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Monday, September 26, 2016

Gun Rights Policy Conference 2016: Some Kind of After-Action Report

Hi gang. It's late and I'm exhausted from a fun but tiring Gun Rights Policy Conference, so I'm just going to hit the highlights:
  • It was a very productive conference. I learned a lot of stuff, came home with a lot (and I mean a LOT) of free books, and made some great professional contacts for both me personally and for Blazing Sword professionally. It feels like the line between "being me" and "repping OBS" is blurring and merging. 
  • I also experienced tremendous personal growth this weekend. More on this later. 
  • Apparently, the names "Erin Palette" and "Operation Blazing Sword" are known to the attendees, because when John Richardson mentioned them, it got applause. 
  • Sadly, I was out of the room at the time, because when Gail Pepin wants to talk to me, I give her my undivided attention. 
  • Sarah Cade is a gigantic dork, and I mean that in the best, most complimentary way possible. 
Sarah loves to photobomb. Also, Sean was a good sport and wore his pony tees the whole time. 
  • Sarah also has a filthy, filthy mouth and is every bit as fun to hang out with as you'd think. If I can ever be in the same place as her an Oleg, he's going to have to do a photo shoot featuring us and it will be so awesome we'll be a WMD. Because Sarah + Erin = Sarin, bitches. 

Now a quick story about the personal development, then more pics, and then bedtime for me. 

Last week, Paul Lathrop of Polite Society Podcast said he wanted me to do an interview about Blazing Sword at GRPC. No problem, said I. "On video, livestreamed to YouTube," he said, and I about shit myself because you know I have issues with my body and face and the like. 

For the next few days I had what can be charitably called a petit mal freakout about it, because on the one hand I didn't want my face on video, and on the other I felt I had an obligation to talk about OBS. I came up with the solution of Can we blur me out or put me behind something large? So that people can hear me but not see me?

Which is when Sean Sorrentino, my cohost, did his trademark "Rudely cut to the heart of the matter" trick and said Sure! Of course we can. That way we can tell all the other trans people out there that they are totes cool with us, so long as they blur themselves so that we can't see them.

And I was like Dammit, Sean. You're an asshole and that was a cheap shot, but you're right.

So because of that, I thought "Not only do I need to do the interview, but now I have to do it en femme because to do otherwise would be dishonest and/or send a message that gun-owning LGBTQ have to keep their true selves hidden in order to be accepted."

Since  Nicki Stallard (west coast representative of Pink Pistols and transwoman) would be there as well, I knew I wasn't going to be alone and that someone would have my back. So I packed both girl clothes and boy clothes for the trip.

Friday night was the mixer/reception, and that was when I decided "Screw it, let's test the waters now rather than in a crowded room." And so I paired a khaki skirt and some boots with my pony polo shirt, added a wig and some jewelry and makeup, and (after asking for makeup from fucking gorgeous Sarah Cade, OMG you guys she is totally this statuesque goddess when she dresses up) we both went down to the reception together because a) I figured being seen in the presence of an actual woman actually accepting me would help, 2) I knew I'd have another ally at the party, and iii) I needed a security buddy to hover around if things got bad.

That was my crucible moment, because Halloween notwithstanding (because everyone is in costume then, it's socially acceptable) this was the first time I was "trans in public" and I didn't know how people would react.  If people gave me shit for how I looked, I knew I'd have to be in social camouflage for the rest of the weekend. You guys have no idea how scared I was.

To my delight and surprise, no one gave me shit. No one was even rude. I caught a few double-takes and looks of surprise, but I don't think anyone even stared. And to top it all of, I was interacting with people while doing this. I was passing. In public!

The only way I can describe the profound amazement I felt is to have you pick your superhero movie of choice, where the plucky protagonist finally acquires his or her powers. This was my "You're a wizard, Harry!" moment, because the realization that not only was I not being attacked, but was being accepted, was nothing but magical. There was even one delightful older gentleman who was taking pictures and he called me a "beautiful young lady."

Needless to say, this not only exceeded my expectations for the mixer, it quite frankly exploded them. Given the positive reception I was receiving, I just said "Fuck it, in that case I'm just going to be femme the whole time I'm here, because I'm loving this!"

And I did.

No one hassled me on Saturday, not even the older gentleman I sat next to in the assembly hall.
That's me to the right of Sean, in the third row.
I *said* that Sarah loved to photobomb, did I not?

I did a couple of interviews on Saturday, including this Facebook Live session by Paul Lathrop.

(Yes, I am now aware that "t-shirt and skirt" is not a flattering look for me. I did not know it then.)

And I dressed up all fancy Saturday night, because why the hell not? I brought a damn dress, I wanted to wear it, so I wore it.
Yes, my stance needs work. But goddammit, I was wearing heels and
MAKING THEM WORK. That ought to count for a lot. 
So yeah, by the time Sunday rolled around, I was comfortable and confident and generally feeling like hot stuff from all the compliments. Seriously, y'all:

So after a solid weekend of approval and positive reinforcement, appearing on camera for a Polite Society Podcast interview that was streamed to YouTube was no big deal. (I'll post it, and the other interviews, as soon as they're up. Although they're all largely the same thing, me talking about Operation Blazing Sword.)

But my point in all of this is: If I'd gotten shit for dressing en femme Friday night, I'd have been in social camouflage "boy mode" the rest of the weekend. But I wasn't; I was accepted. And I wasn't accepted merely because I was trans; I was accepted because I was a gun owner who just happened to be trans.

This is the lesson I would like the LGBTQ community to take from all this: Gun owners will welcome you if you take a chance on them. And the very few who don't will, I am certain, be shouted down by the rest of us.

Edited to add: the aforementioned Nicki Stallard received an award on Saturday for her work with the Pink Pistols. Ms. Stallard is, like me, both lesbian and transgender, and not only is she accepted but is also recognized and applauded for her work in the field of gun rights for gay people.

In fact, one of the speakers said "Look to your left; look to your right. You'll see that most of us are gray-haired white males, and we need to change that."  The gun community is actively looking to become more diverse and inclusive, and the more of us who speak up and join in, the more varied and welcoming it will become. 

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