are just a sample of some of the flair added to the Fair. Of course, the Fair also hosts some amazing workshops to help transgender attendees on their journey. For example, this year offered was wig styling, mythology of vulvas, gender variance on stage and in movies, a photographic history of being transgender, using sex toys, passing, and a town hall discussion on how to combat the resurgence of anti-trans legislation. There truly is something for everyone. The problem becomes choosing which to attend. And that’s a good thing.

Provincetown Bay

With all the activities available at the Fair, one can work up a hearty appetite, and Provincetown is always ready to address that. TransWeek offers a daily lunch program that allows the attendees to select from a variety of restaurants based on what each restaurant is offering that day. The restaurant choices this year were Bayside Betsy’s, Post Office Café, Crown & Anchor, and Tin Pan Alley. Each attendee generally tries to sample all the restaurants, but we do also tend to have our favorites. Lunches this year included everything from clam chowder to tomato bisque, hamburger to cod sandwich, meatloaf to Caesar salad, and the world-famous lobster roll. All the lunches include desert, as well, so no one ever goes away hungry. It is a really good thing that Provincetown is a walking town; otherwise, there would be more of us to love at the end of the Fair.

Since many who attend TransWeek enjoy a full nightlife, the Fair offered late night options each night at Tin Pan Alley. After the evening events were over, all registrants who so desired were allowed into a private room with music, a bar, hors d’oeuvres, dancing, and engaging conversations lasting into the wee hours. It was the place to go to see and be seen and was always very well attended. Something for everyone, for sure.

Nightly events are what make TransWeek shine. They are the time we forget our tracks and everyone comes together to entertain or to be entertained, and to laugh and cry and applaud each other. The first nightly event was a Celebration Banquet and Dance Party held at the Crown & Anchor on Monday evening. Because every attendee has much to be thankful for, it has been a Fair tradition to have a Thanksgiving meal of turkey, stuffing, potatoes, something green, rolls, and bread pudding. After our sit-down meal the DJ started playing some, shall we say, period songs that really spoke to the crowd and the dance floor was soon full. You don’t really need a partner to dance because we all danced as one organism, even forming a conga line in Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Want to Have Fun. The new light and sound system at the Crown & Anchor allowed a light show plus the actual MTV video to play, and was just the throwback the crowd needed to dance for hours.

Our next nightly event was introduced in 2021 and was such a big hit that it was extended an hour this year. Believe it or not, it’s BINGO! Merchants all over town donate extremely generous items for gift bags, and a very crowded room of Fair attendees got downright competitive at playing multiple-card BINGO. On Tuesday evening we all had our heads protectively down over our cards while our comedian host calls each letter/ number, waiting to see if we can fill that last square in a line or will we hear “BINGO’ from across the room. It was a fun, spirited evening that has become a beloved addition to the nightly event lineup during TransWeek.

Wednesday evening’s nightly event was traditionally known as the fashion show, but in the last few years it has been sculpted into the Common Threads Show. There is no implication of fashion or gender or anything other than the participants walking out on stage and presenting themselves as they desire. This event is open to the public and many Provincetown and surrounding area residents attend. It is a chance for Fair participants to dress up or dress in costume or simply dress, and each is given the mic to talk about their outfit and their journey. Common Threads, indeed.

The nightly event held on Thursday night has grown by leaps and bounds over the last few years. It is Open Mic Night, and any Fair attendee can participate. Some performers choose to read their own poetry or stories, others play their guitar or ukulele and sing old favorites or original compositions. The audience adores whatever the performers contribute and everyone goes away happy. It has become the Fair’s fastest growing event, and will surely continue to be a big hit.

The Fantasia Fair Follies is a tradition that dates back many years and is held on Friday night of TransWeek and is open to the public. This year’s Follies was nothing short of amazing. The House Band opened with Let the Good Times Roll and finished the evening with an audience participative This Land is Your Land. There was so much in between. There were four spoken word participants, singers, solos, duets, guitars, keyboards, and a mandolin and a ukulele. The hosts kept the evening flowing with comedic banter and anecdotes as stage setting changed between each act, and the audience had a ball. Follies is always a big hit, and despite some hilarious confusion with the order or the acts, the show was fantastic.

Saturday night culminated in the last major Fair event, the Awards Banquet. The attendees had their choice of beef, chicken, fish, or vegetarian entrees in the Crown & Anchor Paramount Room, and the wait staff carried platters of delicious hors d’oeuvres as people mixed and mingled. Everyone was wearing their evening finest and the room just sparkled. Many attendees spent the afternoon in one of the number of salons in Provincetown having hair and makeup done to perfection for the evening. At this event we recognized individuals who have truly been inspirational in moving the Fair forward through service and volunteering.

2022 Awards: Jude Patton, Pioneer Award; Jennifer, Most Helpful; Sibil Greiner, Fantasia Fair Award; Jossy Lopez, Congeniality; Dan McKeon, Friend of the Fair.

Between hors d’oeuvres and entrees Fair Director, Dee LaValle, welcomed everyone and the first award of the evening presented was the Pioneer Award. This award is always presented to a person or persons who have been trail blazers in the transgender community and have a long history of supporting and advocating for our causes. The 2022 Pioneer Award winners were Rupert Raj (not in attendance) and Jude Patton. Jude spent the entire week with us and presented a keynote.

The meal was wonderful, well, at least my spaghetti squash with winter vegetables and pesto vegetarian meal was. After the meal we continued with the award presentations. Since the Fair is an all-volunteer organization, these awards really represent a commitment to the transgender community, and Transgender Week. The Friend of the Fair is given to a person who may not be a member of the transgender community but gives freely of themselves to support the community. This year’s recipient was our resident photographer, Dan McKeon, who has been making us all look good for years. For each of the annual awards, the recipient from the previous year presented the award to the 2022 recipient. The Most Helpful award went to Jennifer. Jennifer is the webmaster of the Fair and works throughout the year making sure we are all updated on the upcoming Fair. The Congeniality was awarded to our nail polish expert and SO coordinator, Jossy Lopez. This award is voted on by all Fair attendees at the last lunch on Saturday, so receiving this award is a wonderful affirmation of your involvement in the Fair. The Fair’s highest honor, the Fantasia Fair Award is awarded to the person who has demonstrated service to the Fair over several years. It is the highest honor because it is given to a person who really gets involved in putting a welcoming face on the Fair, helping wherever needed, and a commitment to moving the Fair forward. This year’s recipient was Sibil Greiner.

Photos were snapped taken, hugs were generously given, emails were exchanged, and some tears were shed. It was a wonderful evening. For many of us, this was the last time we would see each other for probably another year. There is a wonderful Workshop offered on the last full day of the Fair called “Lost in the Pink Fog”, and it addresses the emotions we all feel when leaving Provincetown and the Fair. That fog for many begins at the Banquet and for others not until they reach the Bourne Bridge. We are leaving our comfortable embrace, our tribe, our family, and it will be a long while before we are together again. However, many of us have already registered for TransWeek 2023, so that gives us comfort that we will, indeed, reunite for our very special time in Provincetown celebrating Transgender Week in 2023. I hope to see you there.

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