The answer for me is complex and evolved over decades which, I won’t bore you with in the interest of brevity but, going back to the 1990’s which was pre internet, there was not much known about crossdressing for most of us. Those who crossdressed picked up bits and pieces relating to the subject here and there from books and magazines but most of it was negative. Typically what you discovered did not encourage you to reach out to anyone so you kept your secret to yourself. There were exceptions though and some brave souls made contact forming groups that met in secret, mostly in private homes to express their feminine side and help others to do the same. CHIC was formed in 1975 by some of those brave souls. Those not so lucky just dealt with the guilt of what they were doing which in many cases they did not even know it had a name, Transvestism. That was my story until the internet opened many doors and at around the age of 40 I discovered a number of resources in Southern California that were crossdressing oriented. After weeding through all of them I found out about a group that met in Orange County once a month and was open to anyone. It took a couple of years to get my wife in a position where she was O.K. with me going but she had no interest in participating herself in any way shape of form.
The group was called Powder Puffs of Orange County (PPOC) and anyone could join or just attend meetings paying a nominal fee of 10 or 15 dollars. I really don’t remember how much it was but it was reasonable and needed because it was held in a motel meeting room and they had to pay for that along with the pizzas and drinks. I had heard that the meetings attracted 75 to 80 crossdessers but I never experienced more than 30 when I attended. Even so I had a good time once I drummed up the courage to attend a meeting. My problem was that there were only a few people at any given meeting that I had common areas of interest with. If they or myself did not attend on a continuous basis it could take a months to pick up the conversation where you left last time you met. I am a social animal by nature and this was not working well for me but, it was all I had until I met a member of CHIC and their wife at a convention in Texas. By this time my wife had thawed to the idea of attending a CD function with me provided it was an out of state event where hopefully we knew nobody.
The event was the Texas “T” Party in San Antonio Texas where around 250 crossdressers and wives / S.O.’s gathered every year. A great and sorely missed event that went on for about 10 years. It was at lunch one day where we met several crossdressers one of which Ashley lived not far from our home in California. We sat together with her and her wife for the dinner that night and a trip to the Riverwalk in DRAB the next day. She asked me if I had heard of CHIC and I responded that I had but was under the impression that you had to pass in public and be wealthy to get accepted. She told me that she was a member and my information was not accurate. She told me that she felt I would really like the club if I gave it a chance. She offered to send me an application which she did and I filled it out and returned it promptly.
I went through the application process just like everyone else with a face to face interview done by a CHIC Board Member followed by two successive meetings (parties) where I would get to meet the members. Both meetings were home parties and allowed for lots of conversation. Not long after the second meeting I was voted in as a member. It was a great feeling to know that I was now a member of CHIC because at the meetings I met some really great people and we had things in common outside of crossdressing. Many are still friends 20 years later. I now got dressed and went out to a meeting instead of a bar and knew that most of my friends (not just members) would be there. Each member and spouse that arrived after me was given an enthusiastic welcome as with those who arrived earlier. I no longer went to open meeting as a stranger meeting strangers and left at the end of the night the way I came in.
Over the years my wife and I have taken vacations (in DRAB) with other members, gone on crossdressing weekends, and conventions as a group which has been a lot of fun. I have also learned a great deal about crossdressing getting tips and tricks along with some great resources from other members. I have gone from terrified to confident when out in public and enjoy it now more than ever before.
I can’t make it to every CHIC meeting because things get in the way even though I mark my calendar in January each year with all of the meeting dates for the year so I can plan my schedule around meetings. Most other members do the same thing because when you miss a meeting you really MISSED something. Now days most meetings are held in mainstream restaurants where we know the management and are welcomed. I enjoy watching new members evolve becoming more confident going out in public in addition to gaining more experience in improving their appearance.
It continues to be an enjoyable and rewarding experience for me.