Annie Taylor Smith is the President of The Vanity Club, an organization I have recently joined. The Vanity Club is the oldest and most accomplished sorority of transgender women in the world. For over a quarter century, transwomen from all corners of the globe–North America, Central America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia–have come together to offer friendship, support and encouragement to each other and to our transgender brothers and sisters around the world. My interest, and the interest of the organization as we celebrate our 25th anniversary, is to become a more active force in helping the trans community. I, myself, am involved, through The Vanity Club, in raising clothing and funds for Margie’s Closet here in Cleveland and hope to use this as a pilot program to do so in other circumstances.
Annie was kind enough to answer a few questions for our Difference Makers series.
Tell me about yourself, your story. Also, discuss your vision for The Vanity Club.
I grew up as the youngest child of a divorced single mom who had 3 kids. My mom divorced my alcoholic abusive father when I was 6 months old in 1959. My mom remarried when I was 13. My stepfather was a caring man. I truly considered him my father. I knew at 5 years old something was different about me. I always thought I should have been a girl. It was 1964 when I was 5 and I knew I couldn’t confide in my divorced, catholic, Italian mother about my issues. I would have been disowned. I couldn’t talk to the priest, a teacher or coach. No one even knew what I was back then and there was no way to look it up. When I was older in High School, I couldn’t see myself going up to the Librarian and ask, or even what to look up in the card catalogue Dewey Decimal system. This was all Pre-Google.
All I knew of what I was, came from articles about Christine Jorgensen and Dr. Rene Richards. Although I wore my mom’s clothes when I was young, I knew I had to overcompensate with masculine activities to overcome my dysphoria. I played high school sports, football, wrestling, disc and shot in track. Although I studied Chemistry and Math, when I was in high school I also took Home Economics.
I bought a motorcycle after high school and applied to 4 military colleges. I interviewed with Delaware Senator Joe Biden for an appointment to the US Naval Academy as well as interviewed to play football for Navy. I didn’t get the nomination and went to a small college in VA, played one year of football and 2 years of Lacrosse before injuries sidelined me. While in college I signed an officer’s contract in the US Marine Corps. Upon graduation I went to USMC Officers Candidate School and was commissioned as an Infantry officer. I later served at 1st and 4th Recon Battalions which is a Special Operations Group of the Marine Corps. I resigned my commission in the Marine Corps knowing if I was ever discovered I would be removed from the Marine Corps.
After my service, I got a job using my Chemistry degree in the Chemical Industry and was in Chemical Sales for more than for 35 years with multiple companies. I was married and had 2 kids and was divorced after 16 years of marriage. While I was married, I joined a “3 patch Motorcycle Club” and was definitely considered a “Bad Hombre.” My spouse never knew of my secret. While married the internet came about and I started to explore and found there were many people like me. It gave me hope.
After my divorce I decided to start exploring my feminine side, it was very difficult to suppress my dysphoria for more than 40 years. That was my tipping point. I started dressing and going out. I floundered for 12 years until I met some great Trans women in the Vanity Club and got a therapist. That really gave me confidence and I finally came out and started transitioning in 2017 and have been fulltime since 2019 when I came out at work. I did a “Coming out Reunion Tour in 2017.” I came out to many of the Officers in the Marine Corps that I served with 35 years prior to our reunion that year. I also came out at a family reunion, College Football Reunion and 40th High School Reunion that same year. Most if not all (there were a few exceptions) of the people I came out to were supportive and happy that I was being my authentic self.
Upon joining the Vanity Club I wanted to get involved right away. I felt empowered with my new life. I wanted to help and I wanted to show others that even a tough Marine Officer and Biker was scared to be her true self and had to overcome that fear. I was asked to be part of the administration on a committee then Vice President and President. The Vanity Club has evolved over 25 years. Newer members aren’t afraid anymore. Currently the acceptance of Trans people and the LGBT community is at an all-time high.
The early members had to communicate through email and share pictures and meet at conferences in order to safely present their feminine persona. Now we go ANYWHERE! I’ve done my best to change the club to bring it into the new millennium establishing a Non-Profit 501c organization and legal entity. Despite the past 18 months of Covid, we have remained a tight organization and have still demonstrated to the public a positive representation of what it means to be Transgender.
I currently live in a small rural “redneck” town in NE Georgia. I go everywhere, Home Depot, Tractor Supply, Harbor Freight and local BBQ restaurants and the Wal-Mart without any fear nor have I had any bad experiences in more than 6 years that I’ve lived here. I have a small farm where I raise chickens and some vegetables. I am treated with respect everywhere I go, whether that be the lawn mower repair shop, the local hardware store or the County “Feed & Seed.” That’s not saying I don’t have “Situational Awareness” everywhere I go. I understand there are still people who don’t like us, but I don’t live in fear nor have ever considered myself a victim. NO Marine has EVER considered themselves a victim. I portray a strong and confident character hoping I will be a spark to someone else to give them the same hope I was looking for so we all can transition and live a happy life.
The best interviews happen when the interviewer asks simple or basic questions and the subject takes off from there. Annie was wonderful in that regard. I remain so impressed with so many of the ladies I have encountered along the way. There was much she said here that I also felt, also went through. I know many of us can relate.
I have a deep respect for those that serve, be it in the military, as a police officer, fire fighter, what have you. Annie, you have my undying respect for both serving and the courage you have show to be the wonderful woman you were born to be! You make me proud to be your sister.
Check out the entire Difference Makers series!