A brief history of the Tiffany Club of New England
written by: Laura Granger and Joan Hoff
I would like to thank Joan and Laura for the work that went into putting this history together about the Tiffany Club of New England. The history details the people and the struggles that were endured in order to establish our club. Having been a Member of TCNE for close to 15 years, I’ve had the chance to know some of the people that are documented in this history and have considered it an honor to been able to hear their stories of what they have gone through. So many transgender people today take much for granted in the freedoms in being able to move about in this world. Much of those freedoms came about because of the efforts of the founders of TCNE and others in the transgender movement in history. We all must never forget the work done by these courageous women and build upon it for the future. Today transgender women and men and still fighting to be treated as equals in this world. To be able to dress, work, love and feel safe while being able to live in the gender we choose. The founders of Tiffany Club have started the progress and it’s up to every one of us to continue the work they have done. This document is a work in progress and we must never forget our accomplishments or stop with our success in improving the lives of all transgender people. I will always remember the night I joined Tiffany via the “phone booth” (page 8) and will always be grateful for the difference this organization and its people have made in my life. This should be a “must read” for all who pass through our doors to understand where we’ve been and how we must carry on the good work that Tiffany Club of New England and it’s predecessors have done for over a quarter century.
Board of Directors
Tiffany Club of New England
In the course of researching and writing this brief history of the Tiffany Club of New England, we relied heavily on the published information in the Tapestry newsletters and magazine and its successor, Rosebuds newsletter, interviews with Merissa Sherrill Lynn, and on our collective memories which, at our ages, can be a little rusty. As a result, we may have overlooked some items or events, or have incorrectly stated some dates. Therefore, please feel free to contact us to make any additions, deletions, and/or corrections to this history that you feel are important and needed. Your inputs will be appreciated.
Writing this history brought back many memories of events and people who were part of the Club. Saints and sinners; Workers and laggards; and just plain characters. Yolanda, the former Luftwaffe fighter pilot who wore exquisite leather clothing. She claimed she wore her panties and bra while flying missions against the Russians. Please note though, in the post war era, German veterans claimed that they fought only on the Russian Front. Then there was Mrs. Shufflewick from Vancouver, British Columbia. She attended many of the early Provincetown events, and called herself a Transvestite. No one can forget Sabra, an airline pilot. She would walk down Commercial Street, Provincetown, in her 6 inch heels. One day, some of the town ruffians grabbed her wig. They were caught, but thought nothing would happen to them since who in the world would go to the expense of coming back to Provincetown to press charges. Sabra did. She simply arranged her flight schedule. Then there was the time when several club members arrived at Anthony’s Pier 4, Boston, in a stretch limo and were greeted at the front door by the owner, Anthony Athanis. He was absolutely flustered by all those, as Holly Cross would say, “Broad shouldered, thick waisted women” Another Limo excursion, though, almost ended in disaster when several club members, including Stephanie Chandler, Pat West, Holly Cross, and Roberta Dearborn, visited the Palace Night Club in Saugus on Halloween Night. Pat was confronted by Security people as she approached the ladies room, and was told to leave the premises. They then followed her to the parking lot and told her to leave the property. A heated argument between Holly Cross and security followed. The group left without further incident. .
These are but a few of the many memories we experienced during our over 20 year memberships in the Club.
THE TRANSGENDER COMMUNITY EARLY HISTORY
The Tiffany Club we enjoy and celebrate today is the result of over thirty years of hard work by dedicated people, especially Merissa Sherrill Lynn, Patricia West, and Dee Dee Watson, who possessed the exceptional vision and courage to create the Tiffany Club. The history of this club is in many ways the history of the Transgender movement in the United States. It has served, and still does, as a model for many other like clubs throughout this country and the world. This Club was founded during a period in history when men who dressed as women in public were subject not only to arrest and prosecution, but were also held up to public ridicule and scorn. Furthermore, they were considered to be homosexual perverts of the most degenerate kind. Given the hostile atmosphere during this period, it was no easy task to form a support group for the express purpose of helping the Transgender Community, especially since the word Transgender had not yet been invented.
Cross-dressing has been a part of society and religion from time immemorial. Artifacts from the era before the Great Flood show men, dressed as women, taking part in religious rituals. The Old Testament contains injunctions against it. However, it has only been relatively recently, historically speaking, that organized clubs began to emerge. The earliest known of these were the Molly Clubs in London, England, during the latter part of the 17th Century. These clubs were ostensibly formed for the purpose of amateur theatrics. The members were composed mainly of what we would call today, Drag Queens. It was, perhaps, one of these clubs that re-emerged in 19th Century London, when on April 10, 1870, two men, Ernest Boulton and Frederick Park, were arrested for impersonating women in public. They were charged with Conspiracy to Commit a Felony.
