What is normal? I first ran into Amy Bloom when she wrote a short essay in the Atlantic Monthly in 2002 on heterosexual crossdressers. She expanded that essay as the centerpiece of this book in the section, “Conservative Men in Conservative Dresses” or perhaps you could say Republican men in granny dresses. I think in many ways that Ms Bloom’s views of our crossdressing world are fairly accurate but the issue I have is that her experience with our community was more or less limited to Tri-Ess on a Dignity cruise to Catalina Island and to Fall Harvest 2000, a gender convention in St Louis. Still her observations of the crossdressing men and their wives is fairly astute. To some of these men, they see it as a hobby. Some are not blessed with the physical features to present convincedly as a woman while others have not learned well the techniques of makeup and presentation.
Of course, some make striking women. I was also amused by the comment that “age is a great help to crossdressers”, being of somewhat mature age myself. Ms Bloom said, “I have seen far more convincing crossdressers over 60 than under.”
Of great interest to me were her observations from the wives on their crossdressing husbands. In most cases Amy observes that, with some notable exceptions, their circumstances are not happy. She paraphrases their feelings when she says, “There is no innate grasp of female friendship, of the female insistence on relationships, of the female tradition of support and accommodation for one’s partner and of giving precedence to the relationship overall”. She goes on to say that “the wives don’t tell their husbands (their true feelings) ….because they don’t want to hurt him and they don’t want to lose him” I think perhaps these feelings change in later life and it becomes “enough is enough” (read Terri lee Ryan’s article on the 10 Reasons Crossdresser Wives’ Divorce them)
From my viewpoint, this part of the book is worth the price of the book by itself although it may be difficult for some to see the truth of statements from those of the opposite gender.
Ms Bloom deals with two other segments of our community too, that of the FTM transsexual and the intersexed person. Her exploration of the FTM transsexual has equal truths for those that are MTF and the one comment that stood out in my mine was her discussion of hormone treatments on mammals who behaved consistently like the hormone wash with which they were injected. Conclusion: we will find eventually a biological answer. Since this book was published, the evidence is now substantial that our brains, influenced by our hormones, do control our gender.
If you would like a more complete review of the book, then read the review by Anne Lawrence for the International Academy of Sex Research trade journal Archives of Sexual Behavior. The book is available from Amazon here in hardbook or pape back from $.01