By Fiona Black
Was I looking forward to attending the 2023 Keystone Conference this past March? My reply would definitely include the words: do, bears, in, the, woods. Think back to when you were a child and it was nearing Christmas and you knew some good stuff would soon be heading your way. That is how I felt this past March as the time grew closer for me to drive to Harrisburg. Ever since I started dressing fully and going out in public a little over a year ago, I knew the conference, my first, would be special. And it was indeed very special.
I arrived a day early on Tuesday and met a friend from the CrossDressers International (CDI) group, of which I am a member, that evening. We had only known each other through some Zoom meetings so it was nice to see her in person and we chatted and people watched for a few hours. There were a good number of ladies there a day early but on Wednesday the hotel was packed with hundreds of women catching up with friends, meeting new people and attending seminars. The rest of the 20 person CDI contingent arrived throughout the day which was good because having friends there made it so much more comfortable than walking in and not knowing anyone. My circle of friends soon expanded rapidly as I started to meet people from among the 45 or so members of the Crossdresser Heaven (CDH) web site that attended. Over the years I got to know many of them through online chats and forums but I had never met any of them in person.
I also sort of knew Kandi through Kandis-Land blog posts and emails but we finally met on Wednesday. One of Kandi’s prior posts described how on Wednesday night she gathered a large group of ladies together for dinner. I believe there were around 24 of us sitting at one long table in an Italian restaurant. I met some super nice ladies and had a good time but what I noticed the most was how quickly the couple of us first-timers in the group felt right at home with everyone, which made for a very pleasant evening. It was a busy, exciting day and this dinner, along with some more socializing back at the hotel afterwards, topped off a memorable first day. Thursday, Friday and Saturday days were filled with some seminars, lunches, receptions by the Vanity Club and CDH groups and socializing. Dinner at Rubicon on Thursday was good and of course the Gala on Saturday night was very special. Hundreds of ladies, dressed in their finest, dined and danced the night away and also got to hear some stirring words from the guest speaker, Kai Shappley, the noted young trans activist and author. I have a weakness for chiffon dresses so I wore a long, patterned, multi-layered chiffon dress and I was a very happy camper. I did not want to take it off at the end of the night so for a while I started packing and organizing things while still dressed. It’s not a dress that I can wear often so I squeezed in every extra minute I could. After a while, I sat for a few minutes and realized that I felt a very profound and deep sense of happiness, something I have not felt in many, many years. It was an extraordinary and very welcome sensation. Those of you who read my first Kandis-Land post will understand why and those who have not should know that it involves my wife’s passing, the aftermath and the subsequent appearance of Fiona.
At some point during the week I witnessed a very moving encounter. Kandi and I were talking when a lady walked up to chat. Kandi knew her, I did not, although I knew who she was. At one point Kandi told her that her voice was sounding very feminine. Turns out this lady has been on hormone therapy for about a year and hearing a comment from someone who noticed the change affected her so deeply that she had to stop speaking and broke out in tears. It was a happy reaction though because it was further proof that she was just another step closer to being finally able to present herself as the woman she deeply wanted to be. It was a nice moment. It was so refreshing to be in an atmosphere where I could relax, be myself and be surrounded by people who accepted and welcomed me just as I am. I have experienced this before in the CDI group but to be part of such a large gathering for over four days was truly special. I urge anyone who has been unsure about attending due to nervousness, concern about “passing” or their makeup expertise to go if possible, you will be welcomed and will be glad you made the decision to attend. Another thing I have experienced, again in a smaller group but supersized at Keystone, was how quickly ladies become acquaintances and friends. Knowing you can relax and be yourself allows you to open up about your dressing life with someone who understands and will not judge you. The discussions that ensue often involve topics that many gals have infrequently or never been able to discuss with anyone else. Being so open and sharing stories fosters a very congenial atmosphere. I am positive that meeting so many ladies there will add new friends and enjoyable experiences to my cross dressing life.
I also wish to thank TransCentralPA and the other local CD groups and individual volunteers who worked all year long to put everything together. From my business career I have some idea of what it takes to put on an event of this size and I can guarantee that it is a lot of work. Other than a short luggage delivery issue at check-in, everything ran smoothly, everyone was very helpful and the hotel was fine. So thank you again for all your hard work, it is greatly appreciated.
So like a kid surrounded by all his gifts on Christmas morning, Keystone exceeded anything I imagined it would be and it left me a bunch of goodies as well: good people, good vibes, good times, good friends and good memories. After I left on Sunday, I was on cloud 9 for a week. At one point during the conference, Kandi asked me to write an article describing my impressions of Keystone as a first time attendee. My first draft took all of five seconds to write and consisted of one word – “wow” – but before sending it to her I decided she just might want a little more. So this post is the result.
If I met you in Harrisburg it was a pleasure; if I did not I will try and look you up next year. My main goal at the conference was to meet and hang out with nice, like-minded people. Mission accomplished!