Esprit transgender convention begins this week in Port Angeles
By Leah Leach
PORT ANGELES -- Men paying women the compliment of imitation will begin arriving in town today for the weeklong Esprit 2010 convention.
About 110 people are registered for the annual gathering of cross-dressers and their significant others -- called "the Pacific Northwest's premiere transgender convention" -- at the Red Lion Hotel in Port Angeles, said Karen Williams, secretary of the Emerald City Social Club of Seattle, one of the sponsors of the convention.
Attendees will have their pick of a variety of events including tours of Hurricane Ridge and area wineries, parties and dances, shopping -- in Port Angeles, Port Townsend and Victoria -- a pool tournament and classes ranging from medical procedures to legal issues to fashion tips such as how to walk in high heels.
This will be the 21st year of the Esprit convention in Port Angeles. People will begin to gather today, and the last will leave next Sunday.
Attendees are drawn by "the water, the mountains, the scenery -- and it turns out that the people are fabulous in Port Angeles," Williams said.
"We have friends all over town."
Nasty Habits, the popular trans-gender band, will be back, performing from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Bar N9ne Pizzeria & Lounge, which opened last week at 229 W. First St., formerly the site of the Lyre's Club.
The public is invited to enjoy the band's '80s dance music as well the annual Esprit talent show Friday night and a dance gala Saturday night.
The theme for the talent show, which will be at 8 p.m. at the Elks Naval Lodge, 131 E. First St., Port Angeles, is "Star Trans: The Next Genderation."
"You'll see Willma Stiletto playing Captain Jane T. Skirt of the USS Genderprize taking on the more difficult challenges that the universe can throw at her -- like, 'what sex should I be?'" said the Esprit website at www.espritconf.com/index.php.
Saturday's dance will feature the Seattle-based classic rock and roll band, The Fabulous Boomers, from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. at the Red Lion Hotel, 221 N. Lincoln St.
Admission to both the fashion show and the dance will be $5 at the door. Proceeds will be donated to Volunteer Hospice of Clallam County, a longtime charity of the Esprit organization.
On Thursday, woman can join Esprit attendees during the Girls Night Out organized by businesses in downtown Port Angeles.
Stores will stay open until 8 p.m., said Barb Frederick, Port Angeles Downtown Association director, and a fashion show with a disc jockey is set at 6 p.m. at the Conrad Dyar Memorial Fountain at First and Laurel streets.
"It's an event that is open to the public," Frederick said. "We scheduled it during Esprit so they can join in.
"They always have a great time."
Stores will have specials, such as a makeup artist at work at Sterling Impressions, address, refreshments and raffles.
"We always love to have Esprit in town," Frederick said. "They are so much fun."
The keynote speakers during a special luncheon will be Seattle Police Department Assistant Chief Dick Reed and Detective Kim Boguki.
Suzanne Adams, the chair of the Esprit convention, arranged the speakers, Williams said.
Adams, who once worked as a police chief, is now on the Seattle Chief of Police Advisory Committee for Sexual Minorities and the Seattle Police Firearms Review Board.
"We were looking for a keynote speaker and she got these two people to come and talk with us," Williams said.
"One of the concerns we have in the transgender community is . . . if you are cross-dressing, people worry about what happens for minor violations, such as a tail light being out -- will police treat me with respect?" Williams said.
"Of course they do. But new people coming out don't always know. It will be reassuring."
Also planned is a pool tournament on Monday, talks from doctors who perform feminization surgery, classes on makeup and fashion, a slumber party and events for wives and other significant others of cross-dressers.
"A high proportion of people are married," said Williams, an electrical engineer who has been married for 30 years.
"As far as sexual orientation is concerned, a lot of people who are coming to Esprit are straight," Williams said.
"Gay people is a whole different community. That's the drag queen community. For the most part, we're not drag queens.
"We don't mix so well."
Esprit convention in Port Angeles engenders looks, welcomes
By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Jacqueline Allan of Abbotsford, B.C, left, applies a sample of lip gloss with the advice of Marnae Flores of Port Angeles, a beauty consultant with Mary Kay Cosmetics, during Esprit 2010 on Wednesday in Port Angeles. -- Photo by Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
PORT ANGELES - How does it feel when you're a big, tall man dressed as a woman -- high heels, miniskirt and enhanced bosom -- and people stop to gawk at you?
Suzanne Adams, a retired police chief from Colorado, has a hard time answering the question.
"I have to think about that," Adams said. "I've gotten so used to it."
