I went with Michelle to her PTK (Phi Theta Kappa – Carolinas) event, the 2019 Carolinas Region Leadership Conference, hosted by Spartanburg Community College. This was my first time going with her to a PTK event, as I always felt that Michelle should be able to have time away from me and spend it with her friends. She insisted that I come with her and I am glad that I did. I got to meet a lot of great people, with whom I felt an almost instant closeness. It’s that odd connection people forge when they meet at a convention, academic or otherwise, but it was also that they were already so accepting and open. I could well understand why my wife has always been so happy as a part of PTK.
Michelle is the VP of Alpha Omega, the Carolinas alumni chapter of PTK, and so it is with that group I spent most of my time. The convention was a mad combination of work and play, seriousness and laughter, something I could appreciate. More than the alumni officers, there were many alumni there helping out and attending the conference. Even for an introverted person such as myself, I often ended up in conversations with a random person I had never met, sharing a life story or a joke or two. I assisted the alumni officers where I could, but as I was a spouse and new as well, I did my best not to get in the way or cause additional issues for anyone, just learning what is expected or doing what was helpful.
The event lasted three days, with Friday and Saturday being long, full days of speakers and meetings, going until around 9 or 10pm. Afterwards, we would go to her parents house which is in Spartanburg, and go to sleep. It was nice that we were able to avoid getting a hotel room and I am grateful that Chris and Donna, my in-laws, were such gracious hosts and allowed us to stay with them. Then we were back at the college the next day, bright and early. We set up the merchandise tables and then most of the members broke off into performing officer duties, attending speaker engagements or going to event meetings or networking with other PTK members. There were also fun and games thrown into the mix. There was a lip sync battle, in which several different groups came in dressed up in crazy or themed outfits and lip synced everything from “All that Jazz” (Alumni), to GnR’s “Welcome to the Jungle”. The guest speaker right before the lip sync battle was John from John’s Crazy Socks, who joined in the lip sync battle with a live rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Baby Let Me Follow You Down”, the proceeds of John’s votes went to Special Olympics.
I have been to many conventions in my life, and this one was typical of my experience in that I was tired and worn out at the end of each day, rarely wanted them to be over and missed them when I was back home. I can’t speak to the average PTK members experience, as they were involved in all aspects of the event. But I never saw an unhappy face pass by, they were genuinely glad to be there, to be a part of it all and it showed.
There were a few moments where I felt I shouldn’t be there, but these were not triggered by anyone but myself. I had a dysphoric episode that resolved after a while and then our ongoing intimacy issues. Both issues cause me deep emotional turmoil, but luckily this weekend they were resolved/repressed with little to no drama. Letting my mind wander rarely results in it roaming through sunlit fields of flowers, rather it’s usually a dark urban alleyway. However, these moments did not mar my time this weekend and I am looking forward to attending more of these and helping out in a greater capacity. My photos are disjointed and perhaps don’t fit together, it’s because I wanted to avoid making anyone feel uncomfortable. Except my wife, she is married to me so already at the maximum level of discomfort!
Also, since it hasn’t really come up, I’ll just throw this out there. At this event, the total number of incidents or comments about my being transgender or using the bathroom, ZERO.