Sep 19

The Despotism of Passing

ciara cremin passingPassing has become a “Be All” goal for many but it shouldn’t be. It was two years ago, at the age of 46, that I plucked up the courage and wore women’s clothes to work, the University of Auckland where I lecture in sociology. A big factor in stopping me doing so earlier was the idea I had gotten into my head that to wear women’s clothes publicly I needed to pass ‘as a woman’. Sites offering advice to cross-dressers reinforce this idea. We’re given to believe that if we don’t pass people will think we look ridiculous and their presumed laughter will be justified.

Lucille Sorella, the self-proclaimed ‘stylist and femininity advisor’ behind one such site, claims to be a ‘HUGE advocate for transgender rights’. But ‘one thing that upsets’ her, she says, is that many ‘crossdressers and transgender women [she sees] in public look so ridiculous, they make the entire transgender community look bad!’ These ‘gals try so hard to look good, but the simple fact is that they’re making fools of themselves.’ No wonder, she declares, that ‘so many people stare and laugh’.

Beyonce wax figure versus real

Beyonce L-Wax, R-Real

It’s all or nothing. You pass or you don’t pass. People tell me that I ‘almost’ pass as a woman’. This doesn’t mean I’m less likely to be looked at. If anything, as my own experiences of dressing openly testifies, people are more likely to look at me. I’m like one of those waxwork dummies of a famous celebrity: there’s something unsettling, not quite right. My appearance produces an uncanny effect that causes people to double take. When people double take they’re thinking “Is that a woman?” “No, on second thoughts, it’s a man dressed as a woman.”

I would also double take if seeing a male dressed like me. The curiosity my appearance provokes does not automatically imply hostility. I want to challenge perceptions of gender and what people regard to be a natural woman or man. I find it absurd that in this day and age a dress denotes woman and find it insulting, even misogynistic, that a man in tights is considered a joke. If by wearing women’s clothes openly without passing I help normalize the idea of a man in makeup, pantyhose and dresses, then I’d rather ‘not pass’. I’d rather give courage to the vast majority of cross-dressers who, like myself, don’t pass and, as was the case with me, feel ashamed of their male bodies and thus reluctant to wear women’s clothes in public. There’s no shame in not passing. Be proud in your pantyhose.

My makeup skills have improved considerably over the past two years. I’m developing my own style, a feminine chic, and have built up a wardrobe of clothes for different occasions that carry well on my body. It’s a fast track apprenticeship into womanhood. So two years on the aesthetic is necessarily more refined than it was. I was recently featured in New Zealand’s highest circulation magazine Woman’s Day. They interviewed me for the piece and, with the help of a stylist/makeup artist, photographed me in a variety of dresses. But even with the help of professionals, I’m no closer to passing today than two years ago when I didn’t know what a bronzer was let alone where to apply it.

Ciara Cremin passingI’ve undergone no voice training and make no attempt to ‘disguise’ my voice. I’ve not had laser treatment. Despite my hair being grey and slightly receding, I don’t wear a wig. My legs look good in pantyhose but any man ogling them would likely feel duped upon observing my buttocks, hips and shoulders. The point being that even if I tried, I would still struggle to pass and would no doubt be expending considerable time and money in the failed attempt, a fact not lost on those in the business of ‘helping us’ to pass. I oppose the conventions on how a male should look and dress, so why conform to those on how women should look and dress? Sure, I want to ‘look good’ in women’s clothes and even dress ‘appropriately’ for the occasion and my age. I want to look ‘refined’, even ‘chic’, and so I do take lessons from women. My style is if anything a conventional feminine one. But I don’t see why this should extend to disguising the fact I’m a biological male, except of course for fear of how others might react.

No matter how much practice you get at home or how often you go out en femme with your transgender mates, none of this prepares you for the challenges of daily dressing as a woman. Going to a club known to be trans friendly is of a different order to going to work where you’re the only cross-dresser in sight. Despite the fact some colleagues were aware that I liked to cross-dress, my status as a man was never called into question when I only dressed at home or on special nights out. I never experienced what it’s like to ritualistically put on makeup every morning or present in women’s clothes to friends, colleagues and students so often they’d be shocked to see me in men’s.

Every day is an experiment and every day you test yourself and others. You push the boundaries. You exceed the limits of what you had hitherto been prepared to do and in turn exceed the expectation of others. You become stronger, braver, and your sensibilities undergo a change. Women give you advice. You share beauty and fashion tips. The clothes start to become you. It’s now your style. It’s consistent with the expectations of friends and colleagues. It’s how they perceive you. I look in the mirror and see a woman. I don’t pass but am no less confident in the woman I’ve become. This is what it means to not pass well.

As children we’re encouraged to go out and socialize because, as we all know, it’s by socializing that we develop rounded personalities. However much training you undergo in the home or among cross-dressing friends, nothing is as effective as learning through every day encounters and interactions. My training into womanhood is in this respect in degrees organic. The process is in degrees like that of a child being gendered: unconscious and unthinking. Imperceptibly, day-by-day, I’m becoming more of a woman and less of a man. But it is in degrees not like that of a child. Because I was socialized to become a man my training into womanhood must in degrees be forced, that is to self-consciously learn how to present in different situations as a woman.

There’s a huge market in self-help books that do as much to stoke the anxieties of self-conscious and insecure adults as it does to relieve them. This is the danger of the advice we seek on how to pass as women. Some of it is useful and indeed essential. However, there’s despotism in the idea that we must train our voices and that passing, if not a prerequisite, is every transvestite’s goal. We become slaves to an idea and victims of it, forever cursing our misfortune for having the ‘wrong’ body and unable to pass. Instead of reveling in the joys of wearing makeup and pantyhose, our lives are full of sadness, regret and longing.

To dress publicly is to take a leap into the unknown. I don’t pass but people still nonetheless accept me as a woman. They’re disarmed by my air of insouciance and by the confidence in which I go about my business. Whatever I feel inside, I interact with others as if there’s nothing unusual about my appearance. I’m as casual and friendly as when dressed as a man. If you appear at ease in yourself people typically feel more at ease with you and even though you don’t pass and have a masculine voice they typically act as if you really are a woman. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s good enough reason for calling myself a woman. That’s what it means in my books to pass as a woman.

Ciara Cremin passingThose who can and do pass will blend in better than me. They won’t challenge perceptions and thereby are less susceptible to abuse. I understand the importance of passing in this respect. But you don’t need to pass ‘as a woman’ to embody the idea of womanhood and live as a woman. Like many transvestites, I wanted to dress daily and openly in women’s clothes. I wanted to be able to select an outfit each morning and go through the daily routine of applying makeup, to feel what it’s like to live as a woman every day, not just imagine or fantasize about it. Instead of wearing pantyhose under my trousers, I wanted to wear them openly, to wear black pantyhose thereby making it obvious I had them on. This is what I now do every day.

None of this would’ve happened had I remained a slave to the fascism of passing. The joys of daily dressing as a woman and wearing those clothes all day every day would’ve remained unknown to me. I would never have become enriched and developed the confidence of a woman through daily interactions with people from different walks of life: I would never encounter those people or discover affinities that would otherwise have remained hidden. As more and more of us overcome the inhibition to dress publicly, as we become more visible and, we can only hope, society becomes more tolerant, it’ll be easier for all of us, irrespective of how we look, to become the women convention – not the body – has robbed us of.

