Crossdressing is the practice, especially of men, of wearing clothing commonly associated with the other sex, typically for personal expression or psychological gratification. If you are a young boy or girl, or if crossdressing is offensive to you, then you should use the “escape” button below (or the back-arrow on your browser). While this site does not contain seriously risqué material or pornography of any kind, persons who find the very idea of crossdressing distasteful are advised to leave. This is a page written by a male-to-female crossdresser to share with others some of the lessons he/she has been able to learn over the last sixteen years.
you’ve changed your mind about wanting to see such content,
Strictly speaking, a crossdresser may be of either sex, but in today’s American culture, women can wear men’s clothing without raising eyebrows, so in 2015 the usage of this term often is restricted to men who dress in women’s clothing. Crossdressing is a neutral term; it does not imply a motive. Often, though, the motive (for men in particular) is to express an other-sex aspect of oneself. For women it may have other reasons. In the contemporary US, women who want to experience a masculine aspect of themselves can do so through “traditionally masculine” activities, whereas men who want to experience a feminine aspect of themselves can best do that through clothing (and related accessories). Thus, female-to-male “crossdressers” (most of whom would reject that label) usually have different motives than male-to-female crossdressers. Nevertheless, for anyone, female or male, wearing pretty clothing tends to stimulate whatever feminine feelings they may have. For a man, this may help him to create a mood and a mental state in which he can enjoy a part of himself that he suppresses in his everyday life. The clothing people wear affects the way they think and feel. As that great philosopher, Milton Berle, once said, “It’s hard to feel macho in makeup and a dress!”
Amantine Aurore Lucile Dupin (1804-1876) was a genetic woman and an acclaimed novelist of the French Romantic period, who wrote under the pseudonym of George Sand. Based on an 1838 portrait by Eugène Delacroix, she appears to have been a very pretty woman. She was linked romantically with the famous composer, Frédéric Chopin, among several others. Yet she made little secret of her love for men’s clothing, and she made a credible enough male presentation that she often “passed” as a man in public. Today’s male crossdressers are part of a rich tradition that includes many prominent women and men from the past, who found greater personal fulfillment by sometimes dressing across gender lines.
Religious and Political Stance of This Webpage
In the world today, there may be as many as 150 million transgender persons. Of the 242 nations in today’s world, only China, India, the US, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, and Nigeria have total populations exceeding that number. There are enough of us to populate a nation! We are not associated with any particular religious or political system. We are simply part of normal gender variance within the human race. We may have a little more 陰 and a little less 陽 than the average human male, but that’s the only real difference.
This reality, however, has been slow to gain acceptance. In the United States today, for instance, and to a lesser extent in Canada, Australia, and the Philippines, the “Christian right” has increasingly spent its limited resources dealing with secular issues (gay marriage, sex education in the public schools, etc.). Crossdressing sometimes is included in that mix. As a Christian who is more concerned with the spiritual content of the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (the core of Christianity) than with divisive subcultural quarrels, I find zero evidence that Jesus of Nazareth ever condemned (or would have condemned) social crossdressers or transgender persons more generally. Jesus had nothing against those with a little more 陰 and a little less 陽!
Most moderate persons of other faiths, too, seem willing to live and let live, with considerable tolerance for gender variance. This page will focus mainly on the positive. To state my theme positively: I believe that gender variance is a durable feature of the human mosaic; that crossdressing is mainly about the expression of gender variance; and that the goodness or badness of individual crossdressers depends on things much more basic than their clothing.
An International Phenomenon
As the previous section implies, we are a truly international phenomenon. In the years that I’ve been maintaining this webpage, I’ve had the privilege of communicating with transgender persons from several different nations. More specifically, I’ve communicated with transgender persons from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain (UK), India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, and, of course, the US. My overall impression is that transgender persons are rather normal human beings, most living responsible lives, whose personalities have gender-complex aspects, but who do not differ much from their neighbors otherwise. In Indonesia, for example, transgender persons, who call themselves “waria,” [derived from the words “wanita” (woman) and “pria” (man)], work in a wide range of responsible occupations, although they disproportionately are employed in beauty and cosmetics, entertainment, and fashion.
Suffice it to say that “waria” (referred to by the local equivalent term) exist in all modern societies. In Thailand, the word ตุ๊ด has roughly the same meaning as what people in the US think of as a male-to-female crossdresser. People in Thailand also have other terms for different variants of crossdressing — they have a richer vocabulary in this area than we do. When Thais talk with English-speaking non-Thais, they may render all those somewhat-related terms as “ladyboy,” although, like crossdressers in the US, they sometimes disagree about what we should be called. In Japan, a トランスジェンダーの人です is a transgender person. Historically, Japanese conceptions of gender identity and sexual orientation also have been much more nuanced than those of US culture. The significant point for this discussion is that crossdressers of the transgender varieties currently exist, and have existed, in practically all parts of the world and in practically all historical periods.
I recently heard from a transgender lady in Indore (Madhya Pradesh) India, who strongly agreed that transgender persons are pretty much the same worldwide. Some details rooted in cultural traditions may differ a bit; but the basics are the same.
Regarding India, Mumbai, India may have more crossdressers (i.e., transgender women of one kind or another) than any other city in the world, although the available statistics are just rough estimates. Indeed, I’ve been told that that Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi, Hyderabad, and Chennai all have substantial transgender populations. In my opinion, the Indian transgender persons often are very good-looking. I love the brightly colored saris (clothing) and gold jewelry that some of them wear. But the more basic point is that transgender people in large numbers are found in Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Australia/Oceania, Europe, North America, and South America. World-wide, there are more than 150 million of us. Furthermore, transgender people have been documented in many Western and non-Western cultures from antiquity. We are a normal part of the human gender spectrum.
That assertion runs counter to the dogmas of US psychiatrists as recently as the 1990s — and even to the ideas of a few rear-guard psychiatrists today. A mental disorder is a psychological state that causes significant distress or disability, leading to serious disruptions in social functioning. By serious disruptions I mean, for instance, not being able to hold down a job or to meet the basic obligations of living with others. Many transgender people do NOT experience their gender feelings as distressing or disabling, which means that being a crossdresser does not constitute or reflect a mental disorder.
Many obstacles in a person’s environment, however, may lead to distress, including a lack of acceptance within society, direct or indirect experiences with discrimination, or assault (verbal or physical). These experiences may lead some transgender people to suffer from anxiety and depression; but the cause is environmental, not brain circuits that directly affect cognition, emotion, or behavior. We have to distinguish between conditions in a person that directly cause distress or disability and conditions in a person’s environment that do so. Anyone reading this would experience distress and disability if they lived in a persistently hostile, threatening environment. Unfortunately, some transgender persons do live in such environments.
But the rear-guard might respond, “Doesn’t that overlook thousands of poorly functioning crossdressers?” Well, “poorly functioning” sometimes is a misleading characterization of being caught in a vicious circle. I recall reading a feature article in The Washington Post, a prestigious US newspaper, which was about the plight of crossdressers in Washington D.C. who turn to prostitution. One of those they interviewed was Staci Daniel, a 23-year-old escort who had been working on the K Street NW strip for several years. She got into sex-work when, as a teenager, she realized that her transgender identity and appearance were preventing her from being hired for other work. She desperately needed to put food on the table; and she discovered that she could make hundreds of dollars a week as an escort. Besides supporting herself, she began putting a niece through college. Her periodic arrests could be seen as getting caught trying to survive.1
The significant point here is that when people encounter what they think are poorly functioning transgender persons, they usually are missing something important. There usually is more to it than meets the eye. Although Staci Daniel seems both intelligent and emotionally healthy, we must recognize that prejudice and discrimination can cause clinically significant impairment in practically anyone’s functioning. Being transgender can lead to being discriminated against, which in turn can lead to psychological distress and related symptoms. Many transgender persons escape that chain of negative consequences, which may become a vicious circle, but some do not. Some transgender persons in the US and world-wide have not been as lucky as I have.2
Journey of Self-Discovery
“The discovery of
one’s self is the fundamental base
If you have read this far, let me tell you a little more about myself. I was married for 15½ years, but currently I am single. I’m not sure when I first realized that an inclination toward feminine expression is a basic, permanent part of me — I had inklings of this when I was a teenager, but accepting it was a gradual process. During my breakup, I had access to some of my former wife’s clothing, and I found that wearing an item or two of her clothing made me feel less anxiety during stressful periods. A year or two later, on a whim, I bought a few items of women’s clothing from a mail-order merchant, and I found that wearing them while watching TV in the evening was comforting. I was surprised by how dressing as a woman often made me feel more relaxed. Although it took me a few more years to fully come to grips with this (I fought against it for a while), I eventually concluded that feminine feelings and a desire to express them simply is part of who I am.
