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 by a male-to-female crossdresser to share with others some of the lessons she has been able to learn over the last fifteen 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 2013 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 term) 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. Suffice it to say that there are lots of us! We are not associated with any particular religious or political system. What we are associated with is 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 such as gay marriage, sex education in the public schools, and other “culture war” matters. Unfortunately (in my view), 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 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 several years that I’ve been maintaining this webpage, I’ve had the privilege of communicating, at least briefly via email, with transgender persons in several different nations. More specifically, I’ve communicated with transgender persons from (in alphabetical order) Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain (UK), India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, and, of course, the United States. My overall impression is that transgender persons are rather normal human beings, most living responsible lives, whose personalities, to be sure, have gender-complex aspects, but who do not differ much from their gender-simple 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 — all over the world. In Thailand, for instance, 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. I personally don’t care if others want to call me a waria, a ladyboy, or a transvestite; whatever the word we use, the important point is that gender variance and crossdressing to express it are natural features of the human race. 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.
Speaking of 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 on every continent. World-wide, there are more than 150 million of us. In addition, 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 and other clinicians as recently as the 1990s — and even to the ideas of a few rear-guard psychiatrists and other clinicians today. Regarding the latter, there is an organization called the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) that held that conception in the past, but that has now disavowed it. 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, that the person cannot hold down a job or cannot 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 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 with 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 important 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. The term “psychological victimization” refers to how that happens. 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 around the world 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 both more relaxed and more feminine. Although it took me a few more years to fully come to grips with this (I fought against the feminine part for a while), I eventually concluded that an inclination to feminine feelings and a desire to express them 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 complex gender feelings and happiness in relationships.
While I am not an expert on psychology or on the human personality, 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.
Along similar lines, 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 birth 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” (©2013 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, who attract 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 “Fetish” Issue
Isn’t crossdressing some kind of fetish? Well … that depends on the kind of crossdressing you have in mind! A category of crossdresser for which that stereotype has some validity is transvestic fetishism. The participants in that kind of crossdressing are men who wear a few items of women’s clothing such as panties, garter belts, hosiery, etc., because they find it sexually arousing to do so. Their limited form of “crossdressing” is what psychiatrists call a paraphilia, an activity for purposes of sexual arousal that is outside of society’s sexual norms. For some that is simply a way of relieving stress; for others it is a temporary substitute when their regular partner is unavailable.
The basic differentiating factor among persons who might reasonably be called “crossdressers” is their motivation. Why do they crossdress? Those male-to-female “crossdressers” who could reasonably be called “transgender persons” do so primarily, if not entirely, to express a feminine aspect of their sense-of-self. No human being is “all masculine” or “all feminine” (in terms of the neuron densities in different parts of their brains that foster the kinds of subjective feelings we call “masculine” or “feminine”). While we all are hybrids (in a sense), not perfectly pure cases, some people have relatively strong cross-gender feelings that they want to express through clothing and/or activities. “Transgender” means “across gender lines,” especially in feelings or in their expression. That is an apt term for most of the people this webpage is about.
Nevertheless, there are other reasons or purposes associated with non-transgender variants of crossdressing. Transvestic fetishism may be “crossdressing” in a limited sense, but it is motivated by a quest for sexual arousal, which is usually a harmless fetish; however, it is not motivated by a desire to express oneself.
I say “usually harmless” because there are relatively rare cases in which so-called “transvestic fetishism” has become merged with a serious obsessive-compulsive disorder. About the only times we ever hear