Bonaventure Resort and Spa
September 29-October 3
The Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau has worked for the last couple of years to market specifically to each letter in LGBT — especially “T,” which has often been referred to as “the forgotten T.” Last year, the CVB rolled out their first-ever transgender-specific tourism website (sunny.org/tlgb), and didn’t stop there. They made inroads with the transgender community both at home and further afield, and they were very happy to announce that this year’s Southern Comfort Conference, one of the largest gatherings of transgender people in the world, will take place right here in Greater Fort Lauderdale. The conference will return to the Fort Lauderdale area in 2016 and 2017 as well.
This year’s Southern Comfort Conference is special because it’s the 25th annual conference, and with transgender visibility and transgender rights being given platforms on national and international stages more than ever before, it is even more fitting that the conference’s silver jubilee is occurring this year. The 25th annual Southern Comfort Conference will be held at the Bonaventure Resort and Spa (250 Racquet Club Rd., Weston) for four days, with people arriving on Tuesday, September 29 and events going on from Wednesday, September 30 through Saturday, October 3.
The events will begin for people arriving early on Tuesday, September 29, with a meet and greet from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Society Lounge inside the resort. Registration will begin at 8 a.m. the next morning. Also beginning the next morning is the local shuttle which will take attendees into the community for shopping opportunities. Visit the event board near the Society Lounge for departure times. There will be a first-timer/princess day breakfast in the presidential suite at 10 a.m., followed by an optional “princess day” excursion leaving at 11 p.m. The cost is $30 including transportation and lunch, but budget more if you’d like to go shopping and to the salon. There is also a 90-minute river cruise during the afternoon; transportation will leave the hotel at noon and will take attendees to a cruise boat on the New River, which they will board and see Fort Lauderdale by water. The cost of this trip is $35 including lunch. There is also an Everglades Airboat Tour, priced at $30 per person, and that shuttle will leave the hotel at 2:15. There will be a provider day reception (sponsored by the Southern Comfort Conference and HRC) in the Society Lounge at 3:30, followed by optional evening trips to dinner and the Hard Rock Casino Hollywood. If you’d like to stay in, there is karaoke from 9 p.m. to midnight, and a movie night featuring the premiere episode of “I Am Jazz,” followed by a movie to be announced.
On Thursday, October 1, the marketplace will open at 9 a.m. and seminars will begin at 2 p.m. Doctors and advocates will speak on various topics relating to the transgender experience, such as transitioning from a surgical perspective; sex, gender and the law; life after transition; and how to create a transgender-specific organization in your hometown. The morning will begin with a newcomer reception and breakfast in the presidential suite at 9 a.m. People who would like to participate in the Robert Eads Health Fair (so named for the Southeast’s premier transgender medical specialist), the shuttle leaves the hotel at 10 a.m. There will also be an “Out and Equal” reception in the presidential suite, room 4109, at 5 p.m. Off-site events consist of many activities, with the shuttle leaving the hotel for Wilton Manors at 6 p.m. The Stonewall Museum and Archives will be the first stop on that trip, followed by a dinner show at Lips. If you’d like to stay in, there will be a Thursday Night Football game available for viewing in the Society Lounge. This event is geared toward FTM conference attendees but all are welcome. Be ready for a big party on Friday night. For $15 per person, the shuttle will take attendees to The Manor in Wilton Manors for dancing until dawn. There is no cover charge for Southern Comfort attendees at The Manor on Friday or Saturday nights.
Seminars begin at 10 a.m. on Friday, October 2 and Saturday, October 3. There will be free HIV testing in the Captiva Room on both of these days. The marketplace will be open again at 9 a.m. and will close at 6 p.m.; it will be open during that same time frame on Saturday as well. Starting Friday off will be an “Out and Equal” presentation in the Biscayne Room from 9:30 a.m. to noon. Afterwards, there will be a luncheon hosted by Gina Duncan of Equality Florida and TransAction Florida. Kristin Reichman will be having a book signing at 2 p.m. in the pre-function area of the resort. For spouses and children of attendees, there will be a comfort zone area open to them from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. in room 3119, where they can meet and mingle and discuss issues unique to them. Also at 2 p.m., there will be a showing of the Amazon TV series “Transparent,” followed by a Q&A with producer and actress Zackary Drucker. The dinner reception will feature Kristin Reichman as guest speaker, and then ventriloquist Marc Merchant will delight crowds in the ballroom beginning at 8:15. Stay in the ballroom for a dance party at 9:30 if you like, or join some other attendees for a party at The Manor.
One of the big events of the entire conference is saved for the luncheon on Saturday, October 3. Doors open at 11:50 and the lunch will begin at noon. Jazz Jennings, a South Florida native and star of the TV series “I Am Jazz,” will be the keynote speaker. Afterwards, she will sign copies of her book, also titled “I Am Jazz,” from 2 to 3 p.m. Other events during the afternoon on Saturday include a pool party at 2:30 p.m., a cocktail party at 6 p.m., and then the gala dinner at 7 p.m. There will be a 50/50 raffle and prize drawings, so get your tickets! At the end of the dinner, there will be a dance featuring the talents of She’s That Dude. For people leaving on Sunday, there will be a shuttle to the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport at no charge, with shuttles leaving every 90 minutes between 6 a.m. and noon.
Online pre-registration is open now and consists of various packages, including seminars and non-optional events only, events on Saturday only, events on just Friday and Saturday, and the entire conference (excluding optional costs). For more information on how to register and what costs are for optional events, visit southerncomfortconference.org.
For more information on the 25th annual Southern Comfort Conference, visit southerncomfortconference.org.