I reached this conclusion during a stressful time in my life, but I now think that the circumstances under which a person might discover his (or her) cross-gender feelings are almost unlimited. I’ve heard others describe very different situations that led them to discover the pleasant feelings associated with crossdressing, which in turn made them want to continue doing it. Several of those other persons had been married for decades to their high school sweethearts, which suggests to me that there is no inherent link between transgender feelings and happiness in relationships.
While I do not have an advanced degree in psychology, I know from my reading that the famed Swiss physician and psychologist, Carl Gustav Jung, recognized that there is a feminine orientation in the male psyche that he named the “Anima” (from the Latin word for spirit), and a masculine orientation in the female psyche that he called the “Animus.” From Jung’s observations while working with his patients, he concluded that the Anima and Animus are unconscious elements of the human psyche that need to be developed by an individual in order for that person to have a healthy, balanced outlook on life.
Long before Jung did his writing, ancient Chinese Taoism taught that people have both yang (陽 or masculine tendencies) and yin (陰 or feminine tendencies) within them. Some men can have much yin within them and some women can have much yang within them; thus, the presence of feminine behavior in men and masculine behavior in women is natural. The ebb and flow of the two within a person may give rise to new qualities. Confucianism and Buddhism, as well as practically all Chinese philosophy, taught similar ideas of balance and interaction between parts within the encompassing whole — in this instance within the person — as opposed to strict binary conceptions whereby (in this application) a particular person must be “female” or “male” and that’s that — case closed! I have feminine as well as masculine qualities, and it pleases me to express both as I strive for that healthy, balanced outlook that Carl Gustav Jung and the most revered Asian spiritual leaders described.
Okay, but Seriously, What’s It All About?
Well, you asked, so here goes! It certainly is not about psychosis, crime, dissatisfaction with one’s body, sexual aberrations, or an above-average desire to make people laugh. The most up-to-date and generally adequate discussion I have found is contained in a brochure entitled “Answers to Your Questions about Transgender Individuals and Gender Identity” (©2015 by the American Psychological Association), which identifies several categories or types of gender variance (see item #3).
Insofar as people in traditional gender roles have knowingly encountered one or more of these categories or types, they are likely to have formed ideas about crossdressing. If they have mentioned their ideas to others, their stereotypes are likely to have acquired additional meanings, based on those others’ experiences. Almost any widely accepted stereotype contains some grains of truth, which is why it took shape in the first place. The trouble with stereotypes is that people tend to apply them unthinkingly to all members of a social category. The most visible members of a category tend to be those who do something odd or awful, thereby attracting negative attention, so people infer that all members of the category in question are predisposed to the same odd or awful conduct. While this normal human tendency is understandable, it has worked to the disadvantage of transgender persons.
The fact that “crossdressing” is a vague term with different meanings to different persons makes it easy for us to talk past each other; however, I think that “transgender” crossdressers are the vast majority, and that the negative stereotypes of crossdressing are based on other kinds of “crossdressing” (including some that are of legitimate concern to mental health professionals).
The “Fetish” Issue
Speaking of which, isn’t crossdressing a sexual fetish? Well … that depends on the kind of crossdressing the asker has in mind! Sexual fetishism involves the use of physical objects and behavior not typically considered sexual to heighten sexual arousal. Some forms of it are fairly common within the human race and should not be of great concern, whether they are engaged in by crossdressers or non-crossdressers. A survey of more than 317,000 adults from 41 countries on sexual attitudes and behavior — specifically, the Durex Sexual Well-Being Survey — found that approximately 20% of adults world-wide have engaged in fetish/BDSM sexual activities. In the past, fetishes of these sorts were considered mental disorders; however, the most recent version of the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders has specified more adequately when that is true and when it is not. The guidelines in DSM-5 require that, for a fetish to be properly classified as a mental disorder: (1) it must be the sole means of sexual gratification for a period of six months or more; and (2) it must cause significant impairment in functioning in social, occupational, or other important areas of a person’s life. For most of that 20%, it is no more than an occasional quest for excitement, variety, and a little extra fun!
So solo or partner fetish activity usually is not the terrible sickness some people imagine when they wonder if crossdressing is a fetish. Furthermore, if 20% of adults world-wide have dabbled in fetish behavior, then the null hypothesis would be that 20% of crossdressers have dabbled in fetish behavior. That would mean that crossdressers and non-crossdressers are equally prone to engage in it. If that were the case, then it should not surprise anyone to find some crossdressers who do engage in fetish behavior, which would be consistent with the hypothesis of “no difference.” Finding some that do certainly would not justify a conclusion that crossdressing itself is a kind of fetish. To see the problem with such an inference, suppose that we located a brain surgeon in (say) the Durex Survey who engages in some weekend fetish behavior with her husband. (Surely there are a few, perhaps even 20% of them!) Would that be evidence that doing brain surgery is a kind of fetish? Human beings, including brain surgeons and crossdressers, may have more than one interest without that meaning that there is a special affinity or correspondence between interest A and interest B.
Perhaps the most distinguished scholar and writer on sex and gender in the second half of the 20th century, Vern L. Bullough (1928 - 2006), discussed the motivations for crossdressing at considerable length, including that which drives transvestic fetishism (more on that below). But he stressed that one very common reason for crossdressing is that some males see the feminine role as expressive of their own inner nature (see, e.g., Vern L. Bullough and Bonnie Bullough, Crossdressing, Sex, and Gender, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993). That motivation is not the same as a desire for sexual orgasms.
So is crossdressing a fetish? Usually not. The sweeping assertion that crossdressing is a fetish is made primarily by anti-crossdressing persons and groups who cherry-pick the evidence, as well as the Bible, in a dubious attempt to justify their own hostility. Let’s ask: What kinds of persons actually practice fetishes? Who are they? Are they disproportionately crossdressers? Also, are they motivated by an allegiance to Satan? As crazy as the latter claim might sound, it is essentially the accusation hurled by certain vitriolic haters, who consider it their “mission” to “stand up for God.” And as everyone knows (or at least so they seem to think), God taught that we should love ourselves and hate our neighbors, especially those neighbors who aren’t quite like us. But whoa! Wait a minute! Is that really the correct interpretation of Matthew 22:39, Mark 12:31, Luke 10:27, or Leviticus 19:18?
I said “usually not” in the last paragraph because there is an important exception. A category of crossdresser for which the stereotype of crossdressing being a fetish has some validity is transvestic fetishism. The name itself implies a fetish! The participants in that kind of crossdressing are men who wear a few items of women’s clothing such as panties, garter belts, or hosiery, because they find it sexually arousing to do so. Their limited form of “crossdressing” is motivated by sexual desire.
Motivation is the most important differentiating factor among persons who could be called, at least in some loose sense, “crossdressers.” Why does a genetic male put on women’s clothing? Those male-to-female “crossdressers” who could accurately be called “transgender persons” do so primarily to express a feminine aspect of themselves. No human being is “all masculine” or “all feminine” (in terms of the neurological patterns in their brains that foster subjective feelings we have learned to call “masculine” or “feminine”). In a sense, we all are hybrids. None of us is a pure case. Our brains are not completely devoid of neuron clusters in any region — thank goodness for that! But some people have relatively strong cross-gender feelings that they want to express; and the most straightforward way to express those feelings is through clothing and/or activities. The very term “transgender” means “across gender lines,” especially in feelings and their expression. That is an apt term for most of the people this webpage is about.
