Australia’s longest-running transgender cross-dressing group celebrates its 35th anniversary this month.

Seahorse Victoria blew out the birthday candles at a special dinner celebration over the weekend. Seahorse president Greer MacGee said it was an important milestone for the group.

“I don’t know if we could ever put a number on how many people have passed through the doors over those years,” she said.

“[Seahorse] is based on mutual respect of everyone and there’s no real judgment on how you dress. Everyone’s been in the same boat, it takes time to learn a personal style and it takes time to become confident with yourself.”

MacGee said she believes respect for privacy has been the successful ingredient in Seahorse’s longevity.

“Privacy is very important to individuals. While it’s probably not as critical these days, there are still individuals who like to maintain a degree of privacy because they’re not quite ready to step out into the world.”

Seahorse maintains a quiet presence as a community group. MacGee said the organisation occupies a social, rather than a political, space to help people come to grips with their identity.

“We don’t try and provide any medical advice, but we can point you in the right direction,” she said.

“None of us are qualified for it and we’re all at varying stages of going through our own personal journey.

“We do notice those who go on to transition full-time tend not to come any more.”

MacGee has been involved in Seahorse for eight years and said it was a personal lifeline when she was going through her own journey of self-discovery.

“The first time I’d ever really been dressed in public, or outside the confines of the place I was staying at was going to Seahorse,” she said.

“When I walked in and I realised there were people who were dressed similarly to me, it was quite comforting and I realised I was not alone in the world.

“It gave me the confidence to say, this is me.”

MacGee said while there are a few younger members, most of those who attend Seahorse meetings are in the late 40s to 50s age bracket.

The group still meets monthly and receives two new callers a month on average.

Although subjects for discussion at meetings vary, with newcomers tips on clothes and make-up are usually hot topics.

“You start to realise you’re allowed to have a little bit of colour in your life, instead of sitting in a cupboard worried about what the rest of the world thinks,” MacGee said.

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