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The 1992 Southern Comfort Conference and 1992 Holiday en Femme (1993)

The 1992 Southern Comfort Conference and 1992 Holiday en Femme (1993)

©1993, 2001 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (1993). TransAtlanta: The gender scene down South. The Southern Comfort 1992 Conference and Holiday en Femme 1992. Crossdresser’s Quarterly, pp. 28-29.





TransAtlanta: The Gender Scene Down South

The Southern Comfort 1992 Conference and Holiday En Femme 1992

By Dallas Denny


Atlanta is the central city of the Southeast. It’s a magnet that attracts transgendered people like Cincinnati attracted out-of-work Kentucky coal miners in the earlier part of this century. It’s been characterized as a northern city that happens to be in the South. That’s true, and yet it’s not. There are more northern immigrants here than native Georgians, to be sure, and it’s a city where the bottom line is the bottom line, where legions of yuppy puppies in their German-made automobiles make owning a BMW or Mercedes a stigma rather than a status symbol— but it’s also a city of great elegance, with more trees than people, green parks, slow-talking sales clerks, restaurants serving down-home food like grits and collard greens, and friendly neighbors.

Atlanta is an important business center and the headquarters for many Fortune 500 corporations, and a favorite city for conferences and conventions, as well as for vacationers. It has many attractions: four-star hotels; great restaurants; world-class shopping; many museums; Stone Mountain Park, with its giant carvings of Confederate heroes and their horses; the Fox Theatre, Underground Atlanta; Six Flags over Georgia; a world-class zoo; and various civil war battle sites. The mountains of North Georgia, with their myriad waterfalls, camping sites, and hiking trails, are only an hour or so away, and the ocean is a three- or four-hour drive. There’s a pro basketball team (the Hawks), a pro football team (The Falcons), and a baseball team— America’s team, the Braves, who gave the Minnesota Twins a run for their money in last year’s World Series. Atlanta will be the host city for the 1994 SuperBowl and the 1996 Olympics.

There are many opportunities for transgendered persons to gather in Atlanta. First, there are monthly support meetings for crossdressers and transsexual people; there is also an open group, Atlanta Gender Explorations. And then there are special events within the gay community at which crossdressing is expected—pageants, benefits, special shows. The 1991 Miss Gay America pageant was held here, and performers like Jimmy Jaymes (he of the fabulous Marilyn impersonation) regularly appear. And perhaps most significantly, the Southern Comfort conference was held here last October, and will be held again this year, 30 September – 4 October, and Holiday en Femme will be held here in November.

Southern Comfort 1991 was the South’s first significant gender event, and it was a great success. There were more than 125 registrants— crossdressers, transgenderists, transsexual persons, and significant others. There were bus tours of Atlanta and shopping trips. There were classes and panels and lectures on deportment, gender reassignment surgery, and other topics of interest to transgendered persons. There were banquets, vendors, booths for makeovers, and gender community bigwigs galore. There were good times in the hotel’s bar, in which the regulars and the Southern Comforters came to admire, understand, and respect one another. There were impromptu late-night get-togethers in private rooms, with guitars-strumming and philosophical discussions which were enhanced by bottles of champagne.

This year’s Southern Comfort promises to be even better. Featured guests include Caroline “Tula” Cossey; Anne Bolin, the author of In Search Of Eve; Dr. Michael Seghers (a plastic surgeon and gender reassignment surgeon from Brussels, Belgium); David Gilbert, M.D., a microsurgeon who performs both FTM and FTM gender reassignment surgery; and Deborah Gilbert, R.N., the coordinator of the Center for Gender Reassignment in Norfolk, Virginia. There will be extensive coverage of topics of interest to the female-to-male crossdresser and transsexual person, equal coverage of MTF issues, a two-day discussion of transgenderism (not quite crossdressing, not quite transsexualism— this is gender pioneering, folks!), health, legal, and religious issues, discussion of the Harry Benjamin Standards of Care, and much more.

Unlike Southern Comfort, which is open to those with various gender issues and of various sexual persuasions, the Tri-Ess National Conference is for male heterosexual crossdressers and their significant female others. Holiday en Femme will have not sessions on transsexualism, but there will be support for wives and girlfriends, sessions for improving the feminine image, trips about town for shopping and sightseeing, vendors, makeovers, and of course banquets and balls at which there will be more petticoats than there were in Gone With the Wind.

Southern Comfort and other gender conferences offer transgendered persons the opportunity to interact and become friends with others like themselves, to meet service providers, to learn ways in which to perfect their feminine or masculine presentations, to garner important information to help them in their life process, to increase self-acceptance, and to see first-hand products like breast forms that are ordinarily available only sight-unseen through the mail. They provide three- or four-day glimpses into what life might actually be like as a member of the other gender.

It’s difficult to describe the excitement and emotion that pervades conferences like Southern Comfort and Holiday en Femme. Such conventions provide a safe and supportive environment for aspects of our personality we often hide or repress, and give us the opportunity to meet others with the same needs and desires. Leaving such a caring environment to go back to the world of drab can be a shock, after three days in which crossdressing is the norm.