She's a "trans," a transgendered male-to-female, and for 17 years has been organizing the Esprit Gala, the Pacific Northwest's transgender convention held every spring at the Red Lion Hotel in Port Angeles.
"It's a bit like being in a fishbowl. But we learn to smile back," Adams said, tilting her perfectly coiffed head.
"They're curious. We know they have to look."
A week of activities
Adams and fellow conventioneers -- 160 this year -- began arriving in Port Angeles on Sunday for a week of activities.
Esprit week has grown to be one of the largest conventions to take place at the 186-room Red Lion, and "there is never a dull moment . . . it's great to have them," said Donya Alward, the hotel's sales and marketing director.
The week is drenched in parties, with a "first-timer wine and cheese" reception Wednesday and Victorian afternoon tea today, plus shopping trips to Victoria and Port Townsend.
Then come events that bring the Esprit crowd and the public together: Girls' Night Out tonight, when many downtown Port Angeles shops will stay open late; the Esprit Talent Show and dance at 8 p.m. Friday at the Elks Naval Lodge, 131 E. First St.; and the Celestial Ball with the Fabulous Boomers band at 9 p.m. Saturday at the Red Lion, 221 N. Lincoln St.
Also tonight, Friday and Saturday night, the Seattle band Nasty Habits -- an Esprit favorite -- will play at Bar N9ne, 229 W. First St.
"We've looked around," at other cities, Adams said, since Esprit can't expand at the Red Lion. But she and her compatriots are not leaving.
"We love Port Angeles. We've built ties here," Adams said, adding that the planning committee sought local teachers for many of Esprit's classes: actor and designer Richard Stephens taught "Sewing for Beginners," and Steppin' Out Salon owner Kylie Ellis conducted "Makeup Basics."
Keeping the Esprit conference small allows visitors and residents to get to know one another, Adams said.
And so Port Angeles "found out we're not perverts. We're people."
A mutual admiration society has developed: "Welcome, Esprit" signs are all over downtown, and www.Espritconf.com proclaims that shopkeepers and restaurateurs dote on conference-goers.
"We've had a few ladies in, and we always have a lot of fun with them," Edna Petersen, owner of Necessities & Temptations, a gift shop at 217 N. Laurel St., said Wednesday.
"I'm proud of this community for welcoming differences," Petersen added.
This year turned out to be an especially auspicious one, Adams said.
She received a call from Port Angeles City Manager Kent Myers letting her know that a City Council member would be coming over -- and over came Councilman Max Mania on Sunday, with greetings on behalf of the council.
"The city is grateful for all [Esprit] has brought to us, economically and culturally," Mania said. "I really want them to know they're noticed and appreciated."
"This is the first time," Adams said, "that we have been officially welcomed by the city government."
For some, Esprit an edu-vacation with their spouses. Several classes and get-togethers for wives and partners are on the Esprit schedule since, Adams said, most of the participants are married.
She's been married to a woman for 17 years, for example.
On Monday and Wednesday, Adams taught cross-dressing 101, a class that isn't just about skirts and shoes; it's about how to walk down a hall like a woman, how to sit and talk like a lady and, Adams said, how to drive like one. As in not aggressively.
Cross-dressers are in many cases heterosexual men who feel best when they present themselves as women; they are not, she added, drag queens nor gay men who don campy costumes that poke fun at women.
"It's about gender, not about sex," Adams said.
JOHN NELSON'S LIVE MUSIC: Highs and lows in these parts
By John Nelson
THE LIVE MUSIC scene this week has both good news and bad news.
The good news is that the Esprit convention is still going strong and brings some live music with it as well as attracting live music to other venues.
The bad news is the Jazz in the Olympics Festival will not be held in April unless some angel steps forward to take over the extensive operation.
All of that aside, we have a full week of live music all across the Peninsula.
[Note: full listings have been edited to only highlight the Esprit-connected events]
The official Grand Opening of Bar N9ne (formerly Crazy Fish and Lyre's Club), 227 W. First St., is on Friday and Saturday. The club is larger with a longer bar and increased floor space, and it have the Nasty Habits rocking the place both nights from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. These women will rock, sock and knock you onto the dance floor and won't let you go. $5 cover.
It's a two-diva week at Wine on the Waterfront, 115 Railroad Ave. "The Lynn Peterson Farewell Tour" takes another step closer to "We miss you already" today at 7 p.m. Al Harris and Ron Newton back up Lynn's fine vocals. This is also in celebration of the "Girls Night Out" event in downtown Port Angeles. $3 cover.
