Do Crossdressers Really Exist

Do Crossdressers Really Exist

The question,”Do Crossdressers Really Exist” would seem to be superfluous, but my friend Rhonda, who is Outreach Director for the Tri-Ess chapter Sigma Epilson in Atlanta, presents an interesting view with which I agree whole heartedly

Gender Identity Versus Gender Expression

A couple years ago, when presenting to a class of medical students at Emory University,  I was surprised that the professor, one of the WPATH spokespersons who had a lot to do with defining what most understand to be the transgender umbrella, confided to me that he had not met a “crossdresser” before me or known one existed. He thought all who crossdressed were en route to transition. That term is not recognized as a category under the Transgender umbrella or defined in WPATH literature. I have since found many who echo that belief.  I realize that the American Psychiatric Association, Wikipedia, and others define “transgender” as one who “identifies or presents” as a gender other than their assigned birth sex, but I think most counselors do not understand this difference.

Last Thursday I was in a discussion group with college kids who are gender/sexually variant. I described myself as a crossdresser. My girlfriend referred to me as “transgender” and was quickly brought up short by another lady in the group. She later explained to me that she has met about 200 transgender people but never before met a crossdresser. She herself said she had begun her transition at age 14, completed it at 17, and is now 19. I asked when she first realized she was female. She said age 14. I found it unusual that this was her first time feeling this way, and by the rapid progression toward transition had to wonder whether those around her may have mistaken her need to crossdress for a need to transition and pushed her down the only path they thought appropriate.

I met several others, including professors, who expressed lack of knowledge about crossdressing. A professor who teaches on the subject of the gender non-conforming community seemed to consider me “gender-queer” as did others.

There is a lot of confusion about the difference between gender identity and gender expression. I suspect much of this could be leading to a push towards creating more transgender people than actually exist (using this term in the manner most in the public take it, which is to exclude from that umbrella those who merely crossdress and do not self-identify as a gender inconsistent with their birth-assigned sex.)

Society has seemingly re-defined the term “transgender”, popularized by Virginia Prince, founder of Tri-Ess, a cross-dressing support group, to exclude the very people that term originally encompassed. Since crossdressers speaking out in public or visiting counselors are rare, I fear crossdressers are becoming a “lost” group, to the detriment of many who do not even realize that it is possible (and probable) that one who crossdresses does not usually self-identify as a sex inconsistent with their birth sex and may not benefit from transition. I fear this is doing a major disservice. For instance:

–  Many counselors naturally presume that if they encounter one who presents as female, they ARE female, or at least on a path leading that way, which impacts their counsel to wives who have no interest in being married to a lesbian and, by extension, fractures rather than mends relationships. (This was my personal experience which led to loss of my marriage.)

–  Counselors and others unaware of the difference can lead a crossdresser toward transition, creating a host of unnecessary problems.

–  Legislators, school officials, etc.  unaware of the differences, establish policies which may make sense for a transgender individual, but not for a crossdresser. e.g., Bathroom policies based on biological sex would require crossdressers to use the restroom of greatest concern to the broader public; university students who are either transitioning or just crossdressers are increasingly allowed and encouraged to co-habitate with one who dresses as they do.

It seems to me that while broader awareness is usually a positive thing, sometimes a LITTLE knowledge can do more harm than good. Ignorance is not always bliss.

Or might it be that I am delusional and have missed the great apocalypse that wiped crossdressers off the earth?”

The Harm by Ill-informed Counselors is Real.

Rhonda is right and I have a real bone to pick with these counselors that think every crossdresser is into sexual gratification or on the road to transition.And yes, they are out there. Here is one example”

Not only is this counselor ill-informed, but she deleted comments by Rhonda and me that corrected her mistakes compounding her lack of professionalism with intentional obstructionism.

On another occasion dating back several years, I challenged a gender therapist from the Los Angeles area who had written a similar piece in the LA Times. Her response was that she asked her group of transitioning clients what they thought and they verified (so she claimed) that crossdressers only dressed for sexual gratification. When I  questioned her further, I was basically blown-off.

When I first taught some classes at West Virginia University some 8 years ago, crossdressing was viewed as a paraphilia by the faculty. This soon changed as students were introduced to real life trans experiences and could ask questions and the professors became knowledgeable and more open to the idea that our lives did not conform to their earlier models. . Psychology and sociology professors typically have been trained to believe that social influences are stronger than genetic causes so resist arguments that suggest nature may be stronger than nurture. Dr. Money had a lot of credibility in their learning days, before his theories were debunked. Only within the past 5 years or so are genetic studies starting to convince many that there are strong genetic causes behind behavior often thought to be socially determined.

