I was honored by the Black Dinner organization when they asked me to do an introductory speech at their 37th Annual Black Tie Dinner.
This year the beneficiaries were rights groups, local and state outreach groups , churches and charities. Including, but not limited to the Human Rights Campaign, LAMBDA Legal, Equality Texas, Cathedral of Hope, Big Brothers & Sisters Lone Star and many more. To Date Black Tie Dinner has distributed over $21 million to these and other amazing organizations.
This was my first opportunity to experience a formal affair since transition and I was excited at the prospect. I had never even worn a long gown, so this was going to be a whole new experience. Alexandria helped me just the right gown and shoes. Debbie and Alexandria got new Gowns as well and Andrew updated his tux.
On the day of the dinner Alexandria did makeup for Debbie & I then touched it up again just before the dinner. She has become something of a makeup artist and she made us both look beautiful, and herself as well.
We attended a Speakers reception first, perused the silent auction then a general reception where I found many friends and fellow advocates as well. There were approximately 3000 people there, quite the crowd. The feeling of being perfectly accepted as a woman has never felt stronger, something about a formal gown that makes you feel very feminine.
I spoke early into the program so I was ushered backstage pretty quickly. As I waited in the wings to speak I could see several of the giant screens around the room. They played a video made from clips of my various TV interviews. One was from CBS when Debbie was with me. When her face appeared in the screens an explosion of cheers and claps came from the Tables occupied by her co-workers from Ericsson.
They announced my name and I started down the catwalk to the podium. The crowd stood applauded and cheered wildly. A standing ovation, from 3000 people, and I had not said a word yet. It was all I could do to hold back the tears of joy. I reached the podium and my speech was there on the teleprompter. I waited for the applause to die down. And waited, and waited! I finally just began, trying speak over the cheering. I was incredible. the speech went well and seemed to meet the approval of the audience. I finished and exited to applause and felt like I was on cloud nine.
During the dinner there several breaks and each time I had many visitors from other tables congratulating me. Several came with offers of fund raising for whatever office I would run for next. I met a federal Judge, 2 local judges, lawyers and religious leaders. During One break I spoke with the owner of D-Magazine and her daughter. They were both very gracious and complimentary, I expressed my deep thanks for the wonderful article they ran on me last June.
My phone lit up with messages from friends in attendance asking for my table number so they could come by. The table numbers ran into the two-hundreds, so it could be difficult to locate someone without the number.
Following the dinner was an after party. I found myself and Debbie with a constant stream of well wishers, people wanting photos and requests for my contact info. Everyone was so enthusiastic and the compliments flowed like a mountain stream. Many said mine was the best speech of the evening, but I attribute that to the fact that it was the shortest!
It was a magical night, and it was so overwhelming that I almost forgot to relish my first formal affair as a woman.