But What about Those Anti-Crossdressing Blogs? While I have no strong feelings one way or the other about mild fetishes, I do have some objections to the claims of certain self-appointed crusaders who insist on equating an unspecified form of “crossdressing” with very serious kinds of sexual sicknesses, and doing so for Machiavellian purposes. Those who have searched the Internet looking for discussions of crossdressing probably have run across highly negative websites written by men who claim that “crossdressing” has ruined their marriages and their lives. Most of those bloggers are extreme transvestic fetishists, not ordinary (i.e., transgender) crossdressers. They don’t dress fully; they couldn’t legally go out in public dressed as they do; and they’re not motivated by cross-gender feelings. Their motivation is NOT to express some aspect of their inner nature; it is NOT to express a facet of their gender identity. It is something much crasser. A man who wants to masturbate rather than make love to his wife surely is NOT expressing his feminine feelings!
What, then, are their real motivations for dissing “crossdressers”? Without being a mind reader that is impossible to know for sure. Some may be total fakes that are anti-transgender for unknown psychotic reasons. (I would not rule that out.) I have questioned a few of them, however, and I believe that their real motivations, at least in some cases, are to evade having to admit even to themselves that they have serious sexual problems. Many do admit that they don’t have normal heterosexual relations with their wives. They are much like the celebrities we occasionally read about, whose wives filed for divorce on the grounds that their celebrity husbands preferred wearing their underwear and masturbating over having normal marital relations (i.e., that they were extreme transvestic fetishists). The bloggers rail against some sort of all-inclusive or generalized “crossdressing” without bothering to be specific about what conduct they supposedly dislike. My impression is that they love selected items of women’s lingerie, and they love engaging in solo sex while wearing those. They tend to be very mysterious or secretive about who they are and what they really want. In one case, to be noted in a moment, the owner of a blog who has been dissing generalized “crossdressers” for the past 4½ years has a Facebook page, which frankly I found to be rather creepy.
The absence of real content on his page illustrates his excessively secretive proclivities. The general introduction to the Facebook social utility advises new users to “add a photo of yourself and showcase your most important news.” His page does neither. His avatar is not a photo of himself, as most Facebook avatars are. It is a cartoon-like image of a pigeon. Indeed, his page does not have any photos, and it is quite evasive regarding who he is. He and others like him want to conceal their real passions for obsessive-compulsive solo sex from their wives (if they have one) or from others by acting as if they hate such things. I don’t think that they have any real desire to give up their extreme transvestic fetishism; however, they mask their true feelings with an exaggerated hostility towards an all-inclusive and generalized “crossdressing.”
Some bloggers claim allegiance to the Freund-Blanchard theory of transsexualism, which most experts on sexual medicine in the 21st century regard as a flawed theory. Even in the past, it was not considered to be about part-time male-to-female crossdressers; rather, it was about people seeking surgical procedures, which usually require approval from a mental health professional. (Transsexuals are a subset of all transgender persons, some of whom seek surgeries for further feminization.) The Freund-Blanchard theory was a dubious effort to help clinicians decide which persons should be approved for sexual reassignment surgeries and which should not. While clearly outdated, it does continue to be popular among persons who do not like crossdressers. It rather nicely meets the literary needs of certain bloggers.
The anti-crossdressing blogger with the Facebook page claims that he prays to God for help in ridding himself of his “crossdressing addiction” — and he wants God to bless him with healing and forgiveness. That simply doesn’t ring true. He is 60+ years old. He presumably has had his “crossdressing addiction” since his teenage days more than 40 years ago. How long does he think it takes God to answer a prayer? Most people would have tried a different approach after a few years without results. Furthermore, that person’s vitriolic transphobia and his sacrilegious use of the Bible suggest that his blog and religious claims are camouflage. His wife (if he really has one) probably is unhappy about his failure to show the interest a wife expects from her husband. The real problem is something other than an “addiction” and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the transgender kinds of crossdressing.
Finally, for further light on the motives of such bloggers, consider an analogy. Suppose that someone’s doctor had told him that he needed to quit smoking; and that he had made a firm promise to his wife and to himself to quit. Would it make sense for him to spend his limited time and energy authoring a blog about hand-made Cuban cigars, claiming that he was pursuing a “mission” to get others to stop smoking? Would it seem credible if he insisted on his blog that St. Paul the Apostle didn’t smoke; therefore smoking was going against God? Or might we conclude instead that he was spouting sacrilegious nonsense? Someone who is trying to quit what he honestly believes is a “harmful addiction” would do his utmost to separate it from his life — to forget about it — not deliberately subject himself to constant reminders. That blogger is presenting a charade, a fake story of who he is and what he really wants. It is all but certain that one of his motives is to cause pain and suffering to married crossdressers and their families. Dissing total strangers seems to be part of his basic personality. He has offended enough crossdressers that some have sought to learn more about him and his true objectives.
Ordinary Male-to-Female Crossdressers. But lest we stray too far from the main point, ordinary crossdressers are motivated by an innocuous gender identity, not by preferences for solo sex over marital sex. Ordinary crossdressers and extreme, out-of-control transvestic fetishists are different categories of individuals; the latter are horses of a different color.
Do regular transgender persons, as distinct from people with lingerie fetishes and obsessive-compulsive disorders, need the healing and forgiveness by God that the petulant websites urge their readers to seek? For the most part, no. Some crossdressers might benefit from joining reputable support groups. Married crossdressers and their spouses sometimes face issues that need to be worked out; and help from reputable support groups often would be beneficial.
My advice would be to stay away from the “conversion therapy” support groups and their counselors (the latter being most notorious for their claims that they can “cure” homosexuals), because they don’t respect our transgender qualities as legitimate; and their aim is to “convert” us — to make us just like them — not to help us cope with social prejudices, resolve issues associated with any internal conflicts we may feel, and lead happy and satisfying lives. Moreover, according to the American Psychological Association, their therapies are neither safe nor effective. Besides not helping patients, they reinforce negative stereotypes and thus contribute to a negative social climate, a major source of anxiety and depression within negatively stereotyped groups. Finally, unlike most support groups with more pragmatic and effective approaches, they are not free or nearly free. According to lawsuits filed in New Jersey and California, the treatment sessions continue month after month with no end in sight, and they may cost up to $10,000 a year.
I truly sympathize with extreme transvestic fetishists and others with similar obsessive-compulsive disorders that are harming their lives, especially those who honestly want to recover from their illnesses and put their troubles behind them. I wish them well in conquering their problems. At the same time, I would urge those who need accurate information about crossdressing of the regular kinds to avoid confusing ordinary male-to-female crossdressers of the kinds you might see in a restaurant with emotionally distressed or incapacitated persons. One may sympathize with the latter, and wish them well in getting the professional help they need, but they are indeed horses of a different color.
The “Gay” Issue
Aren’t crossdressers gay? The short answer is that some are and others aren’t. There’s nothing wrong with being gay, of course, whether a person is female or male, crossdresser or non-crossdresser. For those who are interested in an answer to this question, it certainly would be desirable for their judgments not to be skewed by pre-existing anti-gay sentiments. Therefore, before we go any further, please consider the following:
“Is homosexuality a mental disorder? No, lesbian, gay, and bisexual orientations are not disorders. Research has found no inherent association between any of these sexual orientations and psychopathology. Both heterosexual behavior and homosexual behavior are normal aspects of human sexuality. Both have been documented in many different cultures and historical eras. Despite the persistence of stereotypes that portray lesbian, gay, and bisexual people as disturbed, several decades of research and clinical experience have led all mainstream medical and mental health organizations in this country to conclude that these orientations represent normal forms of human experience. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual relationships are normal forms of human bonding. Therefore, these mainstream organizations long ago abandoned classifications of homosexuality as a mental disorder” (American Psychological Association, 2015).
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is the third leading cause of death among young adults, resulting in about 4,400 deaths per year in the United States. The majority of those are associated with suspected or known homosexuality and having been bullied. Persons and groups that perpetrate the falsehood that homosexuality is terribly wrong or that it is “going against God” need to accept responsibility for helping to sustain a toxic social climate that is terribly harmful to our kids. Surely that is not what God wants.