Man-Made Woman: The Dialectics of Cross-dressing by Ciara Cremin is available on Amazon in paperback and e-book.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy The Cross-Dressers Challenge for Acceptance by Terri Lee Ryan and Passing Guaranteed by Tasi

These links borrowed from Stana’s great blog, Femulate

? The University of Auckland faculty directory page for Dr. Cremin.

? An NZ Herald interview with Dr. Cremin’s about her new book.

? Dr. Cremin’s Facebook page.

 

May 29

She knows, But Is Not Supportive (Part II)

wife not supportiveSo you’ve told your S.O about crossdressing… and she’s not supportive This is a continuation of Part I which addressed this question in the context of an accepting or understanding S.O. in the realm of crossdressing.

If you are planning to tell your S.O. that you want to change your sex there is another level of conversation that needs to be added and much of this may not apply. If you are planning on discussing a sex change I would not rely on information on the internet to do this. Consult a psychologist or other professional that you feel comfortable with.

The Characteristics

In this article I will try to address the issue where your partner is not at all accepting or understanding. So you’ve told your S.O. about your desire or need to crossdress and they’re not supportive. Or you’re about to tell them and you want to prepare for the worst. They’re reaction after telling them can manifest itself in several characteristics which are demonstrated by:

  • No desire to talk about it.
  • They’ve chosen to ignore it.
  • They’ve threatened to separate if you continue this practice.
  • They are completely disgusted at you.

These characteristics more specifically may become apparent in many ways. Your partner may:

  • Shun you
  • No longer be physically intimate with you
  • Find fault with you in other ways
  • Walk away from you or frown at you if you try to talk about it

Deliver an ultimatum • Become more insecure and need you to demonstrate your male side more

  • Find ways to harm you with it to prove that it’s a bad thing
  • Threaten you with different actions they will take if you continue.

It really is a sad state if it comes down to this. Especially when two people essentially love each other and have committed to each other. Many times when a marriage or relationship is on it’s way out, crossdressing can be the final straw or the excuse where people can more easily justify their feelings and reasons to separate.

This situation is not at all straightforward and everyone is a new and different case. Therefore, I don’t expect for this information to apply to everyone – but hopefully some of it will be of use.

Preparation

The first thing you need to realize is that no matter what you say or do, it’s most likely not going to change the way your partner feels or behaves concerning your crossdressing. Really, the only thing you have control over is your own behavior towards your partner’s reaction. Making some decisions before discussing your crossdressing with your partner can help you deal with their reaction whether it’s positive or negative. Some basic decisions I have made before I tell anyone are listed here. This doesn’t mean all of them apply to you, some may not, and there may be others that you would want to add.

Michelle’s Laws:

  1. No matter what be nice and use humor to lighten the load. If you are nice you can usually diffuse any sleeping bomb. You also can calm the waters of a difficult conversation. Be careful though not to trivialize the situation or become patronizing.
  2. Be self confident but not arrogant or stubborn. It’s so important that you understand why you are telling someone something that will most likely upset him or her. Even if it doesn’t, you want to be prepared for the worst. Be careful not to stonewall or be difficult by not giving any ground. A relationship is about compromise and sometimes the compromise is not always in your favor.
  3. Know exactly what you want from your partner; also know what you can live with. Before you tell anyone it is also important to know what you expect from that person. Also know the difference between “want” and “need”. We all want our partners to embrace our femininity, be an active participant, and help fulfill all of our fantasies. Well, that’s probably not going to happen, so you have to figure out what you can live with.
  4. Be prepared to answer the tough questions. Being prepared will help display confidence and self-understanding. You already know what questions she’s going to ask. First and foremost will be “why”. Also here are some of some common questions:
  • Are you gay? Or bi?
  • Do you want to change your sex?
  • What have you been doing behind my back?
  • Why can’t you just stop doing it?
  • How do I compete with the “other woman”?
  • Do you go out in public dressed? Or do you plan to?
  • Do you want men to be attracted to you? (Different from “are you gay?”)
  • Have you or are you taking hormones?
  • Do you fantasize about other men or having sex as a woman?
  • What do you hope to get out of all of it?
  • Is it worth wrecking our relationship/family over this?a
  • Do you still love me?
  • (If you answer yes to bi or gay) – How can I ever please you in that way?
  1. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Don’t be forced in a position to promise something that you know you are going to eventually leak. If you are unsure whether you will be able to keep that promise forever then don’t make it. A broken promise can be the excuse someone needs in order to sever the relationship. My wife asked me to promise not to do it anymore and that if 1 loved her I would make that promise. As difficult as it was I couldn’t make that promise to her. But I could promise her that I would be truthful and never lie about my activities and what I was doing. I also promised to be forth coming with information and not try to hide things from her. These promises I can keep.
  2. Don’t be selfish. A defensive mechanism for us when we are told we can’t do some-thing, or if something is unresolved, is to force the issue. Don’t do anything that you know is going to upset them, especially if things have not been totally resolved. Don’t become more involved in your activities – give it a rest for a period until you have time to work through things more.
  3. Don’t surrender communication. Above all, always communicate. When you stop talking is when you both lose. It will be up to you to force the issue to be discussed by bringing up until the issue is resolved. Obviously there is a time and place for everything; but on the other hand don’t linger waiting for the perfect time – it will never be a perfect time. At a last resort schedule a time to be alone with your partner to discuss it. The burden of communication will be upon you to initiate.
  4. Stay focused on the issue. Don’t let the conversation stray into areas that have nothing to do with the issue you are addressing. Keep the conversation focused on the relationship and the affect that crossdressing may have on it.
  5. Don’t Get Petty. This falls into the same law as staying focused but it’s worth mentioning in this context. Don’t get sucked into emotional attacks or cute sarcastic remarks. My technique is to smile and not to respond to such things. I’ll wait patiently until the conversation gets more logical and rational. Don’t make a comment that you are waiting for them to get rational though – just wait. Another technique is to move the conversation forward without acknowledging the comment.
  6. Prepare for an impasse. There may come a time where neither of you can live with the situation. You are at an impasse. You can’t promise something you can’t keep and they are not willing to give any ground. This is a very critical point which leads in one of two directions. One being separation, the other is an agreement to disagree and to stay together. Sometimes the realization that a very fruitful relationship is about to be over will bring both of you closer together with some additional compromise.
  7. Be empathetic. In most cases we are talking about those of you who are currently in a relationship with someone that doesn’t know about your crossdressing. Keep in mind that crossdressing is something that most people feel that they should know fairly early in a relationship. So by not telling them is concealing a truth and therefore can be perceived as a lie. Many times it’s the lie that affects people more than the crossdressing itself. Therefore, it will be up to you to empathize with your partner’s feelings. The things they say may not be justified and might just be plain hurtful, but how they feel may be justified. What people say and how they feel are usually very different. For example, a flare of anger may be caused by a feeling of disappointment. Much of what is directed at you may be caused by how that person feels about himself or herself. Realize that feelings of distrust, anger, disappointment, love, commitment, frustration, surprise, anxiety, and sadness will all be mixed up.
  8. Be Strong. You have to be strong in the face of adversity. You have to let them vent. Don’t take things they say seriously if it’s said in a state of emotional stress. You have to be the stronger person and let things roll off and continue to be nice. You need to prove that you are emotionally strong but don’t be afraid to cry — just don’t get angry or frustrated. This is sometimes easier said than done.

