By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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“If I pick a country song, do you think they'll drag me down the street by my boots?” Krystal asked.
A karaoke contest at Bar N9ne on Wednesday found attendees of the annual Esprit transgender conference singing alongside members of the Port Scandalous Roller Derby league.
This year is Krystal's 10th trip to the Esprit convention, now in its 25th year in Port Angeles.
Conventioneers have been meeting in conference rooms at the Red Lion Hotel and shopping all over town since the weeklong gathering began Sunday.
Many participated in “Girls' Night Out,” a downtown celebration with music, games and late store hours and specials Thursday evening.
Events continue through this weekend, with the public invited to such activities as the World-Famous Esprit Talent Show taking over the Elks Naval Lodge at 131 E. First St. at 8 tonight and the Saturday gala at 8 p.m. in the Red Lion's Juan de Fuca ballroom.
Both events include a $5 cover charge. Proceeds will be donated to Volunteer Hospice of Clallam County.
'This is me'
Krystal, from southern Oregon, overcame nerves to the point of dazzling the Bar N9ne crowd with Miranda Lambert's “I Hope You Dance,” the nervousness of walking down the street in knee-high boots having dissolved.
“This is me,” said Krystal, who lives full time in women's clothing.
Earlier in the conference, Krystal took a first-timer shopping out, saying she was “3 feet above the ground” openly shopping for women's clothes.
Esprit rookies often have a tough time when the convention ends and they lose that feeling of freedom and camaraderie, Lynn Goralski said.
“We call it Blue Monday,” said the veteran Goralski, a longtime Esprit attendee who works at a center for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teens in Tacoma.
“You're here, and everything seems so normal, so relaxed, and there's so much strength in just being around this number of people who feel like you do.
“Then you go back, and everything kind of deflates. It's still rough for me, and I'm in this community all the time.”
For Krystal, that Blue Monday was compounded by the isolation of a former career in information technology.
Now enrolled in college and living full time as a woman, Krystal has gained a new, more comfortable self-view.
“I was invisible for 14 years of my life,” Krystal said. “Now that I've come out and been honest and found a supportive community, I've realized I'm an extrovert. I really do love being around people.”
Krystal credited Port Angeles for that realization.
Being able to walk openly and feel safe and accepted led to that karaoke stage-style comfort, Krystal said.
“This town is so sweet,” Krystal said. “The way this town is not just accepting, not just friendly, but welcoming.
“It's like coming back to family.”
For more information about Esprit 2014, visit www.espritconf.com.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.