The Definitive History of the Seahorse Society - Part 7

This page includes details of the changing directions of Seahorse in the 1990's


The 1990's and Incorporation - A Time of Change.

A decision was made to incorporate the club and in 1990 we became the Seahorse Society of N.S.W., Inc. Around the same time the requirements to be specifically a cross-dresser were dropped and Seahorse welcomed anyone with enhanced gender feelings.

Research into the Membership archives revealed that prior to 1991, new applicants were required to sign a declaration on joining that they accepted the Seahorse was "basically for transvestites with a heterosexual orientation". By mid-1991, the application form no longer contained such a declaration.

During the 1980's and early 1990's a number of venues (at Wentworthville, Marrickville, & Henley) were tried as meeting places. It was difficult to find a safe, convenient place to meet. The Gender Centre was very helpful to the group making a small room available, in which to store records and to provide a basic photocopier and a useful place to conduct membership interviews. Meeting attendance books (from 1989 to 1992) still exist and indicate that 10 to 20 members attended each meeting.

In 1991, a branch of Seahorse (combined with Flamingo Club members) existed at Woodrising, in the Lake Macquarie area. It was relatively small and appears to have folded within a few years. There were also branch meetings held in Canberra for several years.

By 1993, NSW Seahorse had an active committee. The Society was thriving quite well with about 80 members, with a turnover of 20-30 new members joining each year and a similar number dropping out. Referrals often came via Life Line and the Gender Centre. An Info line was in use by the early 1990's, offering support by telephone manned by a roster of committee members. Almost 10% of members consisted of partners and family members.

The social attitude was still not very accepting of cross-dressing and one of the main fears at the time was that a journalist would gain membership and expose the group to public ridicule. There was one female journalist who did approach the then-President and was invited to a meeting and afterwards to a social gathering at a Glebe coffee shop.

What appeared in the women's magazine later was not very complementary to the members or the organisation. This discouraged any further dalliance with the general media until the late 1990's.

By then attitudes had changed to some extent. The Gay Mardi Gras had become a major event on the Sydney calendar and the Oxford Street area became a tourist attraction. Seahorse membership grew but never more than 100 members of whom only about 30% would ever attend meetings.

It was at one of those meetings that the media was again invited to come and have a look at us. This time the request came from television in the form of a cameraman and a soundman and a female interviewer from the Channel 9 Breakfast Show. What went to air was a very fair segment of about 12 minutes, showing members enjoying the meeting and on camera interviews asking the usual questions. It started with one member being shown doing his day job and following him through the makeup stage to attending a meeting in his other guise.

By the late 1990's, Seahorse again experienced difficult times, because of personality clashes within the organisation. Attendance at Social meetings plummeted because of the tension and unhappiness within the organisation, with as few as five members attending Social meetings.

Fortunately, the Society recovered with a change of leadership in 1999, when Lynne took over in what was originally supposed to be a "caretaker" role, but which in fact lasted six years.

In the 1990's, meetings were held at Henley Cottage, a relatively small hall, before moving to a much more spacious venue at Hunters Hill. For privacy reasons, the exact location of the monthly meetings is only divulged to financial members.

In 1995, the Association Of Self Help Organisations And Groups (ASHOG) honoured Seahorse with the Stephens Anthony James Award as Second Prize in the ASHOG Arts and Community Services display.



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