The tabloid newspapers went frenetic. They covered every sordid detail, including the color of their underwear. A year later, May 1871, they were acquitted of all charges. It should be noted that Boulton and Park had rented a flat to use for storage and changing. (Some things never change.) However, it was not until the post World War II era that the Cross-dressing community started to take on its present form, and was given impetus in 1953 when Christine Jorgensen returned from Denmark. In 1960, Virginia Prince, an early prime mover in opening society to Cross-dressers, and Cross-dressers to society, started publication of Transvestia magazine. It was from this acorn that the mighty Maple of today grew. A serendipitous outcome was that Virginia was able to have the US Postal Service Regulations changed to remove Cross-dressing from being considered pornography, thereby enabling the magazine to be sent through the mail. In 1962, she formed the Hose & Heels Club, composed mainly of Cross-dressers in the Los Angeles area, many of whom were subscribers to the magazine. The Club restricted itself to members who described themselves as heterosexual Cross-dressers. This restriction (requirement) has been carried forward through its subsequent organizations to date. The Club changed its name to Freedom of Personality Expression (FPE) in late 1962, and launched a nationwide campaign to form affiliated groups, or chapters, with similar interests. The founding group called itself the Alpha Chapter of FPE.
Each new chapter was likewise named in Greek alphabetical order. In 1971, the Mamselle Society was formed by Carol Beecroft as an offshoot from the Alpha Chapter of FPE by a group with similar interests, except that membership requirements were more liberal.
They too initiated an aggressive advertising campaign, including advertisements in Psychology Today, to recruit members and chapters across the county. A short lived wives support group was formed under their aegis in 1974.
In 1976, these two groups merged to form the Society for the Second Self. In keeping with the Greek letter philosophy, they adopted the name Tri-Sigma. They continued to grow, helping to form chapters throughout the United States and Canada, including the Gamma Chapter in Boston.
The glue that bonded these groups together was their publication, The Femme Mirror. In 1977, as the result of a threatened lawsuit by a college sorority, Sigma Sigma Sigma, they changed their name to Tri-Ess, the name they are known by today. In 1978, they held their first national convention in New Orleans. It was attended by 18 brave souls.
The success of Tri-Ess spawned many other groups, local and national in scope. One such group was the International Alliance for Male Feminism. Glenda Renee Jones was a prime mover in this group. They published an excellent little magazine. In September, 1980, they merged with Gateway Guys & Gals, the publishers of The Gateway magazine.
Within a year, the name was changed to Phoenix. In 1985, this group phased out and was replaced by various groups: The Gateway Gender Alliance in San Francisco, the Baltimore-DC Gender Alliance, and the Northwest Gender Alliance in Portland, Oregon, to mention but a few. Other groups, not wishing to affiliate with Tri-Ess, primarily because of the restrictive membership requirements, formed the TV Independent Clubs (TVIC) with chapters, for example, in Albany, New York, and Hartford, Connecticut. The Albany TVIC is still functioning, but the Hartford group went out in blaze of glory in February, 1980. The club facility, located in a rented apartment over a local bar, was completely destroyed when the building burned to the ground. Informal club functions were then held in the home of Phil and Ann Ferris in Meriden, CT. In November, the Club reconstituted itself as The TV Set. Monthly meetings, really parties, were held at Harriet Lane’s home in New Haven. Unfortunately, she passed away several years later. The group was replaced by the Connecticut Outreach Society.
THE BOSTON TRANSGENDER COMMUNITY EARLY FORMATION
The Boston Cross-dressing community was also going through growing pains of its own during this entire period. In many ways it was influenced by events in the west coast Cross-dressing communities as well as by the national political turmoil. Cross-dressers, during this period, met mostly in Gay bars. However, many individuals determined that the gay-bar scene did not fulfill their needs and desires. In 1968, under the leadership of Linda Franklin, Betsy Shaw, and Paula Neilson, the Gamma Chapter, FPE, was formed. They held their meetings at a member’s apartment in Framingham. The Gamma Chapter evolved into the Cherrystone Club in 1973 and soon moved to Dorothy Dean’s apartment at 500 Columbus Avenue, Boston. Legend has it that the name, Cherrystone, was decided upon one evening as several members were sitting at a bar indulging in adult beverages, when one of them commented that they were a bunch of
Cherries getting stoned. The group remained at that location until July, 1976, when it moved to 65 Chester Street, Allston, Kay Campbell’s apartment.