Rhonda went on to say, “It must be frustrating to be an educator these days. Facts often contradict theories, and students, keeping open minds,  tend to sort out the differences more quickly then their professors, who have been taught different sets of facts.” This is the problem when you have cis-experts defining our realities.  Just love it when some expert tells you, your reality is wrong.

Many psychologists and sociologists were trained in universities relying upon theories of Dr. Money and others which have been largely debunked. In the debate of nature over nurture, nurture seems to have been emphasized more than nature. I believe this is changing as studies in genetics, and other research is plumbing these issues to new depths. But change filters slowly to the level of counselors.

Another problem is that the soft sciences (psychology sociology, etc.) are much more difficult to acquire hard quantifiable data that is often manipulated towards that researchers viewpoint, as opposed to the hard sciences (physics, biology, etc.)where 1+1=2 except in very definable circumstances.  From a biological standpoint, we are not flawed, simply a variation upon a theme.  Maybe its cis-gendered people that actually are flawed.  But that’s what happens when the majority defines the narrative.

The Way Forward

Crossdressers are very hard to understand and it is often difficult for us to explain why we like to do what we like to do.  For me, I like to feel pretty.  Cross-dressing is not a fetish or a sexual thing with me and that is true for my large group of friends and most of the crossdressing groups across the country.  I am  as happy as a guy as I am as a girl and would not do anything to compromise my maleness, my fatherhood, my marriage, my career (now retired), or my activities. Learning to bring balance between your masculine and feminine sides can be challenging but achievable.

Understanding cross-dressing and our acceptance in society will come about as more and more people encounter us in their native environments. 44% of the general populace now say they know someone who is transgender. It was just 14% less than 5 tears ago. Seek out opportunities to educate the media, academie, the political establishment, and the general populace by whatever means you are comfortable with

Rhonda and I have also approached and are in discussion with ALGBTIC on how we might work with their professional organization of gender therapists to come to a greater understanding of the trans spectrum. We are guided by a small group of trans and trans-knowledgeable therapists who understand that gender identity and gender presentation are different, but similar.

Grayson Perry is a world reknown British artist (potter), knighted by the Queen, and a crossdresser. He narrates this story on Why Men Wear Dresses…a fitting closing on who we are.

 

 

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Connie Ingalls says:

That video by Dr. Huang is eight years old. I would hope that she’s learned more since then, and, if so, she should delete this video. Cross dressing is not always done as a fetish, nor is gender identity a disorder. Whether the two belong under the same umbrella term, “transgender,” though, is a different question altogether.

I know that I am not a cross dresser. I did cross dress for many years as a survival tool in an attempt to to squelch my gender dysphoria, but I finally came to realize that I could not live that life of duality. How I came to that conclusion was largely due to time spent with self-avowed cross dressers. We all were wearing women’s clothes (some of us better than others), but I never felt totally comfortable or really a part of the group. For me, it has always been about who I am; not what I do. I grew weary, when out with either one or a group of them, standing by while they would show pics of themselves and explain to an inquisitive person that it was their hobby to dress up as a woman and go out to be seen. I would usually feel the need to interject on my own behalf and to explain that not all of us are “dressing up” for the same reasons.

Whatever a person’s reason for cross dressing, I don’t have any judgement. I do have certain standards of human behavior that I use to decide with whom I care to associate, however. I definitely don’t need anyone to speak for who I am. I feel that I have stepped out from beneath the transgender umbrella and completely exposed myself to the elements. In doing so, I have also thrown away my old male umbrella. It is the only way I can relate to the whole world as who I am. Any label, including “transgender,” placed upon me is done by others. I simply have a need to be seen and understood as the individual I am – who I am. I also respect the rights of others to do the same. That doesn’t mean I will necessarily spend a lot of my time with them under their umbrella, though.

Emma Gray says:

From what I understand and believe, crossdressers are under the transgender umbrella with equal footing as the rest of us. As a transitioning trans woman I don’t feel any better or worse about them. I know and have known a couple of dozen crossdressers, who from time to time dress at home and/or go out with friends for dinner or social events. They are good people like all of us and for whatever reason that’s what they need to feel good about themselves. Good for them! Not enough for me, but who cares? I sure don’t!

