Welcome to Phi Epsilon Mu
Florida Chapter of Tri Ess
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The History of Us
Introduction - In the years prior to Phi Epsilon Mu's formation in 1987 information about crossdressing and transgenderism was hard to come by. The Internet and home computers wasn't exactly a household word yet and obtaining information was less than discreet for most. In the 1980s television talk shows such as Phil Doanhue, Sally Jesse Raphael, etc., would sometimes feature programs about transsexuals or crossdressers. Prior to this there were support organizations scattered around the country, but most people had a hard time making contact with them. These television programs helped lots of people to make contact with the various groups and a flurry of new groups resulted over the next few years. Below is a historical timeline related to crossdressing, transexualism, etc. leading up to the chapter's formation. This is by no means a complete list, just some highlights that have been noted.
1900 - Julian Eltinge performs on Broadway in DRAG and is a big hit becoming the first known female impersonator in America.
- The word "transvestite" first appeared from Magus Hirshfeld, a
sexologist in Germany.
The history of Phi Epsilon Mu continues here, but this
timeline is not limited to the chapter alone because in the late 1980s and
early 1990s the "Gender Community" was rapidly evolving all
around us just like Orlando was.
1987 - In July of 1987 after making contact via the Tri-Ess
secure letter forwarding service Dale of Kissimmee, Jenny of Orlando, and
Phyllis of Orlando arranged to meet at Dale's place in Kissimmee. That
meeting soon evolved into the "Central Florida Sisters" and then "Phi
Epsilon Mu." Dale and Roxanne began to share a home in east
Kissimmee and it would be the meeting place for the next three years.
1989 - In April 1989 the first newsletter was published
referring only to the "Central Florida Sisters." Then
unnamed, the next issue for May 1989 became "FEM" named by Joanie
from St. Petersburg who had become the newsletter editor and almost
immediately the chapter became Central Florida Sisters and Phi Epsilon Mu. (CFS and
FEM for short.) Tri-Ess chapters use the Greek alphabet to name their
chapters. Phi = F, Epsilon = E, and Mu = M. The members felt we
should exist to serve all transgendered people and it was intended for CFS to represent
transexual persons and the FEM part as a Tri-Ess chapter for crossdressers
and their wives. This continued well after receiving the Tri-Ess
charter, but was rather low key. At the same time wives and partners of
the crossdressers were coming to meetings more and more. Throughout FEM's history we
have always had a larger group of active wives and partners than any other
group in Florida and possibly the USA. In fact, on many occasions
more wives and partners have been at FEM meetings than total attendance at other
groups. Early on the crossdressers were informed that the term
"significant other" was greatly disliked so "wives and
partners" has long been the designation for these special ladies within Phi
1990 - A banner year, lots of things happened! In early
1990 Sabrina M. from the east coast formed "Fantasia" in Orlando
with the cooperation of the Gay-Lesbian Community Center of Orlando due to her inability to
make contact with any support groups for crossdressers. Shortly after,
Sabrina discovered Phi Epsilon Mu and became active with us while Fantasia
continued on for some time while Phi Epsilon Mu grew at a staggering pace.
1990 - In the spring of 1990 "The Southern Bells"
or "TSB" Tri-Ess chapter formed in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area and
met at Michelle and wife's home in St. Pete for a few months until Michelle
resigned then we met at Joanie S.'s home (same Joanie as mentioned above in
FEM), but meetings were discontinued after a threatening letter was sent to
Joanie about the meetings. TSB died out after that.
1990 - In the spring of 1990 Phi Epsilon Mu received their
1990 - In May 1990 Penny of Winter Park became FEM
editor and a vastly improved newsletter was born with the July 1990 issue. Since
every member couldn't attend
1990 - Summer - Alice E. of Winter Park along with Penny
of Winter Park, Laura of Kissimmee, and Denise of Winter Park (and others) all worked
together with others
to find a new meeting place and keep the chapter going. They
all visited the Quality Suites in Kissimmee while enfemme (on the way
to a meeting of the TSB in St. Pete.) to check out two bedroom hotel
suites for meetings. It was a GO! Without missing a meeting
the arrangements were made, members notified via
newsletter, and a successful meeting was held with a right nice sized crowd.
