When I took my first steps into discovering who I was, I looked for a local TG support group. Through AOL's Transgender Community Forum (in '97, this was the best resource I had) I discovered Gulf Gender Alliance in New Orleans. Sending their contact a message, she told me I'd need to be screened before I went to a meeting, and she knew someone in Lafayette who she could send me to. And so, one afternoon, I went to a warehouse off Ambassador Caffery to meet the woman who would be the first person I had ever come out to face to face.
Ann ran a business selling shoes to women with large feet, and was approached by crossdressers and transsexuals looking for shoes that would fit. She became part of the community. When I met her, she talked to me with kindness and caring, and I felt comfortable. She introduced me to Crystal Little and Cissy Conley, who would become so important to my growth over the years. I met other CD's through her. And I spent hours talking to her, becoming friends. When I needed a place to store my things, she offered to let me use her warehouse.
Later, when I moved to New Orleans, I went to my first Southern Comfort in Atlanta. And the second person I saw when I walked into the hotel was Ann. From then on, we'd see each other every year at Southern Comfort, catching up. We remained friends, and I looked forward to seeing her each year.
I had known she had been ill last year, but did not know the extent. On June 5, Ann passed away. I found out yesterday, and I am still numb.
If not for Ann, I don't know how my life would have changed. She was a friend when I needed one, gave me advice when it was useful, told me the truth when I needed that, and I can never thank her enough for what she did. I will truly miss her.
I will not be at Southern Comfort this year. The short reason is that I can't afford it right now. Also, I just don't feel the same need to go that I have in the past. The last couple of years I've felt like this, but I managed to turn it around. Maybe a year away will give me the desire again?
I will miss my friends, and having a week being Zelda full-time. Please raise a glass for me, and have a ball.