Rita Doyle says:

I think that when discussing these issues of “crossdressing” and “transgenderism” one import point is missed and that is that not all men or women who enjoy dressing up in the opposite sex clothes are the same, either “gay” or just fettichists, transsexuals or “freaks”. I can of course speak for myself. My case is very similar to most who indulge in this kind of behavior. I am one male who was born with many of the attributes of my female counterparts. Since I was a baby, my mother saw me as a beautiful little girl so she dressed me in cute pink dresses, let my hair grow in curls and when she took me out loved for people who remarked: “Oh what a beautiful baby girl”. She mentioned this many times as I was growing up, and must confess that it made me very uncomfortable.
But later in my teens when I felt that inclination towards women clothes, I began to have erotic feelings about it. My crossdressing did become a sexual thing as I was sexually stimulated when I saw myself in the mirror as a fully dressed and beautiful woman. But on the other hand I was also attracted to women. Been married twice, have fathered several children.
Now after my divorces during the last 28 years have been living alone and free to dress the way I like best. In my own humble opinion. I like to present
and feel like a female because I like and admire pretty women so much that I want to be and feel like them. Does this sound familiar to any one?

Lacey Kelley says:

I have an interesting saying to share. “I don’t mind the body GOD gave me; I just don’t like the clothes he picked for me”. That is a crossdresser!

TB admin says:

That would imply that a crossdresser is less than stylish and the opposite is more likely true including our share of tarty and outrageous. You might want to take a look at our feature in the Dressing Room on Stylish Crossdressers

Virginia Lindsey says:

First, since “our” universe has no concrete definitions to fall back on, I can feel free to express my points. The “thing” that drives me nuts is all these people who look at others and all they see is the external presentation (male or female). Ever notice, none of us look alike????? Hair, eyes, height, weight, skin color, etc. Do you not think that all those external difference can manifest themselves INTERNALLY as well??????
Yes you can say my “definitions” are simplistic and I will agree that there are many, many variations, I have seen a lot of them expressed in a multitude of manners. Please understand that I am not casting dispersions on anyone it is the human condition so deal with it!
Crossdressers – for them it is basically a sexual thing. It is just a way to express their physical sexual desires. Its great.
Transgendered – this is an internal NEED to express how they feel they are, emotionally, mentally and physically.
Most people are not static who have this “gift” as I am fond of saying. They can “move” all over this continuum. Once someone accepts the fact that they may have “the need” to express themselves as “the opposite sex.” Then they are usually no longer “just a crossdresser.” AND again, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being “just a crossdresser.”
If you have this “gift” then you are blessed with something that is beautiful. Who knows, we could be the next phase of human evolution. One human with the ability to be “bi-gender;” to be able to feel, express and live within two different genders – Awesome!
Be yourself, love yourself, We only get one shot at this trip around the sun~!

Rhonda says:

As a crossdresser I can tell you that, as Tasi asserts, it is NOT a sexual thing, and it is every bit as much a NEED as it is for a transgender, except that our needs differ. I have a need for feminine expression… to APPEAR as female, at least at times. A MtoF transsexual, on the other hand, believes they ARE female. There is a big difference between gender EXPRESSION and gender IDENTIFICATION. Sexual orientation, sexual fetishes, and means to sexual gratification, are different altogether. A lot of confusion arises when one assumes any one of these very different needs or desires implies another.
Also, there is a difference between need and choice. Very few crossdressers would CHOOSE this. Most spend a lot of their lives trying to deny this is a need they cannot overcome. It negatively impacts relationships and more in many situations. But changing who we are is as likely as changing our eye color by willing it to be so. Not surprisingly, there are many recent documentaries and studies revealing that there are genetic causes likely at the source in most cases. It really IS as difficult to suppress this side of our being as it is to change eye color.

Gillian Jones says:

Rhonda I read your comment and there was a time when I would have completely agreed with it. But as I have grown older I now have a much different perspective. As a crossdresser for me it is very much a sexual thing. Not just a sexual but an identity and self expression thing. It is not possible to separate things into clearly defined categories. As I have grown older I have learned that the sexual aspect is not evil but just part of a whole. If I could remove this aspect of my existence I would not. Crossdressing has been such a source of joy and self understanding that my life is much richer because of it. Just the increased understanding of the human condition alone is worth the inconvenience. My personal experience has not been marred by the negative things that far too many people in our situation have faced. Needing something is not evil and choosing the wrong thing can be bad. Understanding the whole and gaining self acceptance can enrich everyones life.

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