Denise took over as chapter secretary, Alice (later Alexis) became the
president, Vanessa the treasurer, Penny the FEM editor and we were off to a new
start. HOWEVER, one of the reasons for success of the chapter from this
point on was spreading the workload around to "many people."
Thus, many people contributed to
the success of FEM over the years.
The 1990s - So many things happened in the 1990s at FEM,
in the gender community, in
Florida, etc. that it was impossible to document all of them
and will have to be part 3 of our history in the future. Some highlights
include: Denise's partner Carol from Vero Beach held the first
"wives and partners" meeting in a bedroom while the sisters held their
business meeting, this was the fall of 1991. Although meetings were
now held at Quality Suites,
after a few meetings we were switched to the present location
when Quality had no vacancies for that day. Everyone loved this place
better, ground level, closer parking,
more convenient, less intimidating for new people due to no
climbing stairs or elevators,
etc. so we continued at the present location.
STARBUST group in St. Petersburg was born and an instant boom
followed after a special 11PM news report by Kathy Fountain. The Atlanta
area "Southern Comfort" convention was formed to serve southern
sisters. In fall 1991 Alice decided to return to New Jersey and Denise
took over as president. At some point in this time frame Penny stepped
aside as newsletter editor and Denise took over those duties. Alexis
returned to Orlando within a
year and continued being active with the chapter. The
internet had been born and was quickly becoming an almost household
word and with the help of Kelly the chapter launched a web site also adding to
the rapid growth of the chapter.
year and continued being active with the chapter. The internet had been born and was quickly becoming an almost household word and with the help of Kelly the chapter launched a web site also adding to the rapid growth of the chapter.
I started in June of 1997 after contacting the group by email. I talked with Denise by email and attended my first meeting in June. Denise was President. I really enjoyed my first meeting and decided to join the group.
Denise was also the newsletter editor and taking care of the group pictures and scrapbook. A girl named Karen took over the newsletter for a couple of years to help her out.
Denise had been a member of the group for about ten years and President for many of them, She was getting burned out, so she stepped down as President and Alice took over. Later Alice changed her name to Alexis
Alexis had a New Years Eve party for several of the ladies from the group. It was on December 31, 1999, to celebrate the new millennium. I believe it was in 1999 when I took over the newsletter from Karen. I wanted to get more involved with the group and Karen didn’t want to do it any more.
Alexis was President for several years and decided it was time for her to step down. Gina, who was VP, became the President. Gina was President for several years.
I joined PEM sometime early in 1998 after speaking with Alexis on the phone. The previous week I’d attended a Starburst meeting in St. Petersburg and was the only one there who was dressed, even though it was my first time out of the house and wanted a more active group. At that time, the group was meeting in a two bedroom suite in the S building in the back of the Day’s Suites (now the Celebration Suites) complex. In one way, it was kind of like going to a 1930’s prohibition speakeasy. I’m too young to remember those, but I’m sure Desiree does.
Anyway, one bedroom was used as the changing room and it was always crowded as many of the members didn’t arrive dressed. I believe Denise was President at the time, but not long after, Alexis assumed the office. The second bedroom was the smoking lounge. As I was getting dressed, I overheard two members talking and asked them if they were engineers. Both replied “yes,” and one of them was Linda from Miami. She befriended me and offered to have her wife, Martha, talk to my wife, Beth, who was still very concerned about my being a Crossdresser. The conversation Beth had with Martha did more good than all of the counseling sessions we went to.
The library was being managed by Edie who lived close to me. Not long after joining, I became the librarian which was like being in heaven for a read-a-holic. I began reading each and every one of the books cover to cover and thus, became the cesspool of knowledge that I am today.
At the time I joined PEM, the thought of ever venturing outside the meeting room was the furthest thing from my mind. Shortly after, I travelled to northern California and had my first makeover at a boutique called Carla’s in San Jose. That night I decided to return to my hotel still dressed, had an encounter, and discovered the world hadn’t ended and nobody threw a net over my head. It was then that I became braver, but still cautious, about venturing out. About a year and a half later, I took my now-famous test drive of a high dollar exotic sports car. You can beg all you want, but I’m not going to retell it here.