There is nothing you can do to plan out your first conversation about this subject, however you can prepare for their reaction. I think if you keep those basic “laws” in mind when you enter into a discussion with someone you are involved with it should make things easier for you. It won’t solve the problems nor will it guarantee any particular results. What it will do is it will make it easier for you to think on your feet because if you think within the context of those laws (Be nice, stay strong, keep focused, be empathetic etc.), it will further influence your responses and behavior in a positive way.

I get a lot of email asking me what to say or how to “convince” her to be more understanding. Everyone’s situation is different and without understanding the situation it’s difficult to advise

Exactly what to say – a good psychologist can help you work through this. Also, there is really not a good way to convince someone to do something they don’t want to do when they are not supportive. This to me sounds like a hard sell where one ends up with buyer’s remorse.

There are support groups that can help you. There are even groups for wives and girlfriends as well as couples. These are good to facilitate open communication and sharing of experiences. But if it turns into a bitch session or if it is geared to “convincing” people to do something they really don’t want to do, then it’s ultimately unproductive. Also, other than for the social aspect I think long term membership for support reasons is probably not healthy either. If the support group does the job then there shouldn’t be a need for the support from the group. There are exceptions. If someone is helped through the group and then in turn they want to become a member to help others come to similar conclusions then this is always positive. My point here is not to slam the group but rather just make sure you’re going for the right reasons. If it’s social that’s great but if it’s truly for support make sure that the support you are getting is what you need and it helps you achieve your goals. There are a lot of good ones out there and a lot of hard working individuals to keep them going.

The Outcomes

I know a lot of wives and girlfriends that won’t go to such groups so you have to be prepared to discuss the issues. You have to be the one that is strong and rise above any petty attacks. You have to be prepared mentally to go through sometimes months or even a year of emotional stress. There are essentially three outcomes.

1. Enough “reasonable” compromises are made to where both can live together.

2. Decision to live together unhappily (for children or other complications etc.)

3. Separation/Divorce

You have to be prepared for all three outcomes mentally and physically. I honestly thought when I told my wife that she would react negatively. We ended up in category 1 although she made most if not all of the compromises. Some of my agreements were that I would be discrete among some of her friends, I wouldn’t dress up around the house or leave the house dressed. She has a preference that I don’t go out in public or socialize but won’t stop me. So in return I tell her honestly what I’m doing and I try to only go out when it’s fairly important to me or if I have a client that wants to go out. She asked me never to shave my arms and would prefer if I didn’t shave my chest but is okay with me shaving my legs. So I never shave my arms but I sometimes shave my chest.

However we moved from 3 to 2 to in that order. About 3 months after I told her, I seriously thought we were headed for divorce. I think it wasn’t but a couple of days before I was about to bring up the fact that maybe we should move on when she came to me and we moved from 2 to I pretty quickly. It was a rough 6 months and then it was really 6 months after that where we really began to understand and talk about it. Now there are implied understandings that we both try to live by – and sometimes it’s difficult for both of us. The easy way out would have been to separate and find someone more under-standing – but I do love her and I love our family and that has to be priority 1.

Anyway, I hope that helps. And I hope it makes sense. If it doesn’t, I’d like to hear what you have to say. If it does I would like to hear your experiences good and bad. Let me know if you would want them shared with others (I do change names).

— Michelle Johnson

You can read Part I here about the supportive wife. You may also wish to read 10 Reasons Cross-Dressers’ Wives Divorce Them

Nov 25

Why Crossdressing Is Good For Your Health

After decades of frustration, I came to understand why crossdressing is good for your heaIth. I finally embraced a life-long desire to express feminine feelings as a M2F crossdresser and committed to a sophisticated modern lady look. At about the same time, I also committed to a much healthier lifestyle and in retrospect now believe that was no coincidence.

Successful cross-dressing to achieve a desirable feminine image has clearly been a motivator for improving my health in many ways. So now, through this article, I encourage others to set cross-dressing goals to improve and maintain good health.

nora looking younger

Starting Point

Imagine an anxious, obese, foul breathed, blotchy/wrinkly skinned, middle-aged man who looked much older than his chronological age, needed a handful of prescription medications, had no real social life (too busy working!), was short of breath after climbing one flight of stairs, slept fitfully, and was near estrangement with almost all family members. Right-That was me!

Result

Today I am often perceived to be at least 20, if not 30 years younger both in looks, energy, and attitude. My relationships and career are at all-time highs and I’ve never been more confident and convincing. I no longer take those prescription drugs, my kids think I am “cool”, my wife thinks I’m fun to be around, and strangers often say I am a beautiful person inside and out. I feel fabulous!

What Happened?

I envisioned a desirable classy woman image and did whatever was naturally possible to achieve that result. This article addresses some of the physical goals and positive health impacts I experienced. There were others including emotional and psychological health benefits that were quite remarkable. Those may be the subject of a future article.

nora exudes confidence

Issues and Benefits

Oral Hygiene: You are never fully dressed without a smile! Look around – you are likely to notice that one of the most attractive features a woman can have is a winning smile with a brilliant set of teeth. It starts with good oral hygiene. Daily brushing and flossing is a foundation and anyone serious about bad breath and gum disease takes further steps such as twice yearly dental cleaning and checkups. It’s easy to find evidence, from articles in popular health magazines and serious to medical studies on oral hygiene to learn that maintaining a healthy mouth may also ward off a surprising range of other medical issues. Today I brush my teeth at least twice a day and sometimes more as a low calorie way to temporarily satisfy and ward off hunger cravings! This has helped with diet and weight management. When someone says “Smile for the camera” – I don’t hesitate.nora feeling healthy

Hydration: The difference between grapes and raisins is water. A secret to firm facial skin is proper internal hydration. Yes, there are lotions and gels to apply topically, but drinking adequate water helps naturally from the inside out.  Of course water helps internal organ function, is an aide to digestion, and provides a feeling of fullness when hungry to again ward off hunger cravings. Now, I drink lots of water daily and more when booking a makeover because experienced makeup artists request at least a couple days of maximum hydration to achieve a firm skin tone.  Water works wonders.

 Diet: Nothing tastes as good a being skinny. It was frustrating to have so few stylish or fashionable wardrobe choices, and those that were available were not consistent with my imagined shapely slender classy lady image. With a simple low calorie/low carbohydrate diet and daily exercise over a year, more than 70 pounds melted away! My motivation was clear: a diverse high quality classy lady wardrobe. Today, depending on designer and style, I can wear a size 12 to 16. Goodbye Mumu collection! I now have many more choices!  I slowly eat small portions, and always with utensils – never with my hands. Doing this contributes to an important ladylike appearance when dining out and fewer bites compared to my former pace.  Not surprisingly, weight reduction resolved many related health issues notably hypertension – my Doctors were as delighted as I was!

nothing-tastes-as-good-as-feeling-skinny

Posture: Good posture is a key visual identifier of good health and most anyone can have it. A beautiful classy lady sits upright, stands tall, and walks with confidence. This is easier said than done and requires a great deal of practice however the health benefits are many. Stress reduction, stronger core muscles, and less pain are three of the most cited health benefits of good posture. Today, I am confident when professional photographers ask me to pose in ways that benefit the camera but are not naturally comfortable – however I can achieve those positons because of good posture practices gained through activities such as yoga. I must admit that when wearing heels, my posture and attitude naturally snap to attention and I am much more conscious of my body movements. My friends tell me that my posture signals good taste, refinement, and harmony. Who wouldn’t want to hear that?

