Monday, May 17, 2010

the booth babe

three_of_me

There is so much to write about my long weekend en femme, but, first, let me set the scene.

I am well-known in the world known as amateur radio or ham radio. My notoriety in that world is as a writer/author. For over 30 years, I have written for the leading ham radio organization in the USA.

During that time, I have written monthly columns for the their magazine, articles for their books, and complete books, one of which was a best seller, and currently, I write a weekly column for their web site.

I am also on the board of directors of another prominent organization that represents a sub-group (digital experimenters) in ham radio. I also serve as that organization's newsletter editor.

As a result, I am well known in the ham radio world; I was once told to my face that I am a ham radio "legend."

Each May, the biggest ham radio convention in the world occurs in Dayton, Ohio. I attend most years as I did this past weekend. I usually moderate a forum at the convention and staff the booth of the digital experimenters' organization.

By the way, I did not moderate a forum this year because I was undecided about attending at all and by the time I made up my mind to go, it was too late to volunteer as a moderator. Next year, I plan to submit a proposal to do something for trans hams.

As you know, I came out to the other board members and officials of the digital experimenters' organization as well as my editor and her supervisors at the national organization I write for. In addition to coming out, I informed them that I intended to attend the Dayton convention en femme.

Not a discouraging word was heard. In fact, I received much support and offers of assistance, if needed.

Wednesday and Thursday

My weekend started with an early departure on Wednesday. I "cheated" and did not dress en femme because I wanted to get on the road as early as possible and getting en femme would have put a two-hour dent in my departure.

I drove 400 miles to Bedford, PA, where I stayed overnight.

Thursday morning, I dressed en femme and checked out of the Quality Inn. The woman staffing the desk during check-out was different from the woman staffing the desk when I checked in, so there was no confusion about who was staying in my room.

I arrived at the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Dayton about 2:15 PM. At check-in, the woman staffing the desk loved my top.

By the way, I registered at the hotel as "Stana" to add credibility to my femulation. (My credit card has only the initial "S" as my first name, which lets me get away with using "Stana" or any other "S" name I desire.)

In my room, I freshened up, changed from a top, leggings, and flats, to a black and white floral print dress, and black patent platform slingback peep-toe pumps (see photo above left).

I took the elevator down to the lobby and visited the hotel's bar. I perched myself on a bar stool, ordered a drink, and relaxed before heading out to the board of director's meeting.

The bartender treated me respectfully and I nursed my drink, but it was boring. There were two other customers talking about some boring ham radio convention and there was a hockey game on the television.

I left, fetched my car from valet parking, and drove to the hotel uptown for the board meeting.

Entering the meeting room, I found two friends already there, who greeted me enthusiastically. As each of the other board members and officers showed up, they also greeted me as old friends even though I was sporting a "new look."

The new board members were less enthusiastic because we were not old friends, but they were respectful and seemed accepting. Our accountant, who was not aware of my status, also was respectful and the waitstaff, who served our food referred to me as a female, so overall, the weekend started off on a very positive note.

The meeting ended and I was back in my room by 10 PM. I went to bed as soon as I could because I had to be up at 5 AM for my first day at the convention.

Friday and Saturday (Days)

Friday and Saturday, I spent most of those days staffing our booth and occasionally, I visited the other booths at the convention. Both days were similar and in my mind now, it is hard to separate the two, so I will summarize the days together.   

Males dominate ham radio. Females only represent about 15% of the US ham population. This demographic was clearly evident at the Dayton convention and attending the convention as a woman was a revelation.

For one thing, there were no lines at the restrooms. Also, the restrooms were pristine and the floors were dry even at the end of the day. (Attending the convention in the past as a male, I usually avoided the restrooms after mid-morning because they are disgusting.)

Another thing, I was the object of many a male's attention. Staffing the booth or walking around the convention hall, strange men smiled at me, said "hello," admired me from afar, etc., etc. It was amazing.

During the two days staffing the booth, I met six readers of this blog. Three informed me beforehand by e-mail that they would look for me at the convention; the other three just showed up at my booth and recognized me, which was a little surprising because I had not announced which booth I would be staffing among the more than a hundred booths at the convention.

(Another reader e-mailed me yesterday saying that she thought she saw me walking near a specific set of booths around noon on Saturday. I confirmed that I was at those booths at that time on Saturday and wish that she had stopped me to say "hello.")

I am not aware of the comfort levels of the blog readers who met me at the convention, so I don't want to out them here by mentioning their names or worse, their call signs, but I want to thank them all for searching me out and giving me an opportunity to meet and girl-talk with them for awhile.

It was wonderful to meet and chat with the people I already knew, but it was also wonderful to meet and chat with people I did not know explaining the technologies displayed in our booth. I don't know if that qualifies me as a "booth babe," but in all my years of staffing our booth, mine was the first appearance of a female form on the booth's firing line. I wonder if that helped to attract visitors to our booth.

Friday Night

Friday night, our organization had a joint dinner with another experimenter's organization, which usually attracts 100 to 200 attendees at a banquet hall south of Dayton. I attend this dinner every year I attend the convention, so I am familiar some of the attendees, who also attend every year.

I wore my favorite dress du jour: the retro green dress that I wore to the casino during the holidays (see photo above center). I accented the dress with a gold scarf, my simulated snakeskin platform slingback peep-toe pumps, and a new matching simulated snakeskin bag.

The hem of the dress is short, so I was showing more leg Friday night than I did the rest of the weekend. I thought I looked very nice.

I drove to the banquet hall, bought a drink, sat at a table up front, conversed with the other folks who sat at my table, and tugged at the hem of my dress the whole time. I knew some of the folks at my table already and the others were new to me, but no one seemed to mind the new me.

The food was excellent as usual and I enjoyed the speaker, who is an old friend (we go back about 20 years).

Funny story... my speaker friend showed up at our booth early Friday morning and I made a point of saying "hello" to him. I thought I detected some confusion on his part and felt that I should have explained what was going on, but he was in a hurry to get to his booth.

I caught up with him before dinner and began to explain, but he interrupted me and said he knew exactly who I was and was very cool with it. The only thing he wanted to know was what name do I go by now.

That typified the whole weekend. 

An aside: It was funny how some of my friends and acquaintances recognized me immediately despite my new look, whereas others were clueless as to my identity and we had to be re-introduced. Go figure.  

Saturday Night

Saturday night, my plans were to attend the Dayton Contest Dinner, which is the big event for the ham radio contest community attending the convention. My editor, who is a big contester, had invited me to attend.

When I checked out the web page for the dinner, I noticed that most of the men in attendance were wearing jackets and ties, which was unusual for a ham radio affair.

There were no photos of females in attendance; I wondered what I should wear, so I asked my editor. She informed me that she always buys a new cocktail style dress to wear to that dinner.

Still unsure about what to wear, I sent her photos of some of my cocktail dresses. She loved the red dress I wore to my support group's banquet back in March, so that is what I wore to the dinner along with some bling and my black patent platform slingback heels. I also sexed-up my makeup and hair and tried a new trick to accentuate my cleavage. In my humble opinion, I thought I came as close to achieving the term "hot" as I possibly could (see photo above left).

I took the hotel shuttle to the hotel hosting the dinner and climbed a grand circular staircase from the lobby up to the mezzanine level where the cocktail hour was in full swing. As I climbed the stairs, a sea of 200 to 300 males congregating in groups around the mezzanine appeared and suddenly it seemed as if they all turned their heads simultaneously to look at me! I smiled back at them and worked my way to the top of the staircase, where I discovered I was the only “female” attendee present at that point in time.

I am not active in ham radio contests and did not recognize one face in the crowd. My editor had not yet arrived, so I was on my own.

A lot of guys were checking me out, but not one had the courage to speak to me, so I worked my way to the bar and ordered a drink. Then I worked my way back through the crowd looking for a familiar face, found none, and decided to escape to the ladies' room to regroup.

In the ladies' room, I touched up my lipstick, took a deep breath, and went back out to the mezzanine. By then, the staff had opened the doors to the banquet room and people were filing in, so I joined them and found the table front and center that my editor had reserved . I chose a seat and sat down.

Eventually, the room filled up and my editor sat next to me. She introduced me as "Stana" to all the other people seated at our table. After my introduction, one of the guys at our table commented that he recognized my call sign, but the person he knew with that call sign looked very different. I dunno if he was being a wise guy or was actually confused.

The food and speakers were excellent and there was a mass quantity of door prizes. It seemed that 25% of the 432 folks in attendance won something, including me.

When they drew my ticket and announced my call sign as a winner of a ham magazine subscription, I came out en masse to all the hams at the dinner who recognized my call sign and happened to see me get up to pick up my prize. No one confronted me about the outing, so I assume it was not a big deal to anyone except me.

Overall

Overall, the weekend worked out great. Everyone I encountered accepted me one way or another.

All my friends and acquaintances were very ok with the new me.

The strangers who engaged me throughout the weekend, hams and civilians alike, accepted me as a woman, trans or otherwise.

I could not ask for anything more.

9 comments:

  1. Dear Stana,

    This is a total triumph. And how amazing to see so many colleagues (and tidy bathrooms) through a new set of eyes.

    It is really breathtaking to read this. What wonderful ground you are breaking for many that will follow in your footsteps.

    Sincere thanks ...

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  2. What a fantastic weekend, well done!

    There is a similarly tiny proportion of female radio amateurs in the UK as well. I suspect I'd cause a few premature heart attacks were I to follow your example at the RSGB Hamfest.

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  3. AnonymousMay 17, 2010

    As Julia Roberts said in "Pretty Woman": "This is big.... this is huge!"
    Major major big.
    So much courage to do this, esp. in a male dominated field like Ham radio. And I am so surprised at the reception by the other members: being cool about it, acceptance, tolerance (though I am sure there could be some underground negative rumblings)...
    This is Huge , Stana.....!

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  4. In case I didn't already say this, I want to be you when I grow up. Thank you so much for sharing your adventures.

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  5. Jenna EvansMay 17, 2010

    I enjoyed meeting you and hope to do so again next year! I'm happy things went so well for you.

    Cheers!

    Jenna N8###

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  6. I admire you courage!
    You're breaking barriers for all of us and for that I say thanks.

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  7. AnonymousMay 18, 2010

    you go girl! congrats on a great weekend
    -andee

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  8. Such courage, Stana! I enjoyed reading your review of the weekend. I could never do that.

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  9. ClosettaMay 19, 2010

    Firstly thank you sharing your thoughts and adventures with the more closetted amongst us.

    I hit 60 yesterday, and after half a century of secretively femulating can only be slack-jawed with amzement (not a pretty look!) at how far, and fast we - you - are travelling.

    (And is it mean of me to wonder whether an all-male environment was actually - could it possibly be - more tolerant?)

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