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The 2011 Empire Conference

| May 16, 2011
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Christie Block and Jan Brown

My friend Jan Brown, who was one of the organizers of the Empire Conference, got her crowbar out last fall, pried me out of my closet, and sent me off to Fantasia Fair. I appreciate that more than most other things in my life. But, after Fan Fair I was ready for more. When I learned of The Empire Conference from Jan I decided it was time to party.

But was it a party, or was it carefully disguised education? Upon arrival at the conference I found that at most times, participants had access to five or even six simultaneous presentations in a variety of subjects. Or you could watch your fellow party-goers/students walking around in new finery with new makeovers. Or you could put on your own new finery, get your own makeover and join the crowd.

I was impressed by the number and variety of workshops and I attended as many as I could. There were at least six presentations on organizing and strengthening the transgender community and preserving the legal and human rights of its members. Five more workshops dealt with transitioning in the workplace — a process that could really impose many strains on a TG employee either lacking or unaware of her/his legal rights. Several  more speakers dealt with voice and speech issues and training — another important area for potential transitioners who must be able to pass in their new genders.

Hebe and Dr. Richard Docter

Dr. Richard Docter, a biographer of several noted transgenders and a self-described “somewhat retired clinical psychologist-university professor and gender researcher,”  made three presentations. The first dealt with the scandalous doings of Ernest “Stella” Boulton and Frederick “Fanny” Park in Victorian London. (That was in 1870 — imagine the market for Fanny Park fanny packs today!) The second related the tale of Roberta (né Robert) Cowell and Lawrence (née Laura) Dillon. In the late 1940s, Robert became Roberta and Laura became Lawrence, both with the surgical assistance of Dr. Harold Gillies, in two unpublicized transformations that preceded Christine Jorgensen’s. Roberta and Lawrence fell in love but never married — now there’s a story that’s stranger than much TG fiction! Finally, Dr. Docter’s third presentation surveyed the findings to date from a century of transgender research.

Several leading physicians were in attendance to discuss their transgender surgical transformation specialties, both MtF and FtM. If anyone would like to have their names and locations, leave a note in the “Comments” box below and I’ll email them to you.

Miss Veronica Vera with Hebe.

Miss Veronica Vera, founder of Miss Vera’s Finishing School for Boys Who Want to Be Girls, gave two presentations. The first covered a program of home study for boys who, for one reason or another, are unable to attend MVFSFBWWTBG. Her second talk was  “Aspects of Pleasure.” With four other speakers scheduled at the same time, “Scoop” Dotson opted to hear Dr. Docter’s presentation on TG research. Work before pleasure — it’s my New England heritage.

There were, however, many ways to find pleasure at the Empire Conference, and I found several of them. A good makeover, for example. If only makeovers were as forever as diamonds! A nice wig shop in the vendor area — I was tempted. Wearing new outfits in public for the first time — that was fun. Dining out with several other attendees at the Albany Pump Station restaurant — fun, delicious and reasonably priced. There was a welcoming reception at the Albany Pride Center and a TG talent show at our hotel. On the last night, we enjoyed a performance by Laura Roth, who inhabited and impersonated Connie Francis, Barbra Streisand, Judy Garland, and others — sheer pleasure.

The real pleasure, of course, comes from meeting new people and making new friends. I’d met a few of the participants at Fantasia Fair and a few others on line, but I met quite a few more at the conference, and I count them as new friends.

Finally, the venue — the Crowne Plaza Hotel — was roomy and comfortable and provided excellent meeting spaces. Good food, too.

See you at Fantasia Fair!

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Category: Transgender Community News


About the Author ()

One of TGF's longest running authors, Hebe has been writing for TGF since the 1990s. With a focus on TG fiction she also has covered mythic crossdressing and recently has reported on TG events.

Comments (2)

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  1. Hebe Hebe says:

    Hi Arlene! Thanks so much for your kind comments. It felt really wonderful to begin my escape from the closet at Fantasia Fair 2010 and to continue it at the 2011 Empire Conference. I still have a long way to go, but I’m gradually getting braver and trying new things. Until Fantasia Fair, I’d never been out in public en femme, and it was a real thrill to wander around in Provincetown with other people just like me. All of my TG friendships had been electronic prior to that, but now I’ve made lots of friends in person. I’m not quite out in the open yet, since my neighbors don’t know I’m TG. My closest relatives know, but I haven’t told the others yet — however, that’s something I hope to take care of by the end of the year. Thanks again!

    Hebe in VA

  2. says:

    Hi Hebe. I’ve been reading your stories for years without knowing that you were also in the closet. So it was very encouraging to see that you finally made it out – and you look very nice in the only 2 pictures I have seen. It must be an exciting time in your life to finally be able to let people see you as you have always wanted to be seen. I guess there is still hope even for an old TG gal like me. Congratulations on finally being able to present yourself as a woman named Hebe! (HUG) BTW, I am a big fan of your writing. I’d love to see and hear more about how you are getting along in the world as an OPEN TG woman.

    Arlene In NY

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