Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Give it a Chance

I drove to Atlanta to visit with some friends at the Southern Comfort Conference a couple of weeks ago.

This conference and I have history.  The first year I attended was 2001, shortly after my transition, and from that point through 2010 I attended every year.  I've given keynotes there, I've raised sponsorship money for it, I've met a number of dear friends there (including a certain someone, in 2002) - as I say, we have history.

This year's visit was a fairly informal one.  I didn't attend any of the Conference events....I didn't even stay at the conference hotel (anyone who has been there knows what it can be like waiting for elevators).  I don't think I told many people I was going as I didn't want to disappoint anyone hoping to hang for a little while - it was a very brief trip.

The main reason - to see Dr. O.  As I've previously written here, he has now formally retired.  He has closed his office in Davies Medical Center and is no longer actively seeing patients.  I felt compelled to visit him at least one more time to consider old times.  Plus, he was using this year's conference to introduce the surgeon he is working with as a "protege" of sorts.  Oh - and he had a wine tasting of his wine....

There were a couple of headlines worth mentioning from this year's event.  The first is that HRC President Chad Griffin was the Friday lunchtime keynote speaker.  I'll have more to say about that in a subsequent entry here.

The other was the announcement that the conference will be moving away from the only home city it has ever known - Atlanta - next year.  The 2015 SCC will be held in Ft. Lauderdale, FL (story here).

There was no small amount of emotion expressed over this move.  On Sunday morning, after the conference, I was invited to two different 7:30am meetings.  One was to begin planning for the 2015 SCC in Ft. Lauderdale.  The other was to discuss the possibility of creating another conference and keeping it in Atlanta.  I understand both points of view.

The fact of the matter is that this is the right move.  Nobody asked my opinion, but it is.  Truth be told, the days of these kinds of huge conferences that depend on attendee fees and sponsorships are numbered.  We've talked about this in the past - conference attendance has been falling steadily for years.  There are lots of reasons for it, but the bottom line is that if it doesn't change itself soon there won't be any SCC to save.

The trans communities are far more complex now than they were a decade ago.  It's difficult to put together a conference that appeals to the broad spectrum without neglecting others.  One of the reasons they've lasted as long as they have is that they've done a pretty good job of it.

Ft. Lauderdale made this an easy decision, thanks to its sponsorship $$$.  Those who are angry and say they won't go simply because it's not in Atlanta should re-think once the emotion dies down.  For a community that's all about change we don't seem to handle change so well sometimes.  Anyway - time will tell how this plays out.  All I can say is - give it a chance.

For those of us for whom SCC holds lots of memories - well, we'll never lose those.  That's what SCC represents to me now - good old memories, and the opportunity to create new ones.

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