Toning: A toned body is healthier, not just sexier. Nice women’s clothes look better on a toned body. Regardless of weight, a body with less fat and more muscle, up to a point, appears healthier.  As a bonus, a toned body is usually more capable and confident on the dance floor. To maintain a toned appearance, I work with smaller sized weights and do higher reps and take a brisk long walk daily. Doing this has, so far, helped greatly.

well-toned-arms-are-sexy

Photos of that toned well-proportioned pretty woman are of me today. Would you believe my chronological age in these images is ……Ooooops! That is still a secret, but regardless of age, I feel great and hope you think I look it too.

Inspiration for a healthy lifestyle can come from anywhere and I believe that successful crossdressing was an important one for me. Doing my best to appear as a beautiful well-kept classy woman was a surprisingly pleasant and powerful motivator!  This can work for you too!

Side Benefit: Remember that a healthier you is not a selfish goal. Sure, you’ll feel better yourself but if you are healthier, everyone around you will also benefit. Living longer and being more engaged as a parent, partner, or colleague is a bonus. When you are healthy and fit, life is better for everyone all around you.

Nora in long black dress

About the Author

Nora Simone is a contributing author to Sister House. Her writing and images have been featured in magazines distributed globally. Recently she has focused on health and wellness issues associated with transliving and crossdressing.  She is also busy researching an article titled “A Thinking Man’s Guide to Crossdressing Makeovers” having had nearly 20 different artists (at last count) work their magic on her in the past year.

Jul 01

Coming Out Gently

Teri Lynn RichardsComing out Gently is an encouraging tale to help all those considering how to tell others about your feminist self. As I have been following the stories on the Internet, I read that some of you have not yet been out in public.  Some who have been out in public would also like to share your feminine side with some friends, not just strangers, but don’t know how to tell them. In hopes that this may help, here is how I “came out” to Sally, my hair stylist, a friend of 15 years.

I had been going to the same hair-­stylist for over 15 years.  Sally is quite conservative and as she got older, she got married, adopted a child, and began to go to church again.  We discussed many things of a religious nature. From our discussions, we each knew that we held very conservative values.  I often wondered what she would think if she knew I was a crossdresser. I never had the nerve to shatter the image she had of me. Sally had a troubled marriage almost from the start, so I thought that any male she confided in shouldn’t disappoint her and I didn’t.

Well, fast-­forward to retirement. I was now able to spend a lot of time as Teri. First, I got a new wig.  That wig gave me the confidence I needed to be able to be seen in public. I started going out several times each week. I was enjoying the feminine life as Teri. I discovered my “true-­self.”

With the continued outings as Teri, I started to get a deep craving to share my feminine side with friends who knew me only as “that conservative ex-­cop.”  I couldn’t restrain my feelings any longer and needed to let someone see Teri. I wanted to get some feedback from someone I knew well as to what they thought of the Teri-­image. Oh yes, strangers in the Mall smiled at me and that gave me  a lot of satisfaction, but there is nothing like hearing from a close friend that you look nice.I needed to be told by a close friend, that as Teri, I look nice. Remember, I didn’t want to shock Sally and shatter her image of me, so I had to think of a gentle way to let her see Teri without going into shock.

I knew that if I didn’t just do it, I would keep “chickening out.”  So, one day when I was nicely dressed as Teri, I drove over to Sally’s hair salon.  I parked out front and called her on the phone. I told her that since retirement, I had taken up doing private surveillance work and that because people might recognize me; I had taken up a disguise. I asked Sally whether I could stop by some time when in my” disguise” to see whether she could recognize me.

Teri lynn richardsSally agreed. I then warned her that my disguise was a bit more than she might expect, so she should not be shocked. I told her that when I stopped by her salon, in disguise, I would just come in and walk up to her and say that I wanted to make a hair-­appointment. I told her that if she recognized me, not to say anything. I wanted to see whether her co-­workers would recognize me. Sally agreed. I then told her that I just happened to be in the area, and in my disguise and asked if I could stop by in a few minutes. Sally said, “Sure, come on over.”

Within about 2 minutes, I entered the salon.  As soon as Sally saw me, she got a big grin on her face. It wasn’t hard to figure out that she recognized me. I walked over to her chair, where she was doing a client’s hair, and she whispered to me, “I’m gonna lose it. I can’t keep from laughing.” I told her to hang on. I think this was her way of expressing her surprise [shock] at what see what seeing.

I calmly said, “I’d like to make an appointment.”  She wrote an appointment date on a card and handed it to me.  I thanked her. Before I left, she looked at my hands and feet and said, “You have very nice nails.” Again I thanked her.  As I left, the co-­worker next to her gave me a very pleasant and sweet (and I felt, knowing and approving) wink of-­the-­eye.

After I left, Sally called me and I asked her what the reaction was from her co-­workers.  Their first comment was that my wig had too much volume. Then they said that I was over-­dressed for what I was supposedly doing (surveillance), but that I did look very nice. And then came the real compliment when they said that they watched me as I walked back to my car and thought that I had a great figure, great legs, and walked with a very feminine walk. Little did they know how much practice I had. (Don’t you just love it when women say that about you?)

teri lynn richardsThat was my first visit to Sally while in Teri-­mode.  Several weeks later I called Sally and said that I had a new outfit and would she mind if I stopped by for her to see it and tell me what she thinks of it. Sally said it would be fine to stop by. Before my return visit, I went to the wig shop and had my wig thinned out.  When I stopped by to see Sally, the girls mentioned that my hair looked better. They all thought I looked nice.

Well, every 2 or 3 weeks, I would stop by with a new outfit.  One day I called back to talk to Sally because I couldn’t talk to her with all the customers in the shop.  Remember, I was still supposedly dressing for surveillance work. After I spoke with Sally, she said that a co-­worker wanted to talk to me.

I spoke with the co-­worker (Laura). Laura immediately asked me whether I dress for work or not.  I wasn’t about to lie to a good Seventh Day Adventist church-­goer, so I replied, No.”Then why do you dress like that?” was her next question.  “Because I enjoy it,” I replied. She asked some more bizarre questions, but I won’t bore you with those.

Now the “cat” was out-­of-­the-­bag. It didn’t take Laura long to tell all the gals in the shop that I was not crossdressing for surveillance work, but that I was a crossdresser.  Now, when I showed up in the salon as Teri, I got different looks.  All the gals, except Laura, gave me that twinkle which signaled, ‘It’s OK if you enjoy looking feminine.’

In fact, the compliments took on a more sincere tone. The gals would pick out something that I was wearing and focus on that on tell me that it looked nice.  Once Sally told me that the lipstick I was wearing was too red for daytime.  On my next visit I wore a more subtle color with matching nail polish.  Sally immediately noticed and mentioned that it looked better. The gals actually were interested in helping me to look my best.

After about a year of Sally seeing me as Teri, I walked in one day with my a different wig.    Wow what compliments I got!  All said it made me look so much sexier, preppy and younger. They really got into it.  That was a big turning-­point in my CD/TG life. I now knew that I could go anywhere in public and not worry about how I looked. If these beauticians told me that I looked like a woman, then I had nothing to worry about. I now go out knowing that I have the proper look.

On one visit, as I was walking out, I heard one gal say to the others, “Did you see her blouse? It’s gorgeous.”  Oooh, I love compliments like that.  (Oh btw, that was my black and white diamond-­patterned blouse seen below.)

teri lynn richards in skirt suitOn another occasion, I wore my 38-­C inserts (until that day, Sally had only seen me with my 38-­B’s) with a sheer white When Sally saw me drive up, she came out to meet me. I was wearing a skirt-­suit. I told Sally that I wanted her opinion on whether I looked better in just the blouse of with the jacket on. To my surprise, Sally said she preferred the blouse-­only look. And I thought that with my larger inserts, she would think I was too large-­chested. It did look very sexy and I love that look, because that is how I feel as a woman.