Making Sense of the Question. If having a gay or lesbian orientation is not a terrible disorder or an abomination unto God (and it is neither), then why should anyone care whether a crossdresser is gay? The only valid reason for raising that question, I think, is that, for some crossdressers — perhaps as many as ½ of the total — there are family considerations. The stereotype of male-to-female crossdressers being essentially gay men may be worrisome to the wives of some crossdressers, and perhaps to other family members. While I strongly support the ongoing quest of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons for equality, the issue here is whether the “G” and the “T” are largely redundant, i.e., simply alternative labels for the same category.
Grains of Truth. Most stereotypes have at least a grain of truth; the “crossdressers are gay” stereotype has some evidence to support it. While no one quizzes contestants in transgender beauty pageants on their sexual orientations (see the panel above), it is widely assumed, and often acknowledged by the women themselves, that their sexual and romantic interests tend towards genetic males. To most people, that’s no big deal. After all, adult human beings, including transgender persons, are allowed to have sex lives! Moreover, in the Philippines, a baklâ is a genetic male who is attracted exclusively to men. Baklâs are sometimes considered to be a third gender. Many dress as women and some identify as women. For the most part, baklâs are socially and economically accepted in Filipino society — the Republic of the Philippines is quite progressive in that area, compared with many other nations — although some traditional religious groups disapprove of them. The most relevant point for this discussion is that baklâs are widely taken to be a subgroup of gay men, which is consistent with the “crossdressers are gay” stereotype in the United States. In Thailand, ผู้หญิงข้ามเพศ (transgender women) and อรชรอ้อนแอ้นเกย์ชาย (effeminate gay men) are seen as at least closely related, although not precisely the same. And many persons in Brazil see mulheres transexuais (transgender women) as almost certainly attracted to men. So again we must acknowledge that persons in relatively knowledgeable and tolerant societies such as the Philippines, Thailand, and Brazil see some relationship between gender identity and sexual orientation. Furthermore, single, unattached crossdressers in the US, particularly those who are “regulars” in gay clubs, are indeed very much like the Filipino baklâs and their counterparts in Thailand, Brazil, and elsewhere. Finally, in a recent interview with ABC TV journalist Barbara Walters, transgender teenager Jazz Jennings said that she wanted to date boys. In sum, there are grains of truth in the stereotype: some transgender women world-wide welcome sexual attention from men (and vice versa).3
The problem with stereotypes, though, is that they are overgeneralizations. They encourage people, especially those who accept typecasts blindly, to assume that all members of the stereotyped group are described by the grains of truth observed in some of the most conspicuous members of that group. And what we or others have observed depends very heavily on which subsets of a stereotyped group are the most visible or conspicuous.
Reasons for Doubt. Nonetheless, there are reasons to doubt whether the mulheres transexuais and their counterparts in other nations describe all crossdressers. To be sure, they are the most conspicuous and easily visible crossdressers. I suspect, though, that there are other crossdressers who are married, heterosexual, and keep very low profiles. For family reasons, they may stay under the radar, as it were. In the United States, research has found that 50% to 55% of male-to-female crossdressers are married, which is slightly higher than the percentage of all US men who are married (Statistical Abstract of the United States). Thus, adult male-to-female crossdressers probably are at least as likely as their non-crossdressing counterparts to be in heterosexual marriages. Assuming that most people in heterosexual marriages actually are heterosexual, we might extrapolate a bit from that comparison, guessing that there really isn’t any important difference in sexual orientation between crossdressers and non-crossdressers. In the United States, being married or single is the strongest predictor of sexual preference and actual sexual behavior.4
Some Basics. But let’s back up about ½ steps. Sexual orientation refers to an enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men, women, both sexes, or neither sex. Gender identity, on the other hand, refers to a person’s internal sense of being male, female, or some type of transgender. Gender expression means the way a person communicates their gender identity to others through behavior, clothing, hairstyles, voice, or body features. Crossdressing of the kind this webpage is about is an expression of a transgender identity that departs from a culturally typical expression of the person’s genetic sex. Thus a genetic male in the United States who wears a dress is crossdressing, because a dress is considered “female clothing” in contemporary US culture. Notice that this conception of crossdressing, however, implies nothing whatsoever about emotional, romantic, or sexual attractions. Logically, any sexual orientation could be paired with any gender identity. The two are not one and the same.5
The most cogent version of the question above isn’t whether some crossdressers are gay or bisexual — the answer to that question is an unequivocal yes — it is whether the proportion of crossdressers that is NOT strictly heterosexual exceeds the proportion of adult human beings as a whole that is NOT strictly heterosexual. If we were to play down the prevalence of homosexual feelings in the general population, while being more accurate about the prevalence of such feelings in the crossdressing subpopulation, we could easily arrive at an invalid conclusion. So let’s establish a baseline for considering the sexual orientations of crossdressers. What is the true prevalence of homosexual inclinations in the general human population?
The General Human Population. The largest and most thorough survey of sexual orientation as of 2015 was carried out in Australia and published in a government public health journal. The researchers did telephone interviews with 19,307 respondents between the ages of 16 and 59. The study found that 97.4% of men identified as heterosexual, 1.6% as gay, and 0.9% as bisexual. Among women, 97.7% identified as heterosexual, 0.8% as lesbian, and 1.4% as bisexual.
However, when pressed a little harder, 18.6% of men and 15.1% of women reported feelings of attraction and some sexual experience with others of the same sex. A large majority of the men and women who had same-sex experiences nonetheless insisted that they are heterosexual, not homosexual or bisexual. Still, using these results to define a baseline for comparison, they indicate that such a baseline has to be set much higher than the level often asserted by people in US society. Homosexual behavior is much more common among adult human beings than some Americans want to believe.
Indeed, over the last decade, several articles appearing in credible outlets have dealt with homosexual behavior that usually is not recognized as such by those who engage in it (see, e.g., Locker Room Trysts Bedevil Health Clubs, by Carol E. Lee, published in The New York Times). Men may see their conduct as a “quirk” but not as homosexual behavior. The important point is that surveys, even well designed surveys such as the Australian investigation, tend to grossly underestimate the actual prevalence of behavior that could reasonably be called homosexual.
People in Western cultures tend to fudge their answers to sexual orientation questions. In Australia, the strong religiously-based opposition helps to explain some of that fudging; but similar factors exist in the US and elsewhere. Consciously or unconsciously, people rationalize away feelings (and even overt behavior) that they think is socially unacceptable. Another indication of that is that in the dozen years or so since the Australian study was done, every credible survey carried out in the US has found that the apparent prevalence of non-heterosexual orientations has increased. As the stigma has declined in recent years, the apparent prevalence has risen. Perhaps more people with same-sex tendencies are willing to admit them.
Some researchers who study these things believe that if we were to define “homosexual orientation” in terms of persistent thoughts and fantasies, not just fairly regular overt behavior, then the prevalence of a homosexual orientation in the human race probably would be in the neighborhood of ½. Some of them may make the discovery later in life that their seemingly strange thoughts and fantasies were in fact driven by a homosexual orientation, even though they had gone many years without acknowledging that, even to themselves. For purposes of this discussion, I will tentatively assume that 20% is a reasonable estimate. If the true percentage in the general human population is about 20%, then it should not surprise anyone very much to learn that some crossdressers engage in the same behavior found in large numbers of non-crossdressers.
I should note that phallometry has been shown to distinguish gay men from heterosexual men. Essentially, that is a measure of sexual arousal — changes in blood flow to the genital area in response to erotic stimuli. In a well-designed assessment of sexual attraction using phallometry, the person being assessed is shown a sequence of erotic photos or video segments, ⅓ with heterosexual content, ⅓ with homosexual content, and ⅓ with neutral content. There might be 24 photos in all, presented to the person in a random order. Increases or decreases in blood flow indicate what category of erotic content the person finds most sexually arousing. Suffice it to say that my estimate that 20% have significant homosexual tendencies probably is an underestimate, not an overestimate. I will use it to show the logic of making meaningful comparisons, which would not change if the true prevalence were some other percentage. Whatever the fraction, we would want to know what evidence would support, and what evidence would refute, a hypothesis that crossdressers are especially prone to a homosexual or bisexual orientation.
