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TGF Founder JoAnn Roberts has passed away

| Jun 10, 2013
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JoAnn Roberts, a founding partner of this publication, has passed away. JoAnn was 65-years-old. She is survived by her wife Jaini, daughter Brie and sister Donna.

JoAnn was diagnosed with lung cancer in February of this year. She went through a round of chemotherapy treatments and they appeared to be successful in stopping the cancer in her lungs and liver. Radiation treatments were begun last month to eradicate a tumor on her spine but were halted last week when it was determined that the cancer had spread again. JoAnn opted to go into hospice care and she passed away peacefully on Friday evening, June 7, 2013.

JoAnn, like many of us, had been attracted to women’s clothing since she was a young boy in the Philadelphia, Pa. area. She was living in California in the 1970s when she saw Virginia Prince on a television talk show discussing her organization for heterosexual crossdressers, the Society for the Second Self (Tri-Ess). JoAnn was shocked, amazed and delighted to learn that there were other men who felt the way she did about dressing up.

Work brought JoAnn and her family back to the Delaware Valley region of Pennsylvania in 1983 and she began to look for other crossdressers in earnest.

I had begun to explore crossdressing in the early 1980s and had subscribed to Tapestry magazine. Along with your subscription to the magazine you got a personal ad. One day I got a letter from JoAnn Roberts. My post office box (necessary for TG communication at that time) happened to be in the town outside Philadelphia where JoAnn was raised. She wanted to know if I was from the same town. That first letter lead to a correspondence and then a phone conversation and finally a meeting. We learned that in addition to crossdressing we both loved science fiction and rock music. JoAnn had met some other crossdressers and we all became friends.

JoAnn was a spark plug. She thought big and she had the energy and skills to make things happen. She started her own publishing company and began producing LadyLike Magazine. In 1985 she wrote and published Art & Illusion, A Guide to Crossdressing.


Alison Laing, Angela Gardner, Trudi Henry, JoAnn Roberts, Melanie Bryant and Paula Jordan Sinclair

In 1987 JoAnn proposed to our circle of CD friends that we start an organization to raise awareness, provide support and educate about transgender issues. It would be a legitimate organization with a 501 [c] 3 nonprofit status. Alison Laing, Trudy Henry, Melanie Bryant and I were among the group she got together to discuss and then create The Renaissance Education Association, Inc.. (Later renamed The Renaissance Transgender Association, Inc..)

JoAnn was the first managing director. Her plan for Renaissance was that each year there would be an election and the organization would stay fresh by having new leadership. All of the founding members did their time as managing director.

In 1996 JoAnn partnered with Cindy Martin and Jamie Faye Fenton to create Transgender Forum. In 2006 JoAnn took full control of Transgender Forum and somewhere along the line it became TGForum. At the beginning of this year JoAnn sold TGF to new owners who have vowed to keep what made TGForum unique and help it grow as the best place on the Internet for accurate information about transgender issues.

JoAnn was the heir to a crossdressing event in the Pocono Mountains that had been run in the ‘80s by a TG named Joyce Dewhurst. Under JoAnn’s guidance it became Paradise in the Poconos and quickly outgrew the small venue that Dewhurst had used. The event was held every year in the Poconos until the host venue was sold or shut down. JoAnn moved the party to Rehobeth Beach, Delaware and it continued till last year as Beauty and the Beach.

JoAnn helped found several TG organizations besides Renaissance and served on the boards of IFGE, and AEGIS (chair from 1992 to 1996). She was the author of the Gender Bill of Rights in 1990. She published a Who’s Who of the TG community and was the driving force for The Second International Congress on Crossdressing, Sex and Gender hosted by Renaissance in suburban Philadelphia in 1997.

JoAnn was a whirlwind of energy and a force to be reckoned with. As TGF contributor and author Dallas Denny says, “JoAnn was a fierce advocate for transgendered and transsexual people and wasn’t afraid to say what needed to be said when it needed to be said. As a member of the IFGE board she called for an audit, which resulted in attack from other board members. She rightly took IFGE to task more than a dozen times in editorials.”

In the past few years JoAnn had withdrawn from the TG community as an active leader and was devoting time to her wife, their two cats and their dogs Spike and Bear. Her first love was model trains and she enjoyed working on her basement O scale layout. She was taken from us too soon. The world, and the TG community, could use more people like JoAnn Roberts.

Amanda Richards has created a Facebook page to celebrate JoAnn’s life. Please visit it to leave your memories of her.

This article was corrected on June 10, 2013. Melanie Bryant was incorrectly called Melanie Bryan.

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Category: Transgender Community News


About the Author ()

Angela Gardner is a founding member of The Renaissance Transgender Assoc., Inc., former editor of its newsletter and magazine, Transgender Community News. She was the Diva of Dish for TGF in the late 1990s and Editor of LadyLike magazine until its untimely demise. She has appeared in film and television shows portraying TG characters, as well as representing Renaissance on numerous talk shows.