Teri visiting the hair salon is now routine. I take any opportunity I get to go by when in Teri-­mode. I don’t even make my appointments by phone anymore – I stop by in person -­ Teri-­person, that is. Often, the women may ask where I bought a new blouse, sweater or suit, etc.

Poor Laura, she is the only one who still sort of objects, in her heart, but she does speak to me now and will even compliment me if she particularly likes something I am wearing.  She’s come a long way since our first conversation about crossdressing.

After one particular visit, Sally called me and asked whether she could ask me a personal question. I told her that she could ask me anything. Sally said that her co-­workers were curious, because of my nice figure, whether I use padding for my butt. I said that I do use padding (Veronica 2). I asked whether it improved my figure, and she said that the padding gave me the hips I needed for the right feminine figure.

On another visit,Sally asked how long I had been “dressing” and how often I “dress”. I told her that when possible, I like to dress 2-­3 times per week.  Now in 2016, I “dress” pretty much 24/7.

We’ve had our discussions about the different types of crossdressers (TV’s, TS’s, Drag Queens, etc). Of course, she asked whether my wife knows.  I told her that she did, but wasn’t 100 thrilled with it, but that she accepts it, and to a large degree, she supports me and we often go out as girlfriends.

If you want your friends to really know that you view crossdressing as more than just wearing women’s clothes -­ that crossdressing is an expression of your femininity and that you think of yourself as a woman and truly love looking and feeling feminine and sexy -­ then let them see you in a sheer blouse. No man on a whim would dress that femininely.

Teri lynn richardsOnce, I wore my hot pink sweater to Sally’s salon. When I wore this sweater, I was glad that I was no longer wearing only a 38-­B or C bra. My 38-­D bra looks so much sexier and makes me feel so much more feminine.  Under a sweater, it looks absolutely sexy! (You should see the men lusting when I walk by.) My 38-­D bra gives me a great figure; a very feminine and all the gals in the salon loved it, each making a comment about my additional cleavage.

In summary, if you want to tell your family and/or friends, but can’t just go up and tell them because you’re afraid it may lead to a heart-­ attack, try sugar-­coating it as I did with Sally and her crew. Then when they get used to seeing you in femme-­mode and the time is right, you can tell them “the rest of the story.”

Now, I just have to add one other story. It is the story about telling my neighbor (Miss Nosy Neighbor). The first time she probably heard that I crossdressed was when her husband confronted me at the mailbox one day. I’m sure that he told her about our conversation. He asked me whether it was me he saw one day at the mailbox, dressed as a woman. I know he didn’t see me. I’m betting that it was his wife who saw me. She constantly monitors the passing traffic thru her blinds.

Three times during our conversation, the husband asked whether it was me dressed as a woman and three times, with a straight face, I said, NO.” Finally, the fourth time he asked I said, Yes.”  I told him that I was working undercover, but that if we stood there and discussed it, I wouldn’t be undercover for long.   He agreed and stopped talking about it.

Fast forward. Three years later, his wife sees me walking my dog while I was dressed en-­femme. She did a double-­take as she drove. Several months later, while I was hanging up my Christmas lights, she came over and asked whether she could ask me a personal question. I knew what was on her mind, so I told her it would be fine.  She then asked whether I was dressed as a woman when she saw walking the dog one day.  I replied, “Well, depending on what day it was and what mood I was in, it probably was me.”  She told me that she thought it was me because she knew our dog.     I told her that I was already dressed for my surveillance work, but my dog insisted on going for his daily walk, so I had no choice but to take him. She seemed satisfied with the answer for the moment, but then added, “I just wanted to know whether I have to tell my daughters (6 & 8) that Ted got a sex-­change. I told her that wasn’t the case.  I told her that if they see me out dressed as a woman, to just tell them that it’s Teri and if I’m not dressed, then they already know Ted.

Well, after a few weeks, I decided it was time to let Miss Nosy Neighbor in on my “secret.”           I started to go out for more frequent walks, in femme-­mode.  She and I frequently leave our houses the same time of the day – I to go shopping, etc – she to run errands, take the kids to school or pick them up, etc.   She started seeing me dressed several times per week. Usually, I was dressed conservatively casual for shopping, but she was still under the impression that I was dressing for surveillance work. (If a guy did dress-­up for undercover work, it would be on the mildly feminine side).

One day I walked over to the mailbox and stopped to chat with her. I was wearing a nice sweater, which I thought showed off my 38-­D curves very nicely.  We had a nice chat and I got my mail. This routine continued for several weeks. One day, I chatted with her and told her that I had lost my undercover job. I said, “You didn’t tell me that I needed improvement to pass as a woman. My boss thought that I wasn’t good enough, so I got laid-­off. She replied, “Sorry. I thought you looked fine.”  I added, “What am I going to do now?

teri lynn in white sweater with 38 Ds inserts

Well, I guess now my wife can have the maid that she’s always wanted.” My neighbor just smiled and departed for her errands.

I wanted my neighbor to know that I was really into looking feminine, so I started to dress more feminine than before. I figured that if she knew that I was not dressing for undercover work anymore, perhaps she would figure out that I was “dressing” for other reasons.One day, I wore another fairly sheet blouse.

teri lynn in sheer blouseThe blouse gave me a very sexy, feminine appearance.  My neighbor happened to be on her driveway, so I stopped over to chat with her. She remarked: “Well. don’t you look quite feminine today”. I told her that when I started to dress en-­femme, my wife was fearful that the neighbors would think that I was gay and that we would be getting divorced.  I explained to her that most crossdressers, are not gay.

Since our conversation about crossdressing, I have continued to chat with my neighbor whenever I see her. Sometimes I dress on the sexy side, but usually I wear casual. When the warmer weather arrived I got back into skirts again. Skirts, I think are just so much more feminine than the slacks, which I have been wearing during the winter months.

Once, I was gone for a week, to visit a brother in Oregon. When I finally got out again, I wore a very feminine outfit. I saw my neighbor that day and told her about my trip and being sick.  Then I told her that it was sure good to get back to being Teri and to celebrate I wore a more feminine outfit because it lets me get more in-­touch with my femininity.   She just smiled, then remarked that I looked very nice and quite sexy,and we parted ways.

So you see that, as with Sally, I first had to soft-­sell my crossdressing to my neighbor before I could discuss it with her. We have chatted many times since. Had I just told her from the start that I was a crossdresser, she would probably have thought that I was weird/ crazy.

It seems that if one dresses for a reason, such as Halloween or undercover work rather than just because one wants to look and feel feminine, that the public accepts that; but if they first think that we are crossdressers, they immediately label us as weird.

They have to get to know us first and see that we are normal, harmless, sane people, just like them, and they will accept us even when they later find out that we crossdress simply because we feel feminine and enjoy expressing ourselves in a feminine manner.

teri lynn in nice outfit

I have since told all my neighbors, about 8 total and they all accept me as Teri.Now, whenever my neighbors see me in femme-­mode, they smile at me and wave. That’s not the reaction they would display if they were offended/disgusted by crossdressing.  Again, a little sugar-­coating, before telling the unvarnished truth, helped to prepare my neighbors to accept me in my feminine mode.  Heck, now we often chat as a couple of women when I talk to one of my neighbors.