Esprit transgender grand finales tonight, Saturday
By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Jillian Britton of Olympia shows off a black spike-heeled pump -- and potential weapon -- during a class on self-defense for women, or those who appear as women, at the Esprit transgender conference going on this week at the Red Lion Hotel in Port Angeles. -- Photo by Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News
PORT ANGELES - Esprit week, the annual transgender convention at and around the Red Lion Hotel in Port Angeles, hits its crescendo today and Saturday.
The conference, held here since 1989, this year has 160 participants, and they're enjoying themselves in classes, shopping trips and dances.
Tonight, the festivities open to the public include the Esprit Talent Show at 8 p.m. at the Elks Naval Lodge, upstairs 131 E. First St.
The performances will be followed by a dance at about 9 p.m.
Also tonight, the self-described "'80s glam punk and more" band Nasty Habits will start at 9 p.m. at Bar N9ne, 229 W. First St.
Saturday night, Esprit's finale is the Celestial Ball, a science-fiction-themed dance featuring classic rock by the Fabulous Boomers at 9 p.m. at the Red Lion, 221 N. Lincoln St.
The Nasty Habits will then reappear and play until 1 a.m. at Bar N9ne.
Admission to the Talent Show tonight and at the Celestial Ball on Saturday is a $5 donation to Volunteer Hospice of Clallam County, "our favorite charity since we started," said Esprit organizer Suzanne Adams.
"We present them with a check on Sunday morning," she added. "We chose them because [Hospice] seems to touch everybody's lives."
Adams, a retired police chief from Colorado, teaches several classes during Esprit week, including "Self-Defense for Women and Those Who Appear as Women."
Her session on Tuesday was a dish of useful information, topped with a healthy dollop of humor.
"Do you ever have that weird feeling that someone is watching you?" Adams asked the seven conventioneers who attended.
Then she answered her own question: "Oh, duh, we have that feeling a lot."
After all, Esprit is a conference for transgendered men: males who use feminine clothing, hormones and in some cases surgery to transform themselves.
And when you look like a woman, Adams said, you are far more vulnerable to assault than a man is.
As a former law enforcement officer who now serves as a consultant on transgender issues, Adams seeks to teach not only what to do if attacked, but also how to avoid getting into a dangerous situation.
To begin with, would-be criminals go for an easy mark: someone who's not so aware of her surroundings because she's digging in her purse for her keys or talking on her cell phone.
These are not wise things to do in one of the top three places for purse-snatchings and other assaults.
The three, in ascending order: public restrooms, parking garages and the parking lot at the grocery store.
When you come out of the supermarket, you're likely to be pushing a cart or carrying a purse, a shopping basket and maybe your phone, plus you feel comfortable since you go there so often.
But be cautious, Adams advised, even if you've been there a thousand times.
It's all too easy for someone who's just passing through to grab your purse, or pull you into a car.
Always have your keys in your hand, preferably with one sticking out and ready for use as a defense weapon, she added. Don't get caught searching for them while you're walking.
When leaving a nightclub, don't walk alone to your car, Adams said. Ask someone to accompany you.
If you must go solo, and someone tries to take your purse or otherwise accosts you, thrust out your palm, stomp your foot and yell, "No! Stop!"
Imagine the effect, Adams said. The attacker thinks this is a woman, and a man's voice comes booming out.
"That will scare the hell out of them," she said as her students giggled.
And if a mugger comes along and just wants your purse, throw it as far away as you can and run in the opposite direction, Adams added.
Adams sought to impress upon Esprit attendees, though, that when they pass as women -- which is easier at night -- their chances of being attacked multiply.
One in six women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime; that's compared with one in 33 men, she said, citing research from the Rape Abuse Incest National Network (www.RAINN.org).
Women may not have the physical strength men can use to avert an attacker, Adams said.
"I've been on [female] hormones for a year and a half, and I've lost quite a bit of strength," said Jillian Britton, who's at her first Esprit conference this year.
But then Britton held up her black spike-heeled pump, smiled, and said, "This can also be used as a weapon."
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-681-2391 or at diane.urbani@peninsuladaily news.com.
Holiday delights abound on Peninsula
Peninsula Daily News
The weekend after Thanksgiving is full of holiday delights on the North Olympic Peninsula.
PORT ANGELES -- The Gathering Darkness Gothic Ball will begin at the Elks Naval Lodge, 131 E. First St., at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
The event will include a wine tasting, appetizers, a costume contest and an encore performance of selections from the Port Angeles Light Opera Association's production of "The Rocky Horror Show."
The Nasty Habits band will headline the ball.
The event is for those 21 and older.
Cost is $25.
For more information, phone 360-457-3355.