Comparing CDs with Non-Crossdressers. Non-heterosexual orientations are more common in the US than conventional views presume; however, we must not jump to unwarranted extremes. Many people, including many CDs, are exclusively heterosexual. The pertinent question is whether the proportion of crossdressers that DEPARTS from strict heterosexuality is > ⅕, or whether it is ≤ ⅕. Only if the first were true would it be accurate to infer that there is a special affinity between crossdressing and non-heterosexuality.
While I see nothing objectionable about single crossdressers getting together with CD admirers, a substantial proportion have no interest in doing so. Realistically, there are many different subgroups of transgender persons. Some of those subgroups have counterparts all around the world. The Filipino baklâs are one illustration, as the baklâs have counterparts in the US and in virtually every other society in the world. Strictly heterosexual married men who crossdress part-time (e.g., Vera above) are a large subpopulation, to be sure; but they certainly are not the only one. In Brazil, people generally distinguish between “travesties” and “transexuais” (and various subsets within each of those larger categories). Those various categories and subcategories differ in sexual attractions and in other ways. The most important point, I think, is that there are a range of gender identities, sexual orientations, and combinations of those found in the human race. We should accept and respect all of our fellow human beings so long as they are not harming anyone. Learning to live and let live would benefit us all.
I consider myself to be a friend of all transgender persons: male-to-female; female-to-male; heterosexual, bisexual, or homosexual. Our common circumstance is being gender-variant, i.e., falling outside the dichotomous conception — the so-called “gender binary” — of the ancient Middle Eastern religions. Our sexual attractions, no matter where on the continuum those may happen to fall, are not legitimate bases for judging us. “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (see Matthew 7:1-3).
Consult Reliable Sources. For anyone to whom issues of gender identity or sexuality are important, I urge you to consult reliable sources rather than sources with rigid ideologies and vested interests in one answer or another. The American Psychological Association has no ideological stance on male-to-female crossdressing or on sexual orientation; however, it does have a commitment to sound research and counseling based on sound research. The APA website includes discussions of the following pertinent topics:
Conclusion. The most important point for this discussion is simply that transgender persons are a very diverse collection of individuals who defy any simple stereotype. Some approximate the stereotype of effeminate gay men, but a large number approximate (in their everyday lives, at least) the stereotype of a small business owner, a truck driver, or a high school football coach. Concerning the question that opened this section, crossdressers as a whole probably are neither gayer nor straighter than the human race as a whole, but refinements of that conclusion may be required as more and better research is conducted.7
The “Religion” Issue
“Within the evangelical world, tensions
have emerged between those who deny secular knowledge
I think that the anti-transgender and anti-gay attitudes of some of today’s organized religions reflect the chaff of ancient cultures, not the wheat of their spiritual core; but let us come back to that point in a moment.
To anyone reading this who has a conservative Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or Sikh religious faith, I would say to you: God gives us our gender compass; and God gives us our sexual orientation. Gut-level gender feelings and patterns of emotional, romantic, and sexual attraction start to become manifest in middle childhood (if not earlier), long before kids have the sophistication to understand gender or sexuality as adults understand those. Children have not yet learned what was commonly taken as true within the ancient Middle Eastern tribes or in the 15th century Harappa civilization of South Asia. They are responding simply to what’s in their hearts and souls.
Those tribes and clans from earlier centuries were not particularly sophisticated about matters of gender or sexuality; their ideas on those subjects existed long before their most revered messengers appeared. Moses, Jesus, Saint Paul, Muhammad, and the South Asian Gurus needed to teach in ways that would communicate effectively with their followers. If they had embedded their moral teachings in complex frameworks of human physiology, human genetics, and human endocrinology, their audiences would have been bewildered. Persuasion requires communication; and communication requires the use of concepts and language that are familiar to one’s audience.
The ancient Israelites often spoke in parables, not in direct assertions. The “burning bush” where Moses is said to have spoken with God almost certainly was an allegory, not a literal description. Contemporary views of gender and sexuality are the interpretations of fallible human beings living in a pre-scientific age. There is plenty of room for revising those less-than-certain interpretations — and plenty of reason to do so. One recent example of the terrible harm that ephemeral and mistaken interpretations of our religious faiths can cause may be found in a The New York Times article published in early January 2015. Those interpretations are not just incorrect; they are morally wrong, because they harm innocent people.5
We should honor our great religious leaders for their primary spiritual insights, not for their secondary mentions of matters that were poorly understood in pre-scientific periods. If those giants of earlier millennia could speak to us in 2015, they almost surely would say that revised understandings of secular matters they may have mentioned are a good thing. Those cultural advances do not negate or undermine their primary spiritual ideas. Jesus of Nazareth, for instance, taught that we should “turn the other cheek” rather than engaging in endless conflict and vengeance against others; and that we should “judge not, lest that we be judged” (negatively by God). He did not teach that ancient gender norms and other pre-scientific human constructions should be taken as eternal truths.
In conclusion, the anti-transgender and anti-gay attitudes of some of today’s religions — especially their conservative renderings — reflect the secular chaff of ancient cultures, not the spiritual wheat those faiths can still offer us. Religious faiths leave plenty of room for a greater acceptance of gender and sexual minorities by those who are willing to separate the wheat from the chaff.
In Sum: Crossdressers Vis-à-Vis Non-Crossdressers
We can sum up the preceding three subsections quite succinctly. Do crossdressers engage in fetish behavior? Some do, but the same is true of the human race more generally. Do crossdressers engage in homosexual behavior? Some do, but the same is true of the human race more generally. Do crossdressers violate some contemporary interpretations of God’s Word? Yes, but the same is true the human race more generally. Regarding the latter, there are approximately 300 verses in the Christian Bible dealing with the poor, social justice, and God’s concern for both. The world’s major religious faiths have largely set aside Biblical values in those areas. In comparison, there are six or seven verses that may (or may not) be about homosexuality per se (they may originally have been about particular circumstances); and there are zero verses about sexual fetishism. In short, the disapproval sometimes leveled against crossdressers could just as legitimately be leveled against the human race more generally, including many religious leaders.
When some persons and groups assert that crossdressing is a terrible fetish, that it’s going against God, etc., etc., their listeners or readers should ask themselves: “What are those persons’ or groups’ motivations?” They must hope to gain something from their stance or they would find other things to do.
The “Sex-Change” Issue
Aren’t crossdressers inevitably headed towards living full-time as women? The short answer is that some are, but most aren’t. That question goes to the very heart of variations in gender identities and whether those are rooted in durable aspects of biology or in something more fickle and more subject to whims and social influences. Before we proceed further, consider a figure from a scientific journal article (Frank P. M. Kruijver, Jiang-Ning Zhou, and four associates. 2000. “Male-to-Female Transsexuals Have Female Neuron Numbers in a Limbic Nucleus.” Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. Volume 85. Pages 2034-2041). In that figure (the key parts of which are reproduced at the right), the labels of the four vertical bars are: M = male; F = female; HM = homosexual male; and TF = transsexual female (genetic male who feels strongly female). The height of a bar represents the number of neurons, in thousands, in a particular region of the brain. Based on their research findings the authors concluded: “The present findings of somatostatin neuron sex differences in the [pertinent part of the brain] and its sex reversal in the transsexual brain clearly support the paradigm that in transsexuals sexual differentiation of the brain and genitals may go into opposite directions and point to a neurobiological basis of gender identity …” (Kruijver et al.).
It is well known among researchers in the neurosciences that typical men and typical women have different neuron densities in different parts of their brains. In some parts women have greater densities and in other parts men have greater densities. The so-called “limbic nucleus” is an area where men, on average, have nearly twice the neuron densities that women have. What’s interesting, though, is that full-time transgender women have densities very similar to genetic women and quite different from non-transgender men. We will return to that point shortly; but first we must distinguish between part-time male-to-female crossdressers and full-time transgender women of the kind that Kruijver et al. studied.
