Where Do Cross-dressers Fit into the Transgender Community is becoming a consuming topic given the plethora of new trans faces being touted in the media starting with Laverne Cox and Maura in the Amazon series, Transparent, to Caitlyn Jenner (I Am Cait) and Jazz Jennings (I Am Jazz). Terri Lee Ryan deals with the subject in this reprint of her original post in ChicagoNow, Shades of Gender.
Transgender women Caitlyn, Laverne, Amelia, Jenna, and Isis are among many who have come out to tell their stories in the media. These ladies are defining the word transgender for society faster than we can watch their TV shows or latest fashion spread! These Trans women are fierce, as they are strong-willed, have big personalities, great clothes and make-up and look like the woman we expect them to.
They are defining the T in LGBT. Yet what about the cross-dressers who self-identify as a transgender woman, yet do not want to become a full-time woman and are still content in their dual-gender role as a male and femme self? Their femme identity needs to emerge, but not so much as they feel they were born the wrong gender. Many cross-dressers still use the term transgender woman and contend that the transsexuals “stole” the term which was once inclusive of cross-dressing men.
As Bruce Jenner said in his interview with Diane Sawyer, “I have the REAL story.” Cross-dressers have the new story. They have been largely ignored because they are not out in public full time or open activists, for they are hiding their identity. Many cross-dressers are mostly men that self-identify with woman’s clothing and in indulging their femme role. They are struggling internally as to how far they will go publicly to become their authentic self.
Cross-dressers are a largely misunderstood group. They are different than transsexual/transgender women in that they were more attracted to the woman’s clothing than actually feeling they were born the wrong gender. Most of these men followed the typical path of playing sports, chasing women, striving to be success in a career and having a wife and family. They were all male, except for their need to dress and express themselves as a woman, sometimes.
This is something they have needed to do since they were a child. And there are not definitive reasons as to why they have this need to do so, as it is just part of who they are. There are no simple answers or explanations for their behavior which makes it more difficult for people to categorize them. Transgender women have a neatly packaged story of never feeling they were born the right gender and anguishing in their lives over needing to become the gender they self-identify with.
Cross-dressers don’t fit in a “box.” Yet, they have their own conflict and concerns as many are filled with guilt for not coming out sooner to their wives/families. They feel shame and confusion for being who they are, for the most part, because they have been in hiding their entire lives and have not been out in public, at least where someone knew them.
Times are changing as the transgender female (both girls and women) are taking a stance pushing for their own identity and acceptance for themselves and society. They are redefining how we view gender and traditional roles. Because they are out, we are becoming more comfortable with who they are.
So where are the cross-dressers? There are umpteen sites that support this group as there are numerous international on-line chat groups. Yet, they will not reveal their male identity and hide behind their femme self. They are dual-gendered people living separate lives even as their transgender women counterparts are coming out in large numbers to a mostly accepting society.
The cross-dressing community needs to step forward and reveal themselves as to help their community. For many, this is not an option they feel they can embark on as they run Fortune 500 companies, PR firms, and work at construction companies. What would their shareholders, clients and employers think about them being a cross-dresser and how would this affect their image and ability to make a living?
Many have not told their wives about their cross-dressing as they have lived this dual life. Where do they start the conversation? (BTW: Don’t’ “accidentally” leave a photo of you in a dress on your I pad.) And, what if the word gets out to their employer? These may be valid reasons to remain in hiding, yet at what price?
I say the time is now to come forward as a cross-dresser, to be honest with your wife, family, close friends and mostly to yourself about who you are. Chances are now with the transgender girls out in masses, you will blend in with the crowd. Unless, you insist on wearing your favorite vintage Pucci dress with your turquoise pumps to a Board meeting, your boss will never find out, if you don’t want them to.
Cross-dressers are still looked at like deviants by many because of their refusal to come out and show/tell us who they are. Until they do, the transgender (transsexual) woman will be the one who defines them.