Comments (11)

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  1. cena cena says:

    I always enjoyed seeing and talking with JoAnn. I attended many of the early Paradise In The Pocono events and each was a rewarding and enjoyable experience. Jo had lots of advice and make-up tips that I still treasure and continue to use. She was always accepting and enthusiastic, while encouraging others to fully reach their potential! She will surely be missed by many!
    Cena Williams

  2. Jamie Jamie says:

    I first met JoAnn at a California Dreaming conference in 1993. I had just emerged and went to one of her seminars on Art and Illusion. That night she invited me to sit with her at her table and she introduced me to Virginia Prince. A year or two later, I helped her put a hit counter on her web site and introduced her to Cindy Martin and we started 3D Communications (3D standing for “The Three Dreamers”). 3D Communications became the publisher of Transgender Forum.

    In the mid 2000s I had become quite a wild party girl and left TGForum (Cindy left a year or two later). I have since settled down (somewhat) and have been lurking around TGForum for the past few years. I always wanted to renew my friendship with JoAnn and now its too late. Lesson: Don’t put this sort of thing off for too long!

    JoAnn had an enormous influence on me and on the world.

  3. victoria victoria says:

    sweetchick, that sounds like a lovely idea! A permanent memorial of some kind would be a great idea, with a biography, some pictures, maybe some of her work etc.

  4. sallees56 sallees56 says:

    she was great asset to the community and will be missed. While I never met her I did communicate with her several times. She was a mver and a shaker and that is what the TG community needed
    JoAnne Thank you may you forever live in our hearts

  5. sweetchick sweetchick says:

    With the passing of Jo Ann a new opportunity affords us in the transgender community. Lets celebrate Jo Ann’s life by starting a TG Forum Hall of Fame and let Jo Ann become our first inductee. We need hero’s like her to encourage us all to work for the transgender community and bring happiness to our lifes.

  6. Michelle Michelle says:

    I can’t express the shock and sadness that I feel in learning of Jo Ann’s passing. Though we hadn’t spoken recently I’ve had the pleasure of knowing her since 1987. Renaissance, the group she was instrumental in founding, was a major part of my life for many years and I owe a great debt to them and to Jo Ann. I became a better, happier person, the person I am today because of them both. I considered Jo Ann a friend and she was always the type of person you were grateful for knowing. I can’t believe she is gone.

  7. victoria victoria says:

    I was stunned to read the news this morning that JoAnn passed. It seems like yesterday I first saw her on the Donahue show, and then later in life when I read my first copy of Ladylike magazine a friend had given me (a good friend of JoAnn’s, in fact, talk about serendipity), back almost 2 decades ago.

    I only met JoAnn once in passing, at the IFGE convention in 2006. She was busy and I was only able to say hello in passing, she was only a the convention briefly and she left shortly after I saw her. (I remember I was so nervous when I approached her… finally I sheepishly asked “Excuse me… umm.. are you JoAnn Roberts by any chance?”) Although I only talked to her in person for only for about a minute that one day, I always felt like I had known her like an old friend, through her writing in Ladylike magazine, her videos, TG forum, and all her various other work and outreach. Here I am, choked up with my eyes full of tears as I write this, feeling the loss of an old friend.

    I have emailed her a few times and posted a few messages to her on this site, thanking her for all the work she did and for helping me with my personal struggle as a confused and guilt-ridden TV. I was not sure if she saw those posts or not… I hope she did… for whatever it is worth… I hope she knew she had the heart felt gratitude and sisterly love from some humble little ol’ TV out there in the vast world we call genderland.

    I regret that I was never able to attend one of her events in Delaware, or meet her at a Renaissance function, where I could sit down and talk to her in person, tell her how her worked changed my life for the better, and talk about her fascinating life.

    Well, that’s all I have to say… for now… from one transvestite to another… thank you for touching my life, for all the work you did for all of us, and rest in peace sister.

  8. edie011 edie011 says:

    JoAnn brought so many of us together at her wonderful events, and was always such a charming hostess. She will be missed.

  9. says:

    Reposted from “A Celebration of JoAnn Roberts” : JoAnn Roberts was a woman ahead of her time. She was a Transgender pioneer. She was responsible for the information that appeared on the Net when we did not know that there were other Transgenders. She brought us together. She knew who we were before we did. While I was not an intimate friend of JoAnn’s, our association goes back just shy of 20 years. As the publisher of TGForum in 1996, she did review my articles for TGForum. I did get into her big hair once in a while. She was the publisher of TGForum and Cindy Martin was the editor. We shall miss her sadly for who she was and the contributions she made to our community. So in her own words and taken from a 1996 article.
    About JoAnn Roberts: I am a writer, editor and educator. I was one of the 5 founders of the Renaissance Transgender Education Assoc., and have served on the boards of IFGE and AEGIS. Ive published several books on CD/TS/TG subjects. My how-to books are available at the CDS Bookstand ( I am most proud of Coping With Crossdressing: Tools and Strategies for Couples in Committed Relationships. I was an early TG political activist and one of the co-founders of GenderPAC. I wrote and published a Bill of Gender Rights in December 1990. I’ve appeared on several television shows and in the movie All Dressed Up And Nowhere To Go. I published LadyLike magazine for 18 years, as well as EnFemme magazine and International TranScript. I am currently the owner/publisher of TGForum.

  10. Linda Jensen Linda Jensen says:

    JoAnn may be gone; but yet she lives on in the advice, encouragement and strength she has given to so many of us. Thank you Jani for sharing your partner.
    Thank you Angela for this timeline (but oh, those hairdoos!)

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