Greater Fort Lauderdale welcomed hundreds of transgender individuals and allies to the destination for the 26th Annual Southern Comfort Conference from September 26 to October 1, 2016. This is the second year Greater Fort Lauderdale has hosted the conference, which will return to the destination for a third year in 2017.
Left, Lexi Dee, president, Southern Comfort Conference and Richard Gray, LGBTQ managing director, Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau at the 26th Annual Southern Comfort Conference. Right, Kellie Maloney, “Celebrity Big Brother” contestant and transgender activist with Richard Gray at the Southern Comfort Conference, held September 26 to October 1, 2016, at Bonaventure Resort & Spa.
The conference, considered one of the largest transgender conferences in North America, returned after a successful conference in 2015. Held at the Bonaventure Resort & Spa in Weston, the conference welcomed transgender individuals, partners, spouses and families with Greater Fort Lauderdale’s signature hospitality, providing unforgettable experiences like an airboat ride through the Everglades, golfing on the Bonaventure’s legendary greens and dinner and a show at LIPS in Fort Lauderdale.
“We are honored to host the incredible individuals of the Southern Comfort Conference,” said Richard Gray, LGBTQ managing director for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. “The transgender community has faced many challenges over the past year, and we are proud to continue our efforts to represent transgender individuals in our marketing campaigns, encourage acceptance in our neighborhoods, and offer support from our destination to address the long-ignored needs of transgender individuals. Together we are creating an inclusive model for the world to follow.”
This year’s conference featured keynote speakers Dr. Marci Bowers, an innovator in sex reassignment surgery, Kellie Maloney, former boxing manager, Celebrity Big Brother contestant and transgender activist and Schuylar Bailor, writer, activist and the first openly transgender man to compete in NCAA Division I swimming. The stunning Isabella Santiago from Venezuela also made a repeat appearance this year; Santiago won the world’s largest beauty pageant for transgender individuals in 2014 and has since provided inspiration for other transgender women worldwide.
The Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau has been proactively targeting and welcoming the LGBTQ market since 1996, when it became the first Convention & Visitors Bureau with a gay-centric vacation planner, and dedicated website on a CVB homepage. Since then, the destination has continued to break down barriers and facilitate essential visibility for the LGBTQ community at large.
For a video review of the Southern Comfort’s 26th annual event, click here. For more information on Southern Comfort, please visit www.southerncomfortconference.org/ and for more information on Greater Fort Lauderdale, visitwww.sunny.org/tlgbq.