A History of the Transgender Independence Club This page brought to you by...

 

 

Meetings of transgendered people in Albany, NY began in 1954, when Wilma T. and wife Helen began to hold private parties in their home for crossdressing friends with whom they had made contact, which was very difficult in those days.

Unlike gays and lesbians, transgender is not about a shared desire for others, and there is less incentive to come together and meet someone. Even today, most transgendered people vividly remember the first time they met someone like them, with whom they could be honest about the feelings they have had since early childhood.

Choosing not to join Virginia Prince's national organization, "Foundation For Personality Expression" (FPE), Wilma established a formal club organization named "Transvestites Independent Chapter" (or Club) (TVIC) around 1971 and began to publish a monthly newsletter, a folksy compendium of news from the meeting, including the menu, opinion, locally grown stories, and clips from newspapers, satisfying the desperate need for information in those pre-Internet days.

TVIC was an "open" group, where all transgendered people found a sympathetic ear for their troubles. The hospitality of Wilma and Helen became legendary in the Northeast, and TVIC meetings attracted members from all over New York and neighboring states and visitors from more distant places. Wilma and Helen also had a camp on their small, private island in a small pond near Lake George. Being accessible only by boat, it was an ideal place for cross-dressing outside without fear of interruption or discovery.

Wilma retired from her job and TVIC at the end of 1983, having reached the age of 70. The last Albany TVIC meeting was the Christmas Party in December, 1983, a memorable affair marking the end of an era.

Members of TVIC reorganized under our current name "Transgenderist's Independence Club," with the updated acronym TGIC to signify our link to the past. Monthly meetings were held at a quiet, friendly gay bar, the "145 Club" in Schenectady.

Recognizing the need for our own space, one of the TGIC leaders, Renee Chevalier, enlisted the help of some other energetic members to make over the third floor of a building she owned in Albany for exclusive Club use. This served the club's needs until the spring of 2004.

The club met at a private location that was very comfortable for business and social functions. Numerous pot luck dinners and other varied events were held at various locations around the Capital Region and sister groups were included whenever possible..

On September 18, 1997 the Capital District Gay & Lesbian Community Council (CDGLCC) gave their "Building Bridges" award to what was then called the Transgenderists Independence Club (TGIC) of Albany "for their efforts to reach out and build bridges between diverse segments of the GLBT community."

The award was presented at the CDGLCC Awards Brunch, on Sunday, October 19, 1997 at the Crooked Lake House in Averill Park. In making this award, the board wanted to acknowledge the efforts of individuals who have worked to build bridges. It is believed to be the first award given to a transgender organization by CDGLCC in its 25 year history.

"We are very pleased to be honored," said Winnie Brant, then President of TGIC. "We dedicate this award, which we consider a positive move by CDGLCC to help build bridges with the transgendered community, to the people who have worked over the past year to reach out and build bridges, speak to the breadth of the diverse GLBT community.

"These people include Tina Andrus and her work with Metropolitan Community Church, and Robin Muse, who has worked with Capital Pride singers. Callan Williams has worked directly with CDGLCC in many ways, from writing articles published in the CDGLCC "Community" journal, to participating in workshops. Callan has also worked to make sure that TGIC members are kept up to date on issues and information about LGBT concerns, doing a great deal to build bridges that can tie us all together.

"From the participation of Jennifer Wells, Katherine Hawkins, Jeanette & Judith Emily, Robin, Tina and Callan in the 1997 Pride Parade, to joining together in coalition building, all TGIC members can be proud of the actions of transgendered individuals, and of CDGLCC members in making this world a safer space for people who cross the lines of gender and sexual orientation."

TGIC always had a wide range of gender expression among its members from the occasional crossdresser to the post-operative transsexual, living a fulfilling life in the opposite gender of their birth, and everything in between. No one was turned away from support. Many members dropped in and out of TGIC as their personal needs and situations changed, thus giving TGIC a very high turnover of members. There were always new faces as well as old friends that enjoyed keeping in touch with the community that they are so much a part of.

Before it folded, Jenny Holmes was President and Cynthia Harris was Treasurer. Notable past officers like Winnie Brant was president for over ten years; she made sure that the finances and other administrative tasks were in order. She was also newsletter editor, until that task was passed to Gina Marie, then to Vicky S., then to Bobbi Williams and lastly to April Smith.

As there has been more openness in the discussion of gender definitions in general, transgendered individuals have worked to reach out, educating people about transgender and building alliances with other groups. Because the number of transgendered people strong enough to face the stigma of society and reveal their inner gender is still relativly small and even though there has been a great increase in the postive exposure to all the questions of gender identity, transgendered people have always had to live in the broader community.

TGIC, with a monthly newsletter and active Internet mailing list, regular business and social meetings, and special events, worked to empower transgendered individuals to take responsibility for changing their lives, and though education, outreach and networking, change their world.

Transgendered people will always be as unique as thumbprints, with plenty of disagreements about causes and solutions for integrating transgender into a full and happy life, and TGIC was committed to giving each one of them a voice to help them find their own unique path.

The above is an extract from "History of Transgender Groups in Albany" by Winnie Brant