Around that time, Gina took over the Presidency from Denise. Gina’s leadership continued the momentum began by Alexis and Denise and the group grew larger. I can remember our Christmas dinner having an attendance one night of 56 sisters and wives. There was a group picture taken, but I don’t know who might have a copy. Sometime along that time, I became Gina’s Vice President and handed off the library, but I can’t remember who to.
We weren’t doing well at all financially and had to make the tough decision to raise the dues. I remember one month Gina actually putting the meeting room on her personal credit card because there wasn’t enough money in our chapter account to cover the cost. Gina negotiated a lower rate with the hotel by reserving our room for a year at a time and that helped. Then two very significant events occurred. We had a girl named Laura Ellis join. Laura was a physician who really wanted to be a restraunteur and also operated a catering service. She began catering the monthly meals and refused to be reimbursed, allowing us to put that money in the bank. We also had a sister named Jennifer join the group. Jennifer hosted what she called her “Hospitality Room,” and donated all the snacks to the evening’s event.
Jennifer also did something that was one of the most significant changes in our group I can think of. She went to the front window of the meeting room and threw open the curtains and said “Why should we be in hiding? Let’s let people see who we are.” I know it doesn’t sound like much right now, but it actually was very traumatic to some sisters who had spent their lives being ashamed of their Crossdressing. Sisters and wives moved freely between the two rooms and began interacting with other guests and anyone walking by. At one meeting, three Atlanta Braves ball players who were staying at the hotel, spent a good deal of time chatting with several CD’s and a wife in the hallway. The following year, two of them dropped by with a third, new, player and we invited them in for dinner. They went to their rooms and got their girlfriends, and came over and joined us for a very pleasant evening. One of the players confided to one of our wives that he had allowed his girlfriend to make him up twice! Talk about outreach.
Sometime in 2004, Gina stepped down as President due to her work schedule and I became President. Hope Thomas became Vice President and is responsible for the creation of our present chapter website which continues to this day to receive compliments from those who access it. In 2005, Dee, although being very new to the chapter joining in 2003, became Vice President.
Around 2004 or 2005, Jennifer, who would stay at the hotel for the entire week on occasion, came up with the suggestion of using the staff break room for our meetings as we’d clearly outgrown the suite. It was a dump, but we went along, and after cleaning it up, it worked out pretty well. At one point I made the comment to the members at the meeting that “Empty, this room is a real dump, but with you ladies filling it, it became one of the nicest places on earth.” That’s still true today, although since then, the hotel has thoroughly renovated the room and it’s quite nice. Dee approached the management and they allowed us to place our big cabinet in the room eliminating the need to schlep supplied back and forth each meeting.
When I became President, Cyndie was publishing our excellent newsletter which she’d done since 1999. She needed a break and Desiree took over, raising the bar another notch. In 2007, lovely Susan took over as Treasurer from Georgie Sue, and Desiree’s wife, Helene, joined the board.
When Gina was president, her wife, Karen, assumed leadership of the wives group and was a major influence on many wives who were concerned about their husband’s crossdressing. Although the wives group is more informal these days, her leadership established the path it takes. In the 1999-2000 time frame, many of the wives and CD’s attended the Tri-ESS SPICE conferences.
More recent changes have been with Peaches assuming the role of Treasurer. For awhile, Debbie T had the library, then Peaches managed it for awhile, and now our Madame Librarian is Chris. Our Girls Night Out’s have become more diverse. For years, we met at the Adam’s Mark hotel at the Florida Mall. These days, we’ll spend Friday nights at any one of a dozen restaurants in the Winter Park area. Desiree and Dee are the organizers of these outings which often attract more than 20 sisters. Our website is now maintained by Ellen, even though she and Christina are now living in California. They form the West Coast Branch of PEM.
For several years, Laura has been our chapter photographer and mistress of the albums. In 2009, she began writing a social column in the newsletter letting our members know what events were going on in each others lives. Dianne has recently taken over the column and continuing the same fine job.
As this is written, in January of 2011, our membership stands at 70 sisters and 24 wives/partners. Our average monthly meeting attendance is about 30. As always, the winter meetings are much better attended with our record attendance at 58 for a single meeting.
Last revised 012711