The Cherrystone Club had a very significant impact on the future of the Cross-dressing community. It was here that the basic ideas for Fantasia Fair were conceived and nurtured by Ariadne Kane, Georgia Sanders, and Betty Ann Linde. The first ever Fantasia Fair was held in October, 1975. This was a landmark event in the annals of Cross-dressing history, not only because it brought together the many diverse individuals from around the country and the world, it was also the first time that an entire city was involved with a Cross-dressing event.
The Gamma Chapter and the Cherrystone Club were not the only groups functioning in the Boston area during the 1960’s and 1970’s. There was a group that met at the home of Francis Craig, a lay minister. They could best be described as a Wives Support Group. Husbands were not allowed to ‘dress’ at these meetings. Furthermore, the husbands met in the basement, while the wives met upstairs in the living room. They were never together at these meetings. They published a newsletter entitled Lips of Francis.
A support group, Gender Identity Services, was formed by Deborah Finebloom in 1972. They met in the ‘Little Building’ in the heart of Boston, the corner of Boylston and Tremont Streets. They too phased out a year later after being sued by a disgruntled member. Several of the members consequently became instrumental in forming the XX Club in Hartford, Connecticut.
Still another group, Open Door, was formed by Charlene Kirby in 1981 for the express purpose of supporting pre and post-operative Transsexuals. They met in Bedford, Massachusetts. Length and scope of operation is not known.
The XX Club, or Twenty Club as it almost always called, was formed in 1973 in Hartford, Connecticut as the result of the dedicated work by Rev Canon Jones and Helen Hyde. Their primary objective was also to support pre and post-operative Transsexuals. This group is still functioning and doing excellent work.
Merissa Sherrill Lynn, the founder of The Tiffany Club, became a member of the Cherrystone Club in 1975. Three years later, due to internal dissension regarding the nature and future course of the Cross-dressing and the emerging Transsexual communities, the Cherrystone Club split into two factions; those who felt it should be a strictly social group, and those who wanted it to be a support group.
The social group, led by Kay Campbell, became the Kay Mayflower Society.
They moved their operations to 65 Chester Street, Allston, Massachusetts. This group gradually evolved into an Alternate Lifestyle club. Their operations phased out in 1985.
THE TIFFANY CLUB IS FORMED
The support group advocates, led by Merissa Sherrill Lynn, felt that a safe, secure, non-sexual, friendly place to meet and dress was of the utmost importance. The result was The Tiffany Club. The first meeting was held at Merissa’s home in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, in December, 1977.
The Charter Members were: Patricia West, Dee Dee Watson, Frances Gibson, Carole Mayfield, and Merissa’s sister, Sylvia. On November 26, 1978, the organizational meeting was held and the Constitution and By-Laws were drawn up. They were completed on December 12th, and signed by: Willa Lane, Charlotte St. James, and Jenny Lee. The Tiffany Club became official and the Tapestry Newsletter was launched.
The names, Tiffany and Tapestry, were chosen with great care. Both have deep meanings that symbolize the very nature and mission of the organization. The name Tiffany should not be confused with the jewelry store founded by Charles Lewis Tiffany (1812-1902), nor should it be attributed to Lewis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1923) who founded an interior design firm and popularized Art Nouveau and iridescent glass, used mostly in lamps.
The word Tiffany derives from the word Theophany, the divine manifestation of God to man. Tiffany is also a thin, transparent gauze of silk or cotton muslin cloth. This type of cloth was brought back to Europe by the Crusaders and derived its name from their adversary, the Muslims. It is often worn by Christian Priests when celebrating the Epiphany. The Tiffany Rose was selected as the club logo. It appeared on the first 27 issues of TV TS Tapestry, the Tiffany Club Newsletter.
The name, Tapestry, was chosen for the newsletter because it represented the ‘weaving’ of all orientations into one. The intent of the newsletter, later magazine, was to weave our community and society as a whole, into one. From the very beginning, the Tapestry newsletter was addressed to the entire Cross-dressing community, not just the Tiffany Club. Events taking place in other organizations were reported along with local events. An integral portion of the newsletter was the correspondence section where members were encouraged to contact one another. It was distributed to other organizations and was placed on public sale, mainly through Adult Bookstores
The founders understood that for the Tiffany Club to become a viable, dynamic organization it needed a sound financial basis and a permanent meeting place close to Boston. Both conditions could be met by owning or renting a house and renting rooms to members of the community. The rent receipts would pay the house rent, or mortgage, and the dues would pay for other necessities. The Search Committee, club members Delores Kereher and Diane Berry located a suitable facility at 678 Boston Post Road, Weston, Massachusetts. Occupancy commenced in October, 1979. Membership began increasing due in large part to the Club’s location, the friendly environment created by the members, the well attended monthly parties, and response to sales of the Tapestry and to ads in the Boston Phoenix. Security screening of visitors and prospective members was conducted in the parking lot at the Red Coach Grill located on US Rte 20 at the Weston/Wayland town line. The Red Coach Grill was later renamed Hillary’s. It is now the Coach Restaurant.