One day, a neighbor told me that she liked the new slacks I was wearing.  That really made my day! Now that you have some ideas on how to tell your friends that you are a CD/TG, go for it. Tell them.  Don’t hide it any longer.  Life is too short for regrets. Go out and enjoy something soft, silky and sexy. You can do that now, because you prepared them for your feminine début by “Coming out Gently”.

Nov 22

The “Other Woman” in Your Marriage

the-other-womanI have spent many years after my divorce from my cross-dressing husband trying to understand why his cross-dressing was so devastating to our relationship. Arguably, as I have said many times before, our marriage had many more issues then him being a cross-dresser, yet it was the final blow to our marriage as we never were able to sort it out. Years of soul-searching on this topic finally gave me an answer to why I had such a difficult time accepting his femme side. It was because I had to share my life with the “other woman!”

What cross-dressers often fail to recognize is how powerful their femme side is. Often held back for decades, once the woman is out, there’s no turning back for her; her “voice” needs to be heard. For an unsuspecting wife, the acceptance of this other woman living in her husband’s body creates anger, fear and mostly confusion on a deeply emotional level that feels like a divorce.

where did the other woman come fromWhen a wife is finally introduced to her cross-dressing husband’s femme side, the husband she once knew will never be the same for her, for now her marriage is about three people with the introduction of a very powerful and demanding woman entering the scene—who thinks mostly of herself—her needs and her call for attention. This woman really does take over once unleashed and a wife is just expected to accept her. A wife wonders, where my husband in all of this? And who is this woman, where did she come from?

Of course, the woman in her husband has always been there, as she is part of him. And, after all, her cross-dressing husband is finally being honest with his wife, of which she should embrace him, right? Well, not so much. Rather than celebrating her husbands “coming out”, she is grieving, wishing on some level that she never caught or saw her husband dressed as woman, wishing she had her husband back, not the woman standing before her. She will have to adapt to being in a three-some, something she never expected.

aacf75736e1703b2a6feae31ebcdb4e9_optThree-some’s rarely work as someone is always left out. Being married to a cross-dresser means a wife is sharing her time with another woman. And, there is always one party left out. When a wife is with her husband in his male role, the woman in him is left out. When her husband is as his femme self, his wife is left out because she doesn’t want to be married to a woman—her husband is gone.

The fact is cross-dressers, for the most part, are a selfish group as they become so obsessively immersed with their femme self and how they present, they forget about the needs of those around them. It is somewhat understandable that they behave this way because of being suppressed for decades. They are bursting with the need to be their authentic self. Yet, unfortunately the person closest to him, his wife, takes the brunt of his newfound freedom and is expected to adapt to him, immediately. One harsh word about her husband’s cross-dressing and he becomes hurt and angry and says, “So I won’t do it anymore” and then pouts.

Is cross-dressing a total game-changer in marriage? It absolutely is and to deny it is a self-fulfilling fantasy for cross-dressers. The femme side always wins and unless a wife is bi-sexual or favors women, she is going to be unhappy in her marriage, unless there is open communication and an agreement can be worked out between them that allows for them to both grow together.

Many wives due to financial constraints and age factor don’t get divorced rather they choose to stay in the marriage, hoping some day they will be able to accept their cross-dressing husband’s femme side. They feel there is no alternative. They live with anger that often leads to depression as they miss the life they had before their husband “came out.” This is why so many cross-dressers don’t share their secret with their wives, knowing they may not be accepted. Instead they continue to live dual lives being out as a woman outside of their marriage, until they are discovered or the need to tell their wife is overwhelming.

So what is the solution? There is hope for these marriages. One couple I know has come to an agreement where her cross-dressing husband has his own “doll house” away from the main house where he has his female items. They have agreed he can go out with his cross-dressing friends one day a week. His wife is fine with this as long as she doesn’t see him dressed as a woman. They have been married for 35-years and neither of them wants a divorce, so this works for both of them.

Is having a separate life for a husband’s femme side the answer to a healthy marriage? It may be a good choice for those long-term marriages where cross-dressing was introduced later in their relationship. The reality is some wives will never fully accept their husband’s femme side, yet she still loves her husband. She just doesn’t want to be married to the “other woman.”

Due to the often obsessive nature of cross-dressing, for a marriage to be balanced both parties need to feel good about themselves. There needs to be respect, honesty and boundaries drawn that works for both the husband and the wife to support a healthy and fulfilling marriage. A cross-dressing husband must be faithful to his wife, consider her feelings and not force her to accept his femme self. Perhaps, one day she will want to know more about this part of her husband, but on her terms when she has the capacity to deal with it.

There are success stories of cross-dressers who go out shopping for woman’s clothing with their husband while he is in his femme mode, yet this is not the norm now. As more cross-dressers let their future wife in on their secret before their marriage, I believe this will be much more commonplace and cross-dressing will finally have a greater acceptance both on a personal level and in our society. For the wives who find out much later in their relationship, there needs to be compassion and understanding on both sides. A wife needs to know she counts and is more important than the other woman in their lives. An agreement between her husband and his wife needs to be made and to be upheld.

agreement

You might also want to read How Your Crossdressing Changes your Wife’s Opinion of You.

May 10

Tips for a Satisfying Sex Life with Your Wife

A satisfying sex life is one of the most challenging issues for a wife of a cross-dresser. Even a marriage built on love is challenged after many years of marriage when it comes to sex. For women, the need to have sex dwindles as she enters menopause when her interest in sex becomes an afterthought.

satisfying sex between crossdressing husband and wife

This lack of interest in sex is normal for most women, unless they are taking hormone replacement to amp up their sex drive. Many women hesitate to do so as they are afraid of the potential side-effects of cancer from hormone therapy. So sex doesn’t become a priority for them.

For men, it seems sex is always on their minds, even as they get older, it is still something they desire. And, for cross-dressing men who often come out later in their marriage as to being a cross-dresser, the excitement of being able to dress with their wives, is as invigorating as the sex, itself. Like a teenager in puberty, they are excited about the possibilities after having kept their secret for decades from their wife and now finally having a partner to share with. Their new-found enthusiasm can be overwhelming for their wives.

A wife and her cross-dressing husband are now in a different realm, where the wife may be content with less sex, yet her husband in exhibiting her femme self wants more. And for a wife who is already mildly interested in sex, having her husband hop into bed wearing a silk night gown and a Marilyn Monroe blond wig, is a turn-off that causes her anxiety and fear of losing her husband. Often her cross-dressing husband is so delighted to be in her femme role, she often doesn’t take the time to find out what sexually stimulates her wife.

Most women do not have sexual fantasies of having sex with a woman. Not that it’s not totally foreign to their psyche and yes, some women have lesbian fantasies, but their main sexual drive is with a man. Making love with another woman (the femme side of their husband) is a lot to ask from your wife after many years of being together and never having done it. You have just changed the rules of the game.

So how do a sexually under-whelmed wife and an adolescent-charged cross-dressing husband make their sex life work?