The transgender sample in Kruijver et al.’s study was comprised of transsexual women. Transsexuals are persons who were categorized at birth as being of one sex (female or male) but experience themselves as being of the other sex and thus identify as such. Transsexuals may (but probably most do not) seek hormone and surgical solutions to the mismatch between their genetic sex and what they feel to be their real sex. Their inner gender compass tells them that they are women, despite what a doctor decided in the delivery room. In addition to the research cited above, an article published in an Oxford University (UK) journal of neurology produces similar results, showing that transsexual women have neuron density patterns more like those of genetic women than those of typical men. Thus, it appears likely that the feelings of mismatch experienced by transsexual women reflect neurological patterns. They are not just some kind of delusion or superficial feeling (see Joe Herbert. 2008. “Who do we think we are? The brain and gender identity.” Brain Volume 131, pages 3115-3117).
The typical part-time crossdresser, however, has internal feelings of both masculinity and femininity, masculinity being primary. He doesn‘t see himself as having a mismatch; rather, he sees himself as having an additional gender dimension — a secondary gender identity — which he wishes to express part-time through other-sex clothing, hairstyles, and makeup. The two important points are, first, that transsexual women are identical to genetic women except in genetic sex. Second, part-time male crossdressers are identical to ordinary genetic men except for having a secondary gender identity. Although part-time male-to-female crossdressers and transsexual women are alike in many ways, the first are essentially men and the second are essentially women. The lady from Pattaya, Thailand (above left) was classified as “boy” at birth, but anyone who thinks that she is a man has a vision problem … she is a pretty young woman!
Wives (or girlfriends) of part-time crossdressers may sometimes wonder, “Is my husband (or boyfriend) headed towards wanting to live full-time as a woman?” I support those who are. If you were to talk to transsexual women (as I have many times), you probably would agree that most of them are smart, funny, beautiful, and self-assured. What’s not to like? In my opinion, the South Asian, Southeast Asian, and South American transgender women are truly beautiful. I admire the Brazilian transgêneros and transexuais. As with the “gay” question, however, the answer to this one is that some part-time crossdressers are headed in that direction, but most aren’t; and there probably is a neurological basis for that.
In the US, transsexuals tend to keep low profiles. Perhaps inspired by the transsexuals of other nations, a few of those in the US have been becoming more visible in recent years, one example being Kayla Ward, who is a Flickr® friend of mine. While part-time crossdressers and transsexuals differ in the relative strengths of their feminine and masculine personality traits, they nonetheless may seem the same to many outsiders and they face similar public misunderstanding.
A critically acclaimed film, “Transamerica,” gave a sympathetic portrayal of a transsexual woman and should be commended for that. Starring Felicity Huffman as Sabrina “Bree” Osborne (previously known as Stanley), this film gave perhaps the most sympathetic media portrayal of any kind of gender complexity. Also, the made-for-TV movie, “A Girl like Me: The Gwen Araujo Story,” showed us what family values really mean. Unfortunately, such films rarely succeed at the box office. More often we find “… mainstream media themes of transsexuals and transgenderists as sick, deviant, dangerous, and in need of medical treatment” (Gordene MacKenzie, Transgender Nation, 1994, page 107). Interwoven with the more common (and more negative) media images is a notion that transgender persons are driven by aberrant sexual urges, which probably rests on what psychologists call “confirmation bias” (a normal human tendency to search for or interpret new information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions).
Those mainstream media themes undeniably reflect widespread ideas about the implications of religion, which is ironic because (as suggested in the previous section) the world’s great religious traditions could just as easily be the impetus for greater acceptance of gender and sexual variability.
Especially ironic is the fact that reassessing claims about the Word of God has been going on for millennia. Those who create new versions of the Bible are not doing so for their own amusement. They believe that versions of the Bible (except for their own new one) are flawed in important ways. There are at least 46 different versions of the Christian Bible that have substantial numbers of adherents. Adherents of the other 45 are considered at least somewhat mistaken in what they take to be the Word of God. Why should we believe that God is incensed by social crossdressers of the 21st century? Is the Bible truly clear about that?
So … What’s It All About?
But if the common prejudices, misunderstandings, and stereotypes of crossdressing are wrong (at least in large part), then what is it all about? In many respects, that is like asking, “What are brown eyes all about?” They just are. Like an inclination to crossdress, they are a feature of some human beings. In and of themselves, they are neither right nor wrong. Whether a person with brown eyes is good or bad depends on things other than eye color. Similarly, whether a man who wears feminine clothing is good or bad depends on factors other than his love for feminine clothing.
Talking and laughing are the mainstays of a crossdressers’ rendezvous. Transgender persons are like any other group of friends who are united by a common interest: they like to get together and talk about it! On occasion, I have attended socials of one sort or another, which typicaly involve a bottle of wine and an evening of conversation about clothing, makeup, and so forth. Almost always, part of the evening’s entertainment is taking photographs. (In choosing one’s friends, it is best to select those who are skilled with a camera!) Speaking of which, you will find a few of my most recent pictures below.
§ § §
Getting Out & About: Beyond the “Small Closet” of Home
A typical male-to-female crossdresser in the US dresses in secret, most often when others who live in his household (e.g., his wife and kids) are away for a day or two. He plans his time alone very carefully. He may shave off body hair, take a hot perfumed bubble bath, and dress in something risqué. This ritual may produce an emotional high, and frankly almost all of us have done it. At the very least, it satisfies our urge to express feminine aspects of ourselves. It also may provide dress rehearsals for when we take the next step.
Although most crossdressers never take that next step — my best guess is that about ⅝ of American crossdressers dress only at home or by themselves in hotel rooms — those who want to go beyond dressing in secluded settings, but insist on complete anonymity and guaranteed safety, may seek out organized conferences (see the “Transgender Conferences” table above and to the right). Such conferences usually are held in out-of-town hotels; and they typically attract anywhere from 75 to 800+ attendees. The hotel may have been reserved for the event in question, assuring the attendees’ anonymity. Even if it’s not, being out-of-town practically eliminates the chances of running into someone from your place of work, your neighborhood, your church, etc. Furthermore, even if by some small chance your minister did appear in the hotel lobby, you are disguised and in a crowd of others, some of whom probably are more eye-catching than you are, making it very unlikely that you would be recognized.
Many crossdressers attend one or two large conferences per year, but otherwise dress only at home. Nevertheless, a significant fraction wants to go out in public more regularly than once or twice a year. Crossdressers who go one step further often refer to conferences as “big closets” because of their near-certain anonymity and safety. In cities throughout Asia, Europe, North America, and South America you can find state-of-the-art nightclubs that cater to the LGBT communities as well as to a straight clientele. For transgender persons who like to put on risqué attire and have a drink or two with friends, these are appealing places to do it. In addition, if you socialize in large cities 50 miles or more from home, you have substantial anonymity, even though you are in a more open setting than a hotel reserved for a conference.
Finally, some portion of transgender persons wants to attend clubs and other entertainment spots and socialize with interested men. According to the US Census Bureau, roughly 50% of US adults are unmarried, some by choice and others by circumstance. Single adults understandably want social lives that include sex. I personally see nothing objectionable about two women or two men having sexual relations; however, such behavior presents some challenges that people in monogamous, heterosexual marriages typically do not face. On a separate page, I have offered some suggestions for crossdressers (and others) who are going to have such get-togethers.9
In today’s economic environment and its associated cultural adaptations, adults having sex outside of committed relationships is practically necessary. Assuming that the people in question don’t have abnormally weak sex drives, the relevant population statistics dictate a certain amount of sexual hooking up, which in the US today usually takes place in conjunction with weekend entertainment.10
Each of these levels of “getting out and about” has its pros and cons; however, if you are among those who want it to include sexual activity, then please read some of the literature written for genetic women, which is better researched and more credible than most of that written for transgender persons. One worthwhile reference is: Amber Madison. Hooking Up: A Girl’s All-Out Guide to Sex & Sexuality (© 2006). Prometheus Books. Chapters 6, 7, 14, and 15. If you are going to have sexual relations with persons you don’t know very well, then it’s highly desirable that you become well-informed about safer-sex practices and physical safety issues before you pursue that interest. Most genetic women who are single and sexually active know how to have sex lives that are both satisfying and safe; it makes good sense for us to follow their example.
