"Safe at Conventions? The Mysterious Case of My Vanishing Purse"
Back in February, I came to the Colorado Gold Rush to rehearse the keynote speech I’d be giving at California Dreamin’ and to sign and sell copies of Alice in Genderland in the vendor area. It was a delightful, friendly convention, and I could not have been more pleased that I had come until the last day, as I packed up my vending station and went to sell my leftover books to the IFGE Bookstore. There I transferred the books to Denise and tried to give someone who said I’d inspired her to take her first step out the door the attention she deserved, before grabbing the roll-a-board suitcase that contained all my other materials. Five minutes later, on reaching my second-floor hotel-room door, I realized that it didn’t contain my keycard and purse. So I headed immediately back down to the vendor area. There people were packing up, and Denise said, "Was that your Coach bag we saw? We were wondering who was carrying such a nice bag."
"Don’t worry," said a kind lady from the Transformation Boutique, "I just saw Johnny from the GLBT Center alone with it a moment ago. He must have taken it up to the front desk." Okay, no cause for alarm here, I thought as I proceeded to the front desk but . . . no purse. Still no reason to panic, I thought as I ambled my way to the Gold Rush registration desk, but they too didn’t know what I was talking about but suggested I speak to the event coordinator.
Remaining optimistic, I dressed for the final banquet and party afterward and sought the woman out as soon as I got there. She was helpful and agreed to ask everyone if they had seen my purse before introducing that night’s keynote speaker, which she graciously did and without mentioning that I was the goofy one who’d lost her handbag. When no one turned up with it by the end of dinner, I asked her, "Who exactly is this Johnny guy who seems to have my purse?" She explained that he was a cute, young volunteer from the GLBT Center of Colorado manning their table at the convention. "I think he left, but he should be back to join us all at the bar later on just like last night. I just left a message for him too."
Okay, I thought and did my best to get around to business as usual, trying to meet as many of my CD sisters as possible to share my message of hope, pride, and adventure. I did my best to lose myself in that process, and before I knew it, it was eleven o’clock. I sought out the event coordinator to see if Johnny had returned. He hadn’t. "What exactly did you mean when you said he was a volunteer for the GLBT Center?" I asked.
"He was doing community service," she replied.
"What does that mean?"
"He may have been serving time for some minor offense."
"Oh my god, this guy is some kind of alcoholic or drug addict that none of us really know. What the hell! This convention’s over for me right now, and I better just get upstairs to my room and start canceling credit cards."
I threw off my wig and make-up and started to assess the damage. There’d been $500 in my purse as well as two master cards, cash card, driver’s license with my real male name and address, and house keys. Not only that but pictures of my wife and kids and my ex-boyfriend (call me sentimental). Fortunately both Melissa and Frank were always well-aware of each other, but still. And, lest I forget, a pricey Palm Treo cellphone with a full address book in it with more personal and some financial information. I spent the rest of the night freezing bank accounts, canceling credit cards, and figuring out how I might be able to get out to the airport and onto my plane home without ID.
Once home, fortunately, and after a night’s rest, I started to follow up on things with the Denver Police Dept. and the Gold Rush coordinator. When I didn’t hear back from her, I went ahead and phoned up the director of the GLBT Center. She was interested in what I had to say but replied that she would begin some sort of slow, careful (hard-to-follow-through-on) fact- finding process that would likely lead to something far short of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. I replied that we both knew what had probably happened and that I didn’t appreciate her placing a petty criminal in the midst of our transgender convention—and without anyone to watch over him. I explained to her that many of us TGs have secrets and so much to lose and that I was looking for her to apologize and pledge to learn something from this incident. She said that she just didn’t see it that way and gave me the sense that she could try to rehabilitate her "volunteers" anyway she saw fit and that I was just a pampered professional crying NIMBY (Not in my backyard).
Though she never admitted it, I learned two weeks later, after hours on the phone and changing all 16 locks on our kooky California home, that Johnny had been dismissed as a "community service volunteer" at the GLBT Center. And I must admit to you folks that Johnny isn’t his real name. Because I can’t be 100% percent sure of what happened to my purse, I’ve given my probable perpetrator a pen name to protect him in the unlikely event that he might be innocent. Maybe I deserved all that pain and suffering for having a Coach bag and leaving it unattended for ten minutes? But still, how would you feel? Best keep my experience in the back of your mind, as you relax and have fun at your next transgender convention.
Alice Novic, M.D.
To learn more about me than you’d ever dare ask, please see my smart, sexy memoir, Alice in Genderland: A Crossdresser Comes of Age