Here are some tips for a satisfying sex life:

Tread slowly with your cross-dressing when seducing your wife. Introduce her to your silk panties wearing a man’s tee-shirt, allowing her to know that you are still there and she hasn’t lost you to “another woman” she doesn’t know. Give her time to get used to you wearing panties and other female items, so she can create a new visual of you that turns her on. Sex is a private experience of the mind and she needs to find her own mental fantasy of the new you. She may never share what that is, but that’s okay, as long as she is turned on.
Respect Your Wives need to have sex with you in your male role. You don’t want her to ever feel like she has lost you to “her.” She needs to know that you are still the husband she married. If she feels secure of this, she will become comfortable as you add in feminine clothing.
Don’t encourage her to dress sexier to reflect your feminine self. How you dress in your femme role is your choice, but don’t expect your wife to change her style to reflect yours. Love her as she is and she will love you back, panties and all!
Remember to keep your wife as the primary woman in your relationship. Don’t allow your femme self to upstage her as a woman when having sex, for sure.
Don’t ask her to seduce your femme self. Seducing another woman is foreign to women. They just don’t know how to do it and it makes them feel very uncomfortable to be the one taking the lead sexually. Few women do it effectively.

A healthy sex life can be incorporated into your marriage. Give your wife time to adjust to your femme self and be respectful of her needs, both outside of and inside the bedroom. Show her that you are still the man she fell in love with, not a stranger in a dress.

Be sure and read parts 1 and 2 to this series and check out more articles from Terri on her blog, Shades of Gender

10 Reasons Cross-dressers Wive’s Divorce Them

Unexpressed Anger Kills Marriages

 

Apr 10

10 Reasons Cross-Dressers’ Wives Divorce Them

woman in shockThe initial shock of finding out that your husband is a cross-dresser is a life-changing event for their marriage that could lead to divorce. Whether a wife is introduced to it when she finds very large shoes in the bedroom closet or a photo on his I-pad of him dressed in woman’s clothing, carefully left out on the kitchen table ( a popular way cross-dressers have let their mates find out), it is something that rocks a marriage to its core.

Many cross-dressers have not come out to their wives opting to either purge, just to have their desire to dress return. The need becomes an obsession which eventually starts eroding their ability to function as they have in the past, forcing them to finally come clean with their mate. This fem side of them doesn’t go away with marriage, it just remains dormant. The need to dress is ever-apparent and a cross-dressing husband takes the chance by telling his wife about his cross-dressing.

Many times his secret doesn’t come out until many years of dating and marriage. This is a side of him his mate has never seen or even suspected from him. It is not something that she most likely knows much about or understands. So when he does tell or show his wife his cross-dressing, she really doesn’t know just how to respond! Many women are just in shock to see their husband dressed as a woman. And most cross-dressers I have known are in male dominated industries as in construction, real estate, law, and corporate managers. There would be no reason to suspect that their husband is a cross-dresser.

Because of this, women genuinely do not take the news well. They are confused, feel betrayed, angry and frightened by the man standing in front of them who they thought they knew all these years and now appears to be someone they never met. This is understandable, yet many cross-dressers who are also dealing with their own fear of being rejected by their wife, neglect to support her when they come out. Immersed in their own emotion and guilt, the cross-dressing husband is looking for his own support that often their mate can not give.

Yet, through counseling, willingness by a wife to come to terms with her husbands’ cross-dressing and a commitment to learn about his fem side, many couples stay together and attempt to work it out. They often establish ground rules for cross-dressing, of when and where, it is acceptable for both of them. They work through the process for a period of time, hoping they can deal with the change in their marriage. Sadly, many marriages ultimately don’t survive.

Here are the reasons why:

angry woman may lead to divorce1.) Unexpressed anger – After a period of time goes by when a cross-dressing husband feels as if he is being accepted by his wife and relieved that he can keep his marriage and family intact, his wife increasingly become less tolerant of his dressing. The reality is though she tried to accept both his male and fem side, she can’t. Her anger is deeply-held that her once husband is no longer the man she thought she married.

2.) Sexuality – We as human being we are visual people. We are sexuality attracted on an instinctive level to our mates. A heterosexual woman is attracted to a man, not a woman and when she sees her husband dressed as a woman, she is turned off because of this. She can’t see her husband through the dress. Also, often a cross-dresser in his fem role acts like a woman. Most straight women do not want to make love with a woman. The sex life of cross-dressers and their wife suffers.

crossdresser and wife

Husband and wife

3.) Lack of Identity in the Marriage – When a cross-dresser reveals his fem side, he is now competing with his wife for attention. It takes an exceptionally confident woman with a strong identity as a woman to not look at her husband as competition. She starts to wonder what her role is in all of this.

4.) Not Getting Attention as a Woman – This is a notable issue with cross-dressers who become so obsessed with their fem role that they forget about giving their wife the attention they deserve and need. Often, they are so wrapped up in their new freedom of dressing, they ignore their wife. She needs to feel like a woman and to be treated as such.

5.) Morality Issue – Most of us were raised in religious households. Even though, we may not be actively practicing our religion, the messages we learned early on run deep. This built-in prejudice is difficult to ignore, even with the best intentions. Many wives can not get past the fact that a man dressing as a woman is wrong, even if it is not.

6.) Lack of Trust – This is a big issue for most wives. A secret as big as their husband being a cross-dresser being kept for so long makes them feel duped. It causes them to them wonder what else their husband has kept from them all these years. Once trust is violated in any marriage, it is almost impossible to get it back. This is why I am such an advocate of telling a potential spouse before marriage.

7.) Peer Pressure – Cross-dressers after hiding their true selves for years want to be able to go out and experiment with their cross-dressing. They want mostly to be accepted for who they are. This often involves family and friends that are part of their wives life. This is threatening to many women as they are impressionable and concerned that their husband’s cross-dressing will reflect on them in a negative way.

8.) Not Wanting Another Woman in Their Marriage – Having a cross-dresser in a marriage is inviting “another woman.” The fem side to cross-dressers is very strong and takes on its own identity. A wife now finds that there is another woman in their marriage that she has to compete with. This is a threat to her.

unhappy wife may lead to divorce9.) Fear That Their Husband Is a Transsexual – Once a woman sees how much her cross-dressing husband enjoys dressing and living out his fem side, she becomes concerned that he may want to dress full time or to transition. For most cross-dressers, this is not the case. But, try to convince your wife that.

10.) It’s Just Too Complicated – Marriages are challenge to begin with. Especially long-term ones, where both parties have changed over the years, raised a family and have grown apart. Introducing cross-dressing into a marriage that is already tenuous is just too much for a wife to want to deal with. It takes much more effort than she is prepared to do at this stage in her life.

This list is meant to help cross-dressers better understand what a wife or significant other is going through. From my personal experience, I have witnessed all of the above. My marriage wasn’t on solid ground. The cross-dressing component was one of the many reasons we didn’t work out as a couple. Many times the cross-dressing is used as the reason for a divorce when in fact there may be many more issues that are apparent in the marriage that cause a divorce. Sometimes, two people are just not meant to be together and it’s better to move on and find someone who is a better fit.

You’ll want to also read Terri’s most recent article on How To Save Your Marriage When You Dress In Public.

Tasi’s note: Be sure to also read Pandora’s articles on How Your Crossdressing Changes Your Wife’s Opinion Of You. and Further Thougths on Male Image.  Terri also plans additional articles to flesh out each of these ten reasons, so please leave your comments below.

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Terri Lee Ryan is an author, blogger and a TV producer. Her documentary, “I Married a Cross-dresser” was aired on Sky TV in the UK as part of the Forbidden Love series. Terri writes the blog, Shades of Gender, for the Chicago Tribune ChicagoNow site where she focuses on the ever-changing cross-dressing and transgender community. Her ex-husband and business partner was a cross-dresser.

