Esprit 2024: From Caterpillar to Butterfly. A Reaffirmed Femininity

In my first article I wrote about my experience at Keystone, which was the beginning of a female life outside home and in public. It helped a little the idea that even if there were a couple of acquaintances in the area, it was very unlikely that I would run into them and I would be among strangers, except for the friends of CDH and TGH, who, although not physically, had built strong ties with me in this beautiful component of my lifestyle. Before this my life dressed as a woman was very limited, tempered only by online interaction and, frankly, with little hope of in-person encounters. In fact I wasted a couple of opportunities because of my fears, which were well-founded, but should not have held me back. Nevertheless, I was relatively happy, even though my social life was entirely in male mode. Now I know I can balance it better.

Esprit was then the logical continuation of my time at Keystone; a reaffirmation of my femininity, a smaller, very intimate event that, by its nature, allowed me to come into daily contact with the other participants, both those who arrived for the first time, with whom I shared the Koffee Klatsch daily, and those who had attended the event several times. In addition, the residents of Port Angeles were always kind, respectful and collaborative with us, fully accepting us as the people we are, to the extent that we felt completely confident walking through the streets of the town. Even alone, something I don’t do in my country.

It has really been one more step; another unforgettable experience, new engraving in my soul. I think that the first experiences are more easily marked in memory, especially the pleasant ones. It’s better that the unpleasant ones go straight to the trash can.

En Femme Style

It was a week of complete womanhood and with the Keystone experience behind me it was easier for me to get ready, based on simple makeup, just accentuating it at night. The “smokey eyes” were exclusively to be shown at the Fashion Show and the Talent Show on Friday, and obviously the dance, with another less dramatic version for the graduation and the Gala.

All the love in the world has been inserted into my soul. So far this year I have expanded my family, created a very intense bond with, and learned to feel like an important part of the community. From the first activity, the Icebreaker, I felt a confidence that I had rarely experienced before. I immediately connected with new friends. Suzanne, the host, made us feel at home, and I exchanged personal experiences with a table companion about my feminine journey. I have always been very reserved, but shortly after I found myself speaking freely with two attendees and a young journalist who inspired immediate confidence in me to the point that I agreed to record the interview as a source for a documentary she is preparing. A very nice woman, by the way, whose late father was transgender. She always offered to turn off the recording at the request of any of us, but there were never any interruptions.

There was learning, fun, reflection and coexistence. I am deeply grateful to Lea Foster for giving me the final push to convince me that I still had time to decide and I am satisfied that I was able to achieve it. I was very moved, almost to tears, to hear a classmate tell me that I had to love myself a lot to make such a long trip, especially to attend Esprit. She made me reflect on the fact that it is a reality that has grown with my experiences. The sum of so many personal struggles and the emergence after having, on some occasions, felt at rock bottom. Visibility perhaps.

One of the most incredible and exciting moments of the week was participating in The Fashion Show. Never in my life did I imagine that I would model on a catwalk. The first time we were invited I heard it like someone listening to rain. By reiterating the invitation, embellished with incentive, I became curious. When I returned to my room, located above the Esprit Lobby, I looked at the list. I didn’t hesitate and was the sixth to sign up. Seeing a couple of friends on the list motivated me more. I told myself that if I made a fool of myself, at least I would have someone to comfort me.

I must confess that I woke up somewhat regretful and called myself crazy, but the meeting with the people in charge of the show restored my confidence and made me feel in my heart that I could achieve it. The easiest thing was choosing the two dresses that I would model: the little black dress, purchased at En Femme, and the blue gala dress that I bought in person at Carriage House Boutique, an experience that I already shared. Describing them, adding personal phrases, was simple. Since the instructions were precise and they helped us look beautiful, walking across the stage was a magical, comforting and personal growth experience. The undeniable nerves dissipated in the blink of an eye. On the way to the first corner next to the window, I felt like a professional model, ready to show the best of me on that walk, and so I moved, slowly but surely towards the next corner, showing a wide smile that reflected how much I enjoyed the experience, aware that all eyes were on me. I was gratified that instead of making me nervous, this made me feel beautiful and very visible. The second time down the catwalk was also much more intense. The guidance I received was very valuable and I am sure that everything went very well because everyone made me feel so comfortable. I wasn’t scared by the camera flashes, I even stopped when one of the spectators asked me to, and posed proudly. It was a wonderful experience sharing this moment with such wonderful models, leaving the best of our souls scattered among the lunching public.

The fun continued at the Julia Lauer Talent Show. It was great to watch the other attendees show us their art and leave the best of each of them on stage. I also received another valuable gift from a young woman in the community. She was part of a group of young girls who enjoyed the event in a big way. When they moved in to the front this young lady extended her arm and with a beautiful smile told me: “I love your look. Let’s dance!”. I couldn’t refuse and I must admit that I enjoyed it very much. The invitation was repeated several times. Other attendees were also asked to dance. Upon returning to the hotel, another dance evening with DJ Ally awaited us. The climax of fun. I eventually went back to dancing barefoot, which is even more fun.

The Keynote Speaker had given an emotionally compelling and forceful speech during lunch and she was very friendly and pleasant to talk to. Kiersten Mohr. Inspiring.

The highlight was graduation, where I received my butterfly pin. Alyssa acted as my big sister, although I had actually had more big sisters along the way. It was an extremely exciting experience, with moist eyes and knots in the throat, but above all with a heart swollen with feelings. I don’t remember the words much because the ones I had been thinking about were erased from my mind and I had to get them out of my soul, to admit that I was in Esprit despite all the difficulties, after a long pilgrimage and that I was glad to have arrived to find another new family.

The rest was party time. Good food, double or single margaritas and lots of dancing. With a fabulous band. As long as the body held out. I went to the room with the intention of resting for a while to go to the Slumber Party, but the alarm clock did not fulfill its purpose and I opened my eyes shortly before dawn. I went to breakfast and then joined the farewell, the party of nostalgia, where memories flow and we are told what we will miss.

I had the chance to dress feminine one more time for a Keystone Klatsch before I flew back to my homeland. It was fabulous for me. I was participating even more this time than the previous ones. I said I was expecting to feel blue at home after those two wonderful, life-changing experiences. But I was wrong. I feel great. Planning what I can do now, what I wanna do and how I will save money to go back to Harrisburg and Port Angeles next year.

The most important lesson is to recognize that I love myself enough to seek the best for myself and that is what allows me to share myself with my peers and serve as a support point on their paths. I will continue to build inseparable ties with the community. It is the only way to exist with dignity.


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