In July, 1980, Elizabeth Warburton redesigned the Club logo to include a male and a female hand embracing the Tiffany Rose. The two hands clasped together symbolized the oneness of the human spirit in unison with the mystic power of the Tiffany Rose. The Board of Directors unanimously accepted the new logo.
It first appeared on the cover of Issue #28 of the Tapestry Newsletter, dated October 13th. Incidentally, this was the 672nd anniversary of the destruction of the Knights Templar by King Phillip the Fair of France. It has nothing to do with the Tiffany Club, but it is an interesting sidelight. The models for the hands were Merissa Sherrill Lynn and her dear and intimate friend, Sherry.
TIFFANY CLUB’S VENTURES INTO PUBLIC & THE START OF FIRST EVENT TG CONFERENCE
The Club ventured into the public domain when, on November 1st, they held their initial ‘Out of House’ party at the Waltham Comfort Inn (now the Hilton Home Suites Inn) in celebration of the Cross-dresser’s national holiday, Halloween. A fun time was had by all, including members of the Belmont Police Department who were having a party in the next function room. Additional public exposure was made in December when Merissa appeared on a local TV program, People are Talking. The door of public understanding was opening. Just a crack, but an opening never the less.
Two very important Tiffany Club traditions were started in that eventful year 1981. The first ever Awards Banquet, now called First Event, was held at the Waltham Comfort Inn in January. As the event name indicated, awards were presented to individual club members for their outstanding contributions to the club. The first Spring Outing, was held in Provincetown from May 1st to May 4th. The week long activities were centered at the ante-inferno Crown & Anchor Hotel. Contrary to the highly structured Fantasia Fair, Tiffany Club’s was very relaxed. The only planned activity was the Saturday Evening Banquet at the Plain & Fancy Restaurant.
The post Outing euphoria was dashed almost immediately upon returning home. The landlord informed the Club that he intended to sell the house. However, the asking price was more than the Club could afford. The decision was made to purchase a new facility rather than rent in order to provide stability. A search committee was immediately organized.
In June, the NACD Inc. (National Association of Cross Dressers) was formed and incorporated as a means of raising the funds needed for a down payment. Stock was sold at $100.00 per share. Both measures were successful. The Club moved into its new home, 36 Alpine Road, Wayland, Massachusetts, just six months after receiving the notice. Needless to say, a gala celebration was held.
The Wayland House was ideally located at the end of a cul-de-sac in a sparsely populated, wooded area. The back yard bordered on the Sudbury Marsh. In addition, there was a small above ground swimming pool for use by the members. The full basement had ample space for clothing change and storage, plus a large, well lit ‘make-up’ room. Security screenings took on the dimensions worthy of a “Cold War” spy novel. The potential member called the club from the legendary Wayland Public Library Telephone Booth. Two club members would then drive the three miles from the club to telephone booth to interview the individual. If they were found to be worthy and well qualified, they would be escorted back to the Wayland House. The TV came in from the cold.
The Tapestry newsletter also underwent a monumental change during this period when it graduated from a Xeroxed newsletter to a glossy covered full fledged magazine. Issue #33, October, 1981, was the first to show the broadened horizon and influence of the Tiffany Club.
Issues of universal concern to the transgender community were extensively covered. Insightful articles by respected professionals, Dr Roger Peo, Mariette Pathy Allen, Dr Richard Docter, and Dr Rupert Raj, and thoughtful articles by individual contributors, were published, along with an extensive listing of Club events throughout the country and personal listings members who wanted to reach out to others, or be reached by others.
The theme of the movie, Field of Dreams, When we build it, they will come, seems to have applied to the Tiffany Club as 1982 dawned. The friendly environment of the Wayland Club House, the proactive social calendar, and the inspired leadership combined to create the foremost club of its kind in the world. (Not an exaggeration) Open meetings were held twice a week, Tuesday and Saturday, theme parties (St Patrick’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Halloween, Italian Night, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or what ever), with appropriate dinner menu, were held on the last Saturday of the month.
These Five Star Dinners were prepared by members in the house kitchen. At times, there were over one hundred guests; many traveling over a hundred miles, some from as far away as Rochester, New York. One airline pilot even arranged his flight schedule in order to attend. The Club also benefited from support by Barbara Mirlocca from Florence’s Fashions, Gladys Talbot from Gladys Talbot Corset Studio, and Carolyn of Wardrobes by Carolyn.