Nov 01

Where’s the Line: Crossdressing to Transition

This article reprinted with permission from the author, Reid Vanderburgh, MA.

In 2003, I got a distressed call from Ann (I’ve changed all names), requesting to become a client. Ann was 43, married to Carolyn for 20 years and father to three children, all of them still living at home. They all knew her as Andy. At our first session, Ann started crying as she said, “I’ve never said this aloud to anyone before, but I’ve always felt like a girl inside, from the time I was in nursery school.” For years, Ann had secretly cross-dressed. She worked a job that allowed her to have swing shift hours (3pm to 11pm). Her wife worked a regular 8-5 job. Once the kids were all in school, Ann was free to cross-dress at home during the day, which she did at every opportunity.

Ann called me after she went for a walk in the neighborhood one day, and started crying when she got home. She said to me, “All at once, I felt this huge wave of depression and sadness well up in me, it felt so bad to feel like I had to take Ann off and put on Andy again. That’s when I realized, pretty much out of the blue, that I needed to transition. It wasn’t about the clothes anymore, it was about who I was.”

For many years, Ann had been reasonably content cross-dressing. Now, however, her oldest child was preparing to go away to college. Unbeknownst to her conscious mind, this had put Ann in countdown mode — eventually, all the children would be launched, would she then be able to be true to her real gender identity? She had not let this question emerge into consciousness, until the day she took a walk and came home wishing she was Ann permanently.

So, where is the line between cross-dressing and needing to transition? The relatively new concept of genderqueer provides a framework we can use. Those who adopt the terminology of genderqueer are saying, “The binary gender system doesn’t encompass all of who I am. I need language beyond male and female, and more pronouns than he and she.” One 60-something crossdresser said to me once, “If I was 40 years younger, I’d probably call myself genderqueer.” Regardless of the terminology used for self-definition, these are folks whose gender identity doesn’t conveniently fit the available boxes of U.S. culture: Male or Female. There are varying ways this plays out in folks. Some will say, “Some days I feel more male, some days, more female.” Or, “Some contexts bring out the male in me, some bring out the female.” Others might say, “I feel both male and female all the time.” And others might say, “I don’t want to use the terminology “male” and “female”  at all, because they’re too tied to the gender binary, I want a new word altogether.”

Those who use the term cross-dresser as a self-descriptor might say something like, “There is a part of my personality that just can’t find expression if I’m always in male mode. I can only express that part of me when I’m dressed female.” The implication of this statement is that there is another significant part of their personality that is expressed just fine in male mode.

So, what of Ann, and others in her position? Ann was raised in a fairly conservative, traditional family, in a fairly conservative part of the U.S. She was the oldest child, and the only son. And, she knew herself to be a girl from the time she first interacted with large numbers of her peers, in nursery school. Her socialization and social milieu was such that she learned young there would be a huge price to pay if she didn’t do male right. She tried her best to live up to the expectation of everyone around her, and learned quite well what was expected of her as a man. Not wanting to let others down, she followed the proscripted path toward manhood. She did all she could to shore up her credentials as a man’s man: Joined the military, married her high school sweetheart, got into a male-dominated profession, fathered children.

A crossdresser/genderqueer person in Ann’s position might have tried the same path, to hide the part of themselves that needed expression. But there would also be a large part of their personality that was fine living male, and it’s quite possible the daily cross-dressing would have remained sufficient for a content existence. However, in considering the meaning of her children finally leaving home, Ann allowed a chink in her internal armor, and it wasn’t long before the information flooded through: I’m not a man at all, I’m a woman. Cross-dressing in secret is what kept her alive long enough for the information to surface. She said to me, “If I’d had to be only Andy, I think I would have been too depressed to live.”

The person who needs to transition to female (or male) and live that role full time,  is not in the same position as the person who says, “I’m both genders, or a third gender altogether.” The person who transitions fully might say, “There is no part of me that is okay living male (or female), I need to transition away from that completely in order to find fulfillment.” They would be content in a gender binary system, as long as they transition away from their birth gender assignment.

How to tell the difference? There are some questions each person can ask themselves:

– Is there any time when I’m really content, okay, with my birth gender role/bodily sex? Are there certain contexts in my life where I prefer being my birth gender?

– Is there any time when I really don’t want to be dressed as any other gender than what’s on my birth certificate, where it just doesn’t feel right to cross-dress?

– Do I feel at odds with my birth gender assignment all the time, no matter how I’m dressed or what the situation?

It’s not easy self-examination, as it’s hard to shed a lifetime of socialization within a culture that denigrates any form of genderqueer/cross-dressing/trans identity. It’s hard to ask questions like these without our culture’s judgmentalism getting in the way of the answers. It’s hard to ask these questions without regard to the other people in our lives, we may feel selfish or self-centered for asking such questions without considering our spouse/partner, children, or other family members. But here’s a further question for consideration:

– How deep and intimate can my relationships with anyone be if I’m not my true authentic self with others? Don’t my loved ones deserve to know me as I really am? And why don’t I deserve to be able to be my best authentic self all the time, whoever that person might be?

The older we are when we undertake this kind of self-examination, the more life we have to change, the more overwhelming it can seem to even ask the questions, much less take the answers seriously. But take heart: You don’t have to do this alone. The internet can provide great support initially, allowing you to  find others near you who can support you as you live your way into the answers that work for you. That support can be in the form of a therapist, a support group, mentors who have gone before you — you’ll be able to find something, there are many who have gone before you and are alongside you, asking and answering these same questions just as you are.

Oct 09

Do You Play the Cello?

Much has been written in recent years about the declining standards in table manners.   The reasons given are many, but regardless of what they may be, it’s important that we, as women who aspire to being ladylike, do not follow this trend downwards.

How do we ensure that our own table manners remain above reproach?   Well, one of the hallmarks of ladylike eating is simply being so graceful and at ease that no one really notices what we’re doing.   Our behavior slides smoothly under the radar rather than calling attention to itself.

cellist4That sounds simple enough, but how exactly do we appear “graceful and at ease”?   The most important way is simply to avoid mannerisms that call attention to themselves or that are unpleasant for those around us to watch.   We can avoid calling attention to ourselves by using minimum movements rather than maximum.   Elbows, for example, should be kept close to our sides rather than sticking out at awkward angles or even bumping into other diners.

 Another way to appear graceful and at ease is to not struggle with our food.    One of the unfortunate trends I’ve noticed is that adults no longer know how to cut their food smoothly.    They rip it and saw it knifefork2with great energy, as if they were subduing it rather than simply enjoying  it.    And many, as the title suggests, seem to be playing the cello.

These musical wannabees spear the food with their forks, which they hold vertically in a full-handed death grip, and then use their knives to saw vigorously back and forth.   I admit to being fascinated by this practice and have to remind myself not to stare when a diner near me is playing his knife and fork in this manner.    It seems so cello-like.     (The photo here isn’t as bad as some I’ve seen. The fork grip is horrible, but the knife is almost OK.  You can see the elbow sticking out, though.)

Table manners cropEtiquette books tell us that silverware should be held at gentle angles to the plate, not at 90-degree ones, and gripping a fork with the whole fist marks you as anything but ladylike.   If you hold your utensils closer to the plate, it will help remind you that your motions should be contained enough that they don’t cause wind currents.

 Try to make your movements so smooth and effortless that the people with you are surprised when they realize you’ve finished eating.    There was nothing along the way to call their attention to your movements.   You ate gracefully, like a lady.