Injuries from automobile accidents are not the results of too many people driving automobiles; they’re the results of too many people failing to buckle their seatbelts. In our social lives as in our automobile driving, we should take sensible precautions. There are just too many microorganisms out there biding their time, waiting for a good opportunity to jump inside our delicious feminine bodies!
Holiday Shopping: An Occasion for
|Passion pink baby doll by Shirley of
Hollywood®. The more personal the
item, the more hesitation we may
have about shopping for it.
§ § §
In the two or three weeks leading up to certain holidays — Valentine’s Day and Christmas are the most notable — husbands, boyfriends, etc., may shop for dresses, sexy lingerie, nightgowns, etc., without even raising eyebrows. That provides excellent cover for transgender persons who wish to shop for such items for themselves. No salesperson is likely to ask, “Why is a man like you shopping for sexy stiletto sandals?” Moreover, you can ask questions that you would not ordinarily feel confident enough to ask — e.g., “Do you think that these shoes would go well with a pink baby doll?” Thus, for transgender persons, the week or two prior to Valentine’s Day, Christmas, and other gift-giving holidays are a sort of “manna from heaven,” providing opportunities to experience the joy, wisdom, and perhaps even spiritual renewal that comes from expressing our feminine selves more intensely!
Still, the very thought of shopping for women’s clothing causes many CDs to feel panicky. Will I be humiliated? Anxieties may seize us by the throat and shake us violently, the way a cat shakes a just-caught mouse. Where can we go to shop for a dress, shoes, lingerie, jewelry, or makeup without any unpleasant hassles? For clothing especially, some of the details depend on how tall and how heavy we are, as mass-produced women’s clothing runs a little small for most of us. In my case, I can shop at JCPenney, Victoria’s Secret, and other women’s clothing outlets for some of my needs, but I must go to crossdressing specialty shops for others.
I have shopped in person, but except under special circumstances where the salespeople know in advance that they will be dealing with a CD, I prefer to shop over the Internet. Mainstream stores such as JCPenney have their online shopping procedures so highly automated that unless you make a mistake, human eyes probably will never see your order. Thus, no one even knows, much less cares, that you are buying women’s clothing for yourself. I always use my name and address exactly as my credit card company has these; and I make sure to use a credit card that is in good standing. Also, I provide my shipping address in the US Postal System’s standard format, to minimize the chance of a delivery mistake. If I avoid mess-ups, then human eyes are unlikely to see the details of my purchase, and surely no one is ever going to call me and quiz me on why I am buying a dress (or whatever). A package containing my new purchase typically will arrive in a week (± a few days).
Some transgender persons worry that the package they receive will embarrass them. Men, of course, often buy gifts for their wives, daughters, nieces, etc., so even if the package declared in large bold letters, “Pretty dress inside!” that would not raise any serious suspicions that the recipient intended to wear the dress.
Typically, though, the mailing container is inconspicuous. No one could possibly know what is inside it. For instance, I recently purchased a dress from Janet’s Closet, a crossdressing specialty store. Five days later, I received a small Priority Mail package in a standard mailing container bearing the return address, “JCI, 2317 Fort Street, Wyandotte MI 48192” — which gave no clue whatsoever about what was inside. I have found that any nervousness about nosy postal carriers or curious neighbors always turns out to be much nail-biting about nothing — all it does is ruin your nails!
At this point, I’m comfortable purchasing women’s items for myself over the Internet. I no longer pretend that I am buying them as a gift. At the same time, I would prefer not to share my fondness for feminine presentation with every desperate-for-gossip creature on Wisteria Lane; therefore, when I recently bought a new wig from a company that caters mainly to women, I was moderately concerned that the package would be too revealing — after all, men rarely buy wigs for their moms as Mother’s Day gifts! Thus it was a relief when the wig arrived in an ordinary 14" × 10" × 4" UPS shipping container with a nondescript company name and return address in small print.
As my earlier example points up, the wrapping from crossdressing specialty stores is especially discreet, as they know that some of their customers require discretion. To give another example, The Breast Form Store, a crossdressing specialty shop, ships their items in a plain brown package with “PSV Inc.” on their return address, also on your credit card bill. transgender persons who are too large for mass-produced women’s clothing, of course, will have to rely more on such stores (see the ABGender link near the top of this page). Whether we shop at JCPenney, Nordstrom, or Janet’s Closet, the process and convenience are essentially the same. To avoid excessive returns, it helps to get a good tape measure, take the measurements required very carefully, and use the size-charts provided by the vendor. As with clothing, it is hassle-free to shop for shoes, lingerie, jewelry, and makeup on the Internet.
When I wrote an earlier version of this item, I happened to be looking at the Payless ShoeSource Internet site, which carries wide widths and provides accurate size charts. I’d been thinking about buying a pair of white ankle-strap sandals with 3½" stiletto heels, which I thought would look nice with my pink sweater dress. Since then, I did purchase some white ankle-strap sandals — but with 4½ inch stiletto heels! I usually stay away from heels that high, but I liked the way these shoes looked. Now, though, I’ve got to buy a white handbag and some other white accessories to complement that outfit. Does the shopping never end?
When I attended a social event in an Atlanta hotel, about 30 girls a lot like me congregated in the lounge adjoining the lobby of the hotel. The temperature outside was hovering at about 20° Fahrenheit (or about −7°C) — very chilly by Southern US standards! — so many of us opted to remain in the hotel lounge, rather than going to another location, which would have reqired walking a few blocks in the bitter cold outside.
This was a fabulous experience! I was able to meet a variety of fascinating girls, some with interesting stories to tell, others simply good company, providing a quiet reassurance that transgender persons are essentially normal human beings, though surely better than average in most respects. In addition, it was exciting to meet a few of the leaders of our community.
Although crossdressers were present in sizable numbers, I was surprised to discover that we were greatly outnumbered by high school cheerleaders! A few hundred young women were at the hotel, having arrived for what was to be a major cheerleading competition. As you might imagine, there was some mutual curiosity between the girls who cheer and the girls like me. At first, only a few of them were brave enough to talk to us, but before long, several of them were visiting every table, having their pictures taken with us, telling us about their upcoming competition, and beginning to feel comfortable in our presence.
Technically, they probably should not have been in a lounge, but there was no clear divider between the lounge and the lobby, and it was obvious that no one was going to complain. One team of cheerleaders was persuaded to demonstrate one of their routines, a carefully choreographed dance-like performance that finished with about six girls doing simultaneous backflips. Wow!
Thinking about this later, I felt encouraged, even uplifted, that the cheerleaders — and their parents and other chaperons — were open-minded enough to permit this nice encounter. I am sure the cheerleading girls will have some interesting stories to tell their classmates when they return to their high schools! But most important, I think those stories will be essentially positive. If the hearts and minds of the general American public are to shift towards greater tolerance for persons who depart from the statistical norm, encounters like these are supremely valuable. Imagine a world in which everyone were judged by their willingness to contribute and (to borrow a phrase) by the content of their character. Granted, we still have a long ways to go, but it could happen. Now that would be something to cheer about!
This article is for those who crossdress to express a feminine facet of their personalities; for others, it may not be relevant. Taylor Swift was impressive when she hosted the television program Saturday Night Live. Not only did this pop/country music sensation give a crowd-pleasing rendition of her hit song, “You Belong with Me,” but she also performed in several funny skits. And she is astonishingly pretty! Any transgender person in her/his right mind would love to look as pretty as Taylor Swift. It occurred to me that Taylor Swift is rather small-breasted. In fact, a lot of very good looking women are. “Why is it,” I wondered, “that so many transgender persons think that creating the appearance of ‘watermelon boobs’ is the best way to express the feminine aspects of their personalities?”