The combined workload of maintaining the house, planning the parties, producing, editing, and distributing the Tapestry Magazine, collecting and disbursing club funds, and serving as Chairman of the Board of Directors soon overwhelmed Merissa. To ease this burden, club officers, whose function would be to operate the club, were elected and installed at the Awards Banquet in January, 1983. Roberta Dearborn and Sherry Loraine were elected President and Vice President respectively. Merissa stayed on as Secretary Treasurer. This arrangement served the club well. Club membership continued to grow until it reached a plateau of approximately 250 members.
WIVES SUPPORT GROUP STARTED
In the early part of 1984, several members felt that a Wives Support Group would be a valuable asset to the club. Their purpose would be to support each other in coping with their husbands clothing preferences and resultant behavior. The first meeting was held on April 6, 1984. Instrumental in forming the group, were:
Ann & Siobhan Donovan
Sue & Laura Granger
Jan & Diane Dixon
Toini & Jackie McDonald
Bea & Stephanie Chandler
Carol & Joe Diamond
In October, the Wives Support Group ventured to Provincetown for a three day extended meeting and celebration. Their activities centered about the Oceans Inn. Several of the wives were less than happy with the accommodations.
As a result, Ann Donovan, then President of the group, searched for another venue. She eventually contacted the Boatslip Beach Club, and being impressed with both the facility and the price, made arrangements for the following year.
Also in October, the club held a gala open house, inviting the Wayland Selectmen and the neighbors along Alpine Road. Needless to say, a fantastic time was had by all.
The Tiffany Club’s application for Non-Profit Organization under the provisions of title 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code was granted in September, 1985.
The Boatslip Beach Club was host to the Wives Support Group the following month. The owners, Peter Simpson and Jim Carlino had absolutely no idea what Cross-dressing was about, but were favorably impressed by the group’s decorum. The Wives Support Group was also impressed. Stephanie Chandler and Laura Granger proposed to the Tiffany Board that the Boatslip Beach Club be used for the Spring Outing. The Board agreed. In February, 1986, Laura Granger, the newly elected president of the club, entered into negotiations with the Boatslip owners for rental of the entire hotel during the first week of June. Since the Tiffany Club was in no position to bind the agreement with a check, Laura Granger pledged her personal funds. The deal was consummated with a hand shake. No written contract was signed.
TCNE, THE TOWN OF WAYLAND, AND SURPRISING COMMUNITY SUPPORT
In April, 1986, storm clouds gathered over the Club’s tranquil existence. Speculators had purchased the house next door. When they found out who their neighbors were, they had a cow. (Thanks Homer) They were concerned that the presence of the Club would decrease value of their property. They brought legal action against the Club before the Board of Selectmen in the Town of Wayland, claiming that Club was operating an illegal boarding house. The Tiffany Club imposed a temporary hiatus on all operations at the facility until the matter could be resolved. A public hearing was held at the Town Hall. All the neighbors weighed in on the side of the club. The Board of Selectmen ruled in favor of the club. Operations resumed. Incidentally, the two men who had purchased the house next door became our good friends and enjoyed the monthly parties. A tempest in a coffee pot.
The actions by the neighbors did not disrupt the planning for the Provincetown Spring Outing. Laura Granger, President, and Joan Hoff, Treasurer, were placed in charge of the week long activity.
The Boatslip was filled to capacity and the Club made a substantial profit for the first time.
Participants came from as far away as Europe and Australia.
IFGE FORMED OUT OF TIFFANY CLUB
Merissa Sherrill Lynn had a great dream: To form an organization that would be devoted to the needs of Transgender people; Educate society about Transgenderism; and span the six continents. (No one lives in Antarctica. The scientists and tourists only visit.) The seeds were planted at Fantasia Fair several years before. Merissa expanded on her ideas and gained support from the many Cross-dressing/Transgender individuals and organizations around the country. Working with the Chicago Gender Society, she organized the First International Foundation for Gender Education (IFGE) convention to be held in Chicago, Illinois, in March, 1987.
The Tiffany Club Board of Directors, along with interested club members, met weekly, and sometimes bi-weekly, throughout the summer and fall to create the organizational structure and write the By-Laws.
Work was completed in November. However, in order to expedite the process for obtaining a Non-Profit Organization tax status, IRS Code 501(c)(3), the Tiffany Club changed its name to IFGE. Technically, the Tiffany Club ceased to exist, and the Tapestry Magazine became the official publication of IFGE. It became official on March 8, 1987.
The Tiffany Club is Dead.
Long Live the Tiffany Club of New England.
