Let’s start off this post with a quick comic book analogy, and before you think I’m a sci-fi/comic book geek, I’m not; it’s just that I read a quick blurb about this character a long while ago and felt they were apropos for this post: In the DC Comics Universe, there is a character by the name of Luornu Durgo, a strange visitor from another planet (whoops, wrong character) where the natives had the ability to split themselves into three identical bodies at will. Luornu Durgo used that that ability to overwhelm and fight evil forces, earning her the nickname “Triplicate Girl.”
Now, I imagine that Luornu Durgo could have used that multiplication ability to do other things… like, say, straighten up her house before guests came over to visit. Or… I dunno, appear in three totally separate places at once. Last week Friday, I had not one, not two, but three separate commitments occupying my entire day from pre-dawn to well past sunset. Thankfully, I didn’t have to be there all at the same time, but just the same, I felt like I had that multiplying superpower. Just call me [*insert powerful superhero music here*] Triplicate Person!
I say “pre-dawn” in that last paragraph since I’m an early riser (the sun is also rising later, but let’s not get into that). Last Friday morning, rather than get up at the relatively ungodly time of 5:30AM (the time I set my alarm to), I drifted awake at the even more ungodly time of… wait for it… quarter to 4AM. Yeah, I wished I could’ve gotten a few more winks of sleep, but my mind must have thought it had all the sleep it needed. Perhaps my mind was worried about the fact that I hadn’t set out and packed my clothes for that evening. I’ll tell you the reason I had to pack clothing later.
So, here I am spending those 3+ hours packing said clothes into a duffel bag, eat a little bit of breakfast, shower up, and gather my bearings. Oh, and also gather up a satchel full of items I needed for my volunteering duties that morning. As in first thing that morning, which is where one version of Triplicate Person pulled off the amazing act of being a devoted volunteer. I won’t get into too much specifics about my volunteering that morning, although I will say it was located about a 30-minute drive (in, thankfully, decent Beltline Highway traffic) from my apartment. I’m proud of my volunteer work, that’s for certain, and I’m proud of the work I did that morning. It’s just that sometimes the travel can be the pits, and I’m not one to travel very much. But, hey, Duty called and it said “You’ll be going out of town for a couple of hours.” All in all, I’m glad Duty won.
After finishing my volunteering, I drove back into Madison (another 30-35 minutes of driving time) to allow the second version of Triplicate Person to do their own amazing deed — work for a living. Now, you’re probably thinking that with my busy day of volunteering in the morning and the big event I’ll tell you about in a moment, I could’ve taken the entire day off from work. However, it’s been a busy time at work for our team, and I had already taken the previous Friday and Monday off, thanks to a familial commitment that whole weekend (a subject for another post, I promise). And, not expecting to be approved for another day off after taking vacation time so very recently, I didn’t ask for the day off. Yes, I know, I’m a workaholic. The good news was that I got paid time off for my volunteer time away from work. Yeah, about 2+ hours of banked personal time was used, meaning I didn’t have to put in a full 8-hour work day. Okay, I did put in 5+ hours, but you get the idea.
I clocked out of work at 4:30 that afternoon and did not head back home. And with that, I will tell you the reason I had to pack a change of clothing that morning: The third version of Triplicate Person — fabulous-looking female — had a dinner date! Don’t go asking who the lucky gentleman was, since it wasn’t that kind of a dinner date. Instead, ask who the important organization was.
OutReach, the LGBT community and support center here in Madison, held its 25th annual Awards Banquet last Friday night. Held at a pretty swank place, the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center, the banquet was not so much a celebration of OutReach itself (although its executive director gave a brief “in the last year we did all this” kind of rundown); rather, it was meant to celebrate and honor certain individuals, businesses, and organizations that promote the equality for and quality of life of the LGBT community.
The OutReach banquet was a generally black-tie type of atmosphere. No, dressing as if you were one of Jed Clampett’s kin would not have prevented you from entrance (if you had made reservations, of course). However, wearing a formal suit or decent dress would have made you look as if you fit right in. Such was the case for me, and with that I share with you the reason for the change of clothing: Originally, I hadn’t thought too much about going to the banquet, but the trans/CD support group I’m a part of paid reservations for a table for any group member interested in going (thanks in part to… let’s just say someone from a certain Madison-based health concern who offered a grant… and just in time, too). And after thinking about it a bit, I signed my name to the reservation list for our group’s table at the banquet… and signed it “Allison M.”
Yes, it’s true, not only did I reserve my spot at the banquet, I also did so under my feminine identity. And that’s the reason I had to pack a duffel bag of clothing and makeup that morning, so that I could do a quick presto change-o from Male Mode Me into Allison. Concerns about traffic and the banquet’s start time (5PM) ruled out any very quick rush back home to change, I determined. Turns out my concerns about traffic were valid: Less than 2 minutes after hopping on the Beltline Highway for the drive to Monona Terrace, the traffic started backing up, not only due to the usual evening rush home but also to, according to reports on the radio, a bad accident up ahead. Concerned about wanting to get to the banquet ASAP, I took the next available exit, passed another accident scene, drove a few blocks… and got stuck in another traffic jam, presumably full of drivers who, like me, wanted to avoid that jam on the Beltline. It was that way for most of my city-street drive to Monona Terrace. (Guess that second accident I passed by was a bad omen.)
Luckily, after approximately 50+ minutes of driving that should’ve taken not quite half that time if conditions were normal, I did make it to the Monona Terrace parking lot just after 5:30PM. For obvious reasons (like, say, privacy), I couldn’t make the quick-change into Allison in my car, so I lugged my duffel bag into Monona Terrace, dashed to the nearest unisex restroom, and spent the next 20 minutes changing from male to female clothes, putting on my makeup, straightening out my wig as best as I could, slip on sensible heels and a belt and turned into… this!
Yep, that’s me Friday night, sporting the very same Bisou Bisou dress I talked up here, as well as the very same belt and red hair I sported in my last post about a recent poetry performance. When pondering what to wear to the banquet, my mind immediately went to this dress. And while you didn’t see it pared with a belt in that post from last year, I thought this belt would be perfect to keep the dress in place. Needless to say, I received quite a few compliments from my trans group friends as well as from my table mates.
Oh, you may notice a name tag on my person. Funny story: Every person attending the banquet received a name tag sticker with their name and table number, as well as a place to write down their preferred pronouns (mine was “she/her” of course). Well, the only drawback about the whole night is that my name tag’s adhesive didn’t want to stay in place on my dress; once I put the sticker on, it would fall right off 5 seconds later. With an assist from the Monona Terrace wait staff, it took a little bit of masking tape applied to the back of the sticker to keep it in place… for a while anyway. Yeah, it still fell off, but not as often as it did without the masking tape. I imagine the polyester fabric on the dress was the culprit.
A word or two about the venue: Monona Terrace has several levels of meeting rooms and halls, room enough to accommodate everything from banquets to lectures and trade shows to even mixed martial arts. After recent years of being in the upper levels, this year the OutReach Awards Banquet was demoted to the basement level. Bad news, you scoff? No, it was good news, as demand for reservations was so high that the event was held in one of the biggest spaces Monona Terrace has available. I don’t remember the exact number of attendees Friday night, although I want to think it was well in the mid-triple digits.
So, you’re asking, how did the rest of the night turn out? Well, they started serving dinner at 6PM, just before I entered the banquet hall. My dinner plate had a chicken-and-bacon wrap smothered in a cheese sauce and served with rice and vegetable (pretty tasty stuff). Each table had its own small chocolate layer cake for dessert, scrumptious as you would imagine. While we were eating, a soothing live piano played in the background alongside a slide show of various images from OutReach’s past 25 years. Just as it was fascinating for me to see how OutReach has progressed in those photos, they must have been a generator of pride for those long associated with OutReach.
The actual ceremony portion of the evening began at almost precisely 7PM, and it included remarks from OutReach executives, a couple of drag performances, a vocal performance from the Perfect Harmony Men’s Chorus (accompanied by that above mentioned live piano), a couple of keynote addresses (I’ll talk those up in a moment)… and, of course, the handing out of awards to deserving organizations and individuals who have made a positive impact on the LGBT community in one way or another. One of those organizations was one that… well, it was the same arts organization that I had submitted some of my poetry to for consideration earlier this summer and got turned down. I’ve let bygones be bygones, however, and gave them a standing ovation after they accepted their award; yes, Standing O’s were commonplace on the night, but I was sincere with delivering mine. Even a tablemate and one of my friends from my trans support group was impressed, remarking after I sat down that I had a good heart for giving them a Standing O even after they turned me down over the summer. It’s okay, I reminded her; it’s all water under the bridge… and besides, I’m sure they deserve the award for helping give the trans community a creative voice.
As for the keynote speakers… well, the OutReach Awards Banquet had two keynoters, both federal lawmakers and important parts of the LGBT community in Madison and Wisconsin. Mark Pocan, who is Madison’s representative in the U.S. House of Representatives, was the first of the two keynoters to speak; Tammy Baldwin, who was Madison’s member of Congress before she became one of our state’s U.S. Senators 5 years ago, was the second. (That’s Senator Baldwin delivering her remarks in the above post from Our Lives Magazine, which also gives you an idea of the size of the room that night.) Both Congressman Pocan and Senator Baldwin talked about the remarkable path to progress the LGBT community has taken… as well as, sadly, the difficulties we must now withstand together in the face of emboldened hatred. Congressman Pocan, in his speech, recalled a note he and his husband received last winter stating that the man who had been plowing out their driveway would no longer be doing so, expressing his disapproval of the “lifestyle” of Pocan and his husband. (Uh, I think it’s called marriage now, Bubba.) Pocan, however, expressed optimism in his keynote remarks, noting that though our current leadership has been taking our country down one dark corner after another, there have been a great many people of all stripes who have taken a stand and say that darkness is not what our country is about.
With their stature as representatives of the people, both Congressman Pocan and Senator Baldwin are treated almost like rock stars in our community, or at least they were Friday night, Senator Baldwin especially. (She arrived a few minutes after the ceremony began, and when she entered, everyone gave her a Standing O. The Senator got held up by that Beltline accident as well.) One of my friends from the trans group is in such admiration of Baldwin (she thinks she’ll be Presidential material in 2020, and I can’t object to that) that she asked me to take a picture of her with Baldwin after the event, and of course I obliged.
And while I’m really, really bashful about posing for pictures with someone of great stature… yeah, I also posed for a picture with Baldwin. I’ll refrain from sharing it with you here, though, not because I’m ashamed of it or anything (of course I’m not). Let’s just say that this is will be a personal memento for me, not campaign fodder for an opponent (Baldwin’s up for re-election in 2018). Still, it was a great capstone to an awesome night, standing next to someone who so admirably represents not only the LGBT community but all of Wisconsin. On top of that, at least on this particular evening, she was quite approachable and easy going to anyone who came to greet her post-banquet. “Thank you, Senator,” I sincerely said to her as I departed.
After a couple of extra photos of myself in my outfit and with a couple of my friends, Triplicate Person finally headed home after a very long, very enjoyable day and night. But I wasn’t done for the weekend, as I joined my trans group for a Saturday afternoon meeting that next day. By Saturday night, however, Triplicate Person felt a drain of their superpowers. By Sunday morning, I was waylaid by that most dastardly of demons, the common cold, thanks to my most glaring weakness as a superperson: The difficulty to acclimate to sudden changes in temperature and weather. I think I’m partially to blame for this, as I didn’t take precaution to bundle up when departing Monona Terrace Friday night; it was quite dreary and rainy that evening. As of this writing on Tuesday night, I’m still feeling the effects of this cold, not so much congestion as much as irritated throat. Oh well.
But despite this nasty cold, I’m sure I’ll re-acclimate to the temperature pretty soon. And before you (or even I) know it, Triplicate Person will be ready to step up again as devoted volunteer, trustworthy employee, and fabulous crossdresser… or at least whichever one of those three classifications will be apropos for the occasion.