Compared with males, females generally have relatively wide hips, narrow waists, and large buttocks; and that makes for a lower waist-hip ratio than most men have. Well-designed psychological research has consistently shown that the waist-hip ratios of females correlate very strongly with judgments of their “feminine attractiveness,” a relationship that in fact has been found across a wide range of different cultures. Women with ≈ 0.7 waist-hip ratios typically are rated the most attractive, especially by men. A woman whose waist measures (say) 24½ inches and whose hips measure (say) 35 inches would have a 24.5 ÷ 34 waist-hip ratio, which is 0.700. Another woman whose waist measures 31 inches and whose hips measure 35 inches would have a 31 ÷ 35 waist-hip ratio, which is 0.886. Both women might seem appealing, but (all else being equal) the first would be judged more feminine, even by people who are not fully aware of what influenced their judgments. Waist-hip ratios correlate more strongly with perceived “feminine attractiveness” than anything else, certainly including breast size. Even persons who honestly believe that they value huge breasts make actual judgments more strongly related to waist-hip ratios.
One of my crossdressing friends, when wearing breast forms, has a 45-inch bust, a 36-inch waist, and 36-inch hips. She is an active member of Tri-Ess, who claims that she wants to make the best possible feminine presentation so as to express a feminine side of her personality. She purchased ultra-large triple-D breast forms from a crossdressing store for $316.25 (before taxes and shipping), and she thinks that this money was well spent considering how “feminine” they make her look. After all, only the female of the human species has prominent breasts; and the bigger the breasts, the more feminine the woman …
Well it’s time for a reality check. If looking good in women’s clothing is our intention, then we need to emulate genetic women who meet that criterion. A feminine figure has a distinctive shape. If a “feminine appearance” is judged by the aesthetic standards recognized in the United States, the UK, Canada, Germany, Australia, India, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, and every other sophisticated nation, and if we want to at least approach those standards, then we need to focus on relative proportions, not bust size in isolation from other measures. In her prime, the heart-throb actress Marilyn Monroe’s measurements were 35C-24-35, and she was considered voluptuous — pleasing to men who are turned on by big breasts.
I recently read a newspaper article on Tanushree Dutta, who won the Femina Miss India 2004 competition and placed in the top ten in the subsequent Miss Universe competition. Today she is a popular actress in Bollywood, the center of India’s movie industry. During her Miss Universe period, she was listed as being 1.70 meters tall (5'7") and weighing 54.4 kilograms (120 pounds). As one might expect, given her success in areas where feminine beauty is at a premium, she is drop-dead gorgeous. As I finished the article, I noticed that her bust-waist-hip measurements were given as 32B-24-35. The larger point is that certain aesthetic standards are widely accepted across cultures and geographic areas, and there is an excellent reason for that: they have a firm basis in human biology.
Consider the following. In her physical prime, actress Marilyn Monroe was 5'6" tall and weighed about 130 pounds. Medical researchers use a measure called the body mass index (BMI) to assess how close a person is to her/his “ideal weight” (by the criterion of disease-risk). If BMI is very low or very high, then the person in question may be subject to elevated risks of certain medical problems; however, that’s not its importance for this discussion. Then what is? Well, women who fall within the “ideal” range almost always have certain distinctive figure proportions.
BMI is computed by dividing weight in kilograms (kg) by the square of height in meters (m²). That is, BMI = kg/m². For example, at 5'6" (1.68 meters) and 130 pounds (59 kilograms), Marilyn Monroe’s BMI was 59 / (1.68²) ≈ 20.9. By the criterion of health and well-being, the range 18.5 - 24.9 is considered “ideal” and 18.5 - 30.0 is generally acceptable. Although we all want good health, what’s relevant to this discussion is that genetic women within the “ideal” almost invariably have characteristic bust-waist-hip proportions. Whether we’re within that range or not, those characteristic proportions are worth striving for if we want to look our best.
Specifically, young adult women who fall in that “ideal” range almost always have bust-sizes less than or equal to their hip-sizes, and waist-sizes considerably smaller than either. The Victoria’s Secret size chart reproduced above illustrates these figures, as does Tanushree Dutta (the pretty woman just mentioned). Both illustrate the importance of waist-hip ratios. As noted earlier, Marilyn Monroe’s measurements in her physical prime were 35C-24-35. Compare those with my friend’s, which are 45DDD-36-36 when she’s at (what she considers to be) her “feminine best.” The relative proportions are quite different, most notably waist-hip ratios.
Some transgender persons, however, remain skeptical. Another friend said, “I couldn’t possibly look like Miss Universe — I’m 6'2" tall and weigh 220 pounds — so why shouldn’t I just buy big breast forms and assert my femininity in the only way available?” Well, first of all, the “Miss Universe standard” is unrealistic for most people in this universe! Second, at 6'2" (1.88 m) and 220 pounds (99.8 kg), her BMI = 99.8 / (1.88²) ≈ 28.2, not bad. As a genetic man, her proportions are not quite those of Tanushree Dutta, but she could come tolerably close to them with standard “figure enhancements” such as a waist cincher, some hip padding, and small breast forms. Our goal must be to home in on the waist-hip proportions that differentiate women from men. You’d be surprised how good crossdressers can look if they focus on proportions and are willing to be guided by the body proportions of undeniably good looking women. See the link on body proportions in the list below.
While body proportions are one very important area where transgender women can learn a lot from genetic women, another significant but very different area is grooming and hygiene, where the choices involve what I think of as a “part-timer’s dilemma.” That dilemma is discussed on a separate page.
Good-bye for now! I’m glad that you came to visit. If you want more information about crossdressing, I suggest that you use one of the major search implements with short phrases describing your specific interests, such as “crossdresser support groups” or “crossdresser clothing.”
For married transgender persons who seek to reconcile their feminine dimension with an essentially traditional family lifestyle, the Tri-Ess website is a valuable source of information on various pertinent topics. (Use the menus at the top of the Tri-Ess home page.) Sigma Espilon (Tri-Ess, Atlanta) and Delta Chi Delta (Tri-Ess, Southeast Florida are quite active chapters, but there are many others across the United States and elsewhere. For the more distinctive interests of other segments of the transgender communities, I recommend using a search engine with pertinent search terms. The Internet today is so large that one can find discussions of practically anything if they are willing to be persistent and to use a good search engine.
Specialized topics dealt with on this site, which of course will not be of interest to everyone, include the following:
I have a section labeled Support Sites at the top-left of this page. Laura’s Playground and Susan’s Place are very inclusive transgender sites. Both contain materials pertaining to transsexuals, intersexed persons, and others who are transgender in a general sense, meaning that some of the items probably will not be of much interest to a typical part-time crossdresser (or crossdresser’s significant others). Still, the beauty of such inclusive sites is that you can read the articles that address your own interests and skip the rest.
I want to leave you with the observation that transgender people have made great strides toward public acceptance over the last decade. Besides the American Psychiatric Association and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), groups that now oppose “reparative therapy” and endorse the normality of the LGBT communities include the following:
More and more people are living authentically and more and more others are accepting them for who they are. Not so very long ago, prestigious organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association viewed the LGBT communities as people with serious mental health issues. They now have revised their positions — we and our LGBT allies are now understood to be normal! Much of the credit for that progress is owed to our sisters in Asia, South America, and elsewhere outside the US, nations where the LGBT communities are slowly but surely winning the respect and acceptance of their neighbors. See, for instance, a recent video on Singapore’s Pink Dot LGBT Pride event, which, among other things, shows that strong family values can work in favor of greater LGBT acceptance. A society can have both! We must not try to be an island unto ourselves. There are millions and millions of people in other nations who are just like us. Part of our objective, too, must be to win over the hearts and minds of the general public. When that is being done in other nations, people in the US are more likely to reconsider the possibility that old biases may not be as valid as they once thought. I say to everyone who is having a positive impact on our world’s cultures: Thank you! ขอบคุณ! ¡Gracias! Obrigado! शुक्रिया!
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