The club with neither a legal name nor By-Laws, started 1987 in grand fashion. The Awards Banquet was held for the first time at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Natick, Massachusetts. Laura Granger was re-elected President, Rachel Townsend elected Vice President, and Joan Hoff as Treasurer. In spite of the legal technicalities, Club activities continued unabated throughout the year. Monthly in-house parties celebrating some event, be it Mardi Gras, St Patrick’s Day, or what ever, were held to ever increasing numbers of guests. Monthly Saturday night Pizza Parties were also on the docket.
The success of these functions, plus the ever increasing number of members and guests attending the twice weekly meetings, created a new problem for the Club, overcrowding.
TCNE AND IFGE MOVE TO WALTHAM
Merissa proposed that the Club relocate to the more suitable and much larger unoccupied space above Vernon’s Specialties store, 386 Moody Street, Waltham; sell the house in Wayland; and use the proceeds to refurbish the new quarters. The Board considered, and rejected, this proposal for two main reasons. The first was based on a report written by Diane Dixon citing public safety concerns expressed by the Waltham Chief of Police. The second was a legal opinion submitted by Donald C Lynde, the Club’s Attorney, that the lease agreement was unfavorable to the Club, and that there might be tax problems as the result of sharing facilities with IFGE. Note: The IFGE office was located at this facility. Address: 6 Cushing Street, Waltham.
The Spring Outing in May 1987, coordinated by Laura Granger and Joan Hoff, was again hosted by the Boatslip Beach Club. The owners, in appreciation of the rapport the Club members had establish the previous year, provided a fantastic buffet for the club members on Friday evening. Participation at this event far exceeded the room capacity of the Boatslip Hotel. Several guest houses were utilized to handle the overflow. The Saturday evening dinner was also held at the Boatslip. The success of the first two years at this location be said by one statement, “The club treasury was enriched by $15,000.”
TCNE AND IFGE SEPARATE ON GOOD TERMS FOR THEIR OWN MISSIONS
On July 31st, Merissa Sherrill Lynn resigned as Executive Secretary of the Club, citing both her faith in the club officers and members to carry on her ideals, and her need to concentrate on the IFGE and Tapestry Magazine.
The annual Thanksgiving Dinner was held at Ephram’s Restaurant in Maynard Center, again due to overcrowding at the Wayland facility.
Approximately 60 members, friends, and wives attended. This was the first of many ‘out of house’ events planned and executed by the newly formed Programs Committee under the direction of Stephanie Chandler and Karen Anne Nielsen.
By the end of 1987, it became apparent that the Club’s legal status, or lack thereof, might cause financial liabilities for its members and tax consequences for the Club. A special meeting was held to resolve these problems.
The TIFFANY CLUB of NEW ENGLAND (TCNE) was born and the ROSEBUDS newsletter was launched. The new club name was chosen because of prior legal usage of the name Tiffany Club. The name Rose Buds was selected as it reflected the Club Logo, the Tiffany Rose. (Not Citizen Kane’s sled) Jan & Diane Dixon were the first editors. The By-Laws were rewritten and approved.
Roberta Dearborn and Vivian Allen immediately started the process of filing incorporation papers with the Commonwealth’s Secretary of State and applying for Non-Profit Organization status with the IRS. Both were granted within a relatively short period of time.
The 1988 Awards Banquet was again held at the Crowne Plaza in Natick, Massachusetts. Kathy Stevens and Roberta Dearborn were installed as President and Vice-President respectively.
A Speakers Bureau was formed shortly thereafter. Their very active schedule included presentations at Fenway Community Health, BAGLY (Boston Alliance of Gay and Lesbian Youth), and the Samaritans (Suicide Prevention and Counseling) to mention but a few. Jackie McDonald assumed responsibility for all aspects of the Annual Spring Outing. The Boatslip Beach Club served as the center of activities.
[Ed Note: Jackie McDonald was a long time very active member of the Club until she suddenly passed away on August 15, 1993. She had an exceptionally interesting experience at one of the earlier Tiffany Club Spring Outings. Her brother, Meagan, arrived in Provincetown to participate in the outing. Until then, neither knew the other was a Cross-dresser.]
Club activities remained active and robust throughout the remainder of the year and far into the next. The Thanksgiving Banquet was held at the Norembega Marriot in Newton, Massachusetts. The Awards Banquet, January, 1989, was held at the Crowne Plaza, Natick. Roberta Dearborn was installed as President, Sherry Lorraine as Vice President. Arlene Unger assumed the position of Editor of Rosebuds. Arlene, incidentally, moved to Holyoke, Massachusetts a few years later and became one of the founders of the Sunshine Club. In April, the Board of Directors, because of the financial burden on the club, voted to discontinue subscriptions to Tapestry Magazine for club members.
Up until then, a subscription to Tapestry Magazine was one of the benefits of club membership.
The Tiffany Club of New England gained national prominence in March, 1990, when it hosted the 4th Annual IFGE Coming Together Convention at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Natick. The convention was a resounding success as the result of dedicated hard work by Merissa Sherrill Lynn, Yvonne Cook-Riley, Stephanie Chandler, and Karen Anne Nielson.
On April 20, 1990, Merissa Sherrill Lynn resigned from the TCNE Board of Directors so that she could devote her full energies to building IFGE.
TCNE PUSHES FURTHER OUT IN PUBLIC
The club pushed the frontiers of public relations one step further when, in August, about 20 members and wives went on the Boston Harbor Dinner Cruise aboard the Spirit of Boston. Not only did everyone have a good time, but the general public observed a positive image.
The Towne Lyne House, aptly named due to its location on US Rte 1 at the Peabody Lynnfield border, was the host for the Thanksgiving Dinner. The entire second floor function room was filled to capacity by members, wives, and friends.
The Club’s First Event, formerly the Awards Banquet, was held at the Colonial Hilton in Wakefield, Massachusetts, in January, 1991. The venue was changed, not because of the Club’s dissatisfaction with the Natick Crowne Plaza, but because their new Functions Manager decided he didn’t like us Looney Tunes. He was subsequently replaced when upper management noted his loss of January revenues. It was thought that the Colonial Hilton would become the new home for the First Event. However, this was not to be. Their management not only decided to not renew the next year’s engagement, but used derogatory language in the process. This time, the Club, with the approval of the Board of Directors, brought the case to the Massachusetts Council Against Discrimination, MCAD. A substantial monetary settlement was reached in June, 1992. Fortunately, the former Functions Manager of the Natick Crowne Plaza returned, and so did the Club.
The First Event was held at this facility from January, 1992, through January, 1995.
Rosebuds witnessed a change of editor in January when Liz Jordan assumed the post.
The Cross-dresser’s dream came to fruition on May 18, 1991, when Karin and Patricia West, resplendent in their white satin wedding gowns, tied the knot at a ceremony at the Wayland House. Laura Granger officiated, Robin Esch provided the music. So beautiful.
TCNE MEETS HARVARD UNIVERSITY AT THE HASTY PUDDING
The Programs Committee continued its dedicated schedule with the second Harbor Dinner Cruise in August, and the Thanksgiving Dinner at the Towne Lyne House. In February, 1992, another threshold was crossed when 15 Club members participated in the Opening Night festivities of the Harvard University Hasty Pudding Club play. Included in the festivities was an excellent dinner at the theater. The Hasty Pudding Club is an all male theatrical group. All female roles are performed by men in drag. They usually garner national attention every year when they ‘honor’ a Man and Woman of the Year in a brief ceremony, preceded by a parade where their Cross-dressing talents are exhibited.
In June, 1992, the Club entered the Electronic Communications Era under the leadership of Debra Berube when the Board approved her plans for a Computer Bulletin Board, BBS(TCNE). This remained in place until October, 1997, when the present web site, www.tcne.org ,was started.
Club social activities remained energetic during 1992. A good working relationship was started with Models Resale of Natick, Massachusetts, a clothing consignment store.
For the next several years, one night a month was dedicated to Club members. Carol Ann, the owner, became a much beloved member of the Club, and ran the Fashion Show at First Event.
In the latter part of the year, the Board rewrote the Club By-Laws. Term limits were placed on all elected officers (two consecutive terms) and functions formerly performed by the President were now assumed by the Board. These changes were approved by the membership and went into affect January 1, 1993. Sharon Hill was the first to serve as Chairman under the revised By-Laws.
Club members returned to the Hasty Pudding Club’s presentation of Romancing the Throne in February, 1993. A few weeks later, March 9th, the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Boston opened an exhibit entitled “Dress Codes, A Celebration of Cross-dressing in Contemporary Life.” Needless to say, many members of the club viewed the exhibit ‘en femme.’
The overcrowded conditions at 36 Alpine Road provided the catalyst for a renewed effort to find a new Club facility in early 1993. One such place under consideration was a building in Woburn, Massachusetts, which was located next door to the local ITAM Club. (ITalian AMerican) The facility had more than enough room and ample parking. Serious negations were entered into with the owner, and in March, 1984, the TCNE Real Estate Trust was formed. Its purpose was to provide the means to raise money to purchase the property and to operate it on behalf of the Club. However, neither the proposed location, nor the financing arrangements generated much member support. Negotiations ended in August when the owner refused to accept the Club’s offer. No further action was taken.
Overcrowding was not the only problem to beset the club that year. Internal dissention was disrupting the harmony of the Club. Cliques antagonistic to one another formed. This volatile situation was further exacerbated by several Club members who would partake in what they called “The Sewer Tour” every Tuesday evening. I.e. they visited the raunchy bars in Boston. Their return to the Club House in the early hours of the morning was often marked by high decibel celebratory sounds. The neighbors complained; Merissa wrote a letter to all the Club members demanding ladylike comportment and behavior, or else. The Board met in September; used the letter as a pretext, accepted the ‘or else’ option, and voted to vacate the facility. They gave Merissa a 30 day notice, and moved to the second floor of 6 Cushing Street, Waltham, above Vernon’s Specialty Store.
The last Club meeting in Wayland was October 29th. Sic Gloria Transit Mundi. The Club remained at the Waltham location until November, 1994, when the present location, 30 Guinan Street, Waltham, was secured.
In-house parties were of necessity, eliminated, but First Event, Hasty Pudding, Boston Harbor Dinner Cruise, and Spring Fling went on as scheduled throughout 1994. The Spring Fling, formerly called the Spring Outing, was held at the Boatslip Beach Club, and was dedicated to Jackie McDonnald.
1995 appears to have been a relatively quiet year as far as social functions were concerned. The three main Club functions, the First Event, the Spring Fling, and the Fall Fling, formerly the Wives Club Outing, were held at the usual venues.
However, in all three cases, it was to be the last time the Boatslip Beach Club and the Natick Crowne Plaza would be used for Club functions.
RESTAURANT INSULTS TRANSGENDER PATRONS AND TCNE’S FIRST EVENT GROWS
The following year, 1996, started with a bang, literally. The Club members who frequented Carol Ann’s Models Resale Boutique would usually have dinner at the Blue Buffalo Restaurant located next door when they finished shopping. On January 16th, they were highly insulted by members of the restaurant staff. Apologies were offered, but not accepted.
First Event, 1996, was held for the first time at the Crowne Plaza, Woburn, Massachusetts. This year, 2004, is the ninth time it has been held at this location. In 1998, the Woburn Advocate wrote an excellent feature story about the festivities.
The Spring and Fall Flings also changed locations in 1996. They moved their base to the Provincetown Inn located at the far end of Commercial Street where it has remained ever since.
The by-laws were rewritten in 1998 in an effort to help define duties of Officers and Committee Chairs of the Club. Deb Hutchinson was President of the Club, Jonel Peterson was Programs Chair and Nancy Cain from IFGE was Treasurer. The First Event became one of the largest events on the national transgender calendar. The attendance for the January event has risen to the second largest event held with only the Southern Comfort event drawing more. The club website set higher records each month for “hits” as people looked in to find out about the Club and what was going on. Tiffany had an increased social schedule every year with a Prom, a Pool Party and Halloween Party each year all held at Randolph Country Club. Two counseling groups led by both a professional councilor and a lay person were added to help Members friends and families. The facility had a canteen setup and the proceeds each year funded an in-house Holiday Party in December. As of 2004, Sarah Anne Thompson from New Hampshire is the President and the Club is moving to change to meet the needs of a new generation of transgender people. Tiffany for the first time, had a booth on Boston Common for PRIDE Day in June. The Club is also participating in other public events to help make people aware of Tiffany.
Club activities have been somewhat low key in the past eight years. Perhaps this is the result of the work put in by members over the past 25 years. Our meeting place is on a public city street, not at the end of a cul-de-sac in a remote wooded suburb. Members regularly dine, en femme, at local restaurants rather than in a scheduled event, events that were coordinated with restaurant prior to our arrival. The Ladies Room controversy had pretty much subsided, except when an ill informed radio talk show host blathers about it on his afternoon program. Prospective members are interviewed at our office, not at a remote phone booth three miles away. In February, 2001, Patti Hartigan of the Boston Globe, spoke with Club members at the Guinan Street facility. Her favorable article was published in the March 11th edition. Boston’s Bay Windows weekly newspaper carried a well written about the Club and First Event on Page 1 in December, 2003.
TIFFANY CLUB CONTINUES ON AS A RESOURCE TO THE TRANSGENDER COMMUNITY
The TIFFANY CLUB of NEW ENGLAND has come a long way since the first clandestine meetings in a bar on Columbus Avenue over 25 years ago.
We should also remember, and pay tribute to Christine Jorgensen who passed away in 1989 at age 63. In her own way, she greatly helped this community.
As a final note: The mixed metaphor of acorns and maple trees was our way of saying that all of us were born as acorns, but didn’t grow to be oaks.