Five AM came quickly. It takes me about 45 minutes to do my makeup (I am meticulous), so that is why I get up so early to get ready.
I went to the hotel restaurant at 7 AM for breakfast. There I met board member John K and his wife Laura. I had not seen Laura since Hamvention a year ago, so we hugged and caught up on the past year.
While I was eating and chatting, I noticed a group of guys at the next table checking me out. Finally, one of the guys got up and came to our table, excused himself and asked me, "Did you ever live in Annapolis?"
"No, I've never been in Annapolis, why do you ask?"
"You look just like the sister of a friend of mine from Annapolis. Sorry to bother you."
That was a nice confidence boost to begin the day!
After breakfast, we departed for the convention site arriving there at about 8 AM --- one hour before the doors open to the public.
We found our booth, got set up and waited.
At 9 AM, I walked to the room where our group was having its two-hour forum about the state-of-the-art and beyond projects we are involved in. It was a full-house.
After the forum, I made a quick sweep of the huge convention floor and ran into an old friend who I came out to last year at Hamvention. We caught up on the past year until a customer needed assistance, so I told him I would catch him later.
I returned to our booth and I saw another old friend in the distance. I worked side-by-side with OF when we both worked at ARRL headquarters and we became friends. Since leaving headquarters over 30 years ago for greener pastures, I have run into him occasionally at other ham events... the last time was at Hamvention about five years ago. Now, he is an elected official of the ARRL and I assumed he knew about my coming out, so I wanted to meet up with him face-to-face.
About an hour later, I was walking through the convention and saw OF coming in my direction. As we got closer, I smiled and said, "Hi OF."
OF had a puzzled look and asked, "Do I know you?"
I pointed to the call sign on my booth badge and only then did he know who I was.
Always worried about how old friends and acquaintances will react, again I had nothing to worry about. I explained my situation and he was fine with it.
This scene was repeated about an hour later while I was working the booth. A former board member of our group, who I had not seen in close to ten years, came by. I greeted him and he had no clue, so I showed him my call sign and then he knew. He related it was the second time this had happened because recently another ham friend came out to him as "Michelle." Just as he was fine with Michelle and he was fine with Stana.
Board members John A and Steve planned to leave early because they had to be at the banquet when the doors opened. Since we were staying in the same hotel, I left with them so I could freshen my makeup and change my outfit. Traffic was heavy and by the time we got back to the hotel, we did not have much time, so we agreed to meet back at the car in 15 to 20 minutes.
In 20 minutes, I went over my face with my electric razor to remove anything unladylike that had turned up during the day, reapplied any makeup that needed reapplication, and changed outfits. The only thing I could not do was close the clasp above the zipper on the back of my dress, so when I met John and Steve at the car, I asked one of the boys to close the clasp for me.
Fashion Note: During the day, I wore my DressBarn "Abstract Cap-Sleeve Dress," suntan pantyhose, Newport News black patent open-toed sling-backs, Kohl's black hobo bag, and jewelry (bracelet, earrings, watch) that complimented the outfit. For the banquet, I wore my DressBarn "Bordered Abstract Dress and Bolero Duet" with the same hose, shoes, and bag, but different jewelry (necklace, earrings, watch).
When we arrived at the banquet hall, some attendees (about 20) were already in attendance, so we needed to collect their tickets. While John manned the entrance to collect tickets from new arrivals, I volunteered to collect tickets from those already in attendance. Almost all of them were strangers and it was a very telling experience.
Most of the board members (all guys) have known me for ten years or more. They call me by my femme name most of the time, flub my pronouns most of the time, and still treat me "like one of the guys" all of the time. I wish they would try harder with the pronouns, but it is no big deal and I am fine with being treated as one of the guys.
So there I am collecting tickets from 20 strangers --- almost all of them were guys and they most definitely did not treat me like "one of the guys." Instead, they were very polite and respectful and some of them were actually very cute in the way they interacted with me. They also got the pronouns right. I don't think I ever felt more like a woman than I did when I collected the tickets.
After that experience, I became more aware of how strangers interacted with me during Hamvention. In general, woman smiled that smile which indicates that they acknowledge you as a member of their club. And men were overly polite. It became obvious that they thought I was a woman and not a man in a dress.
Note to self: Chivalry is not dead in the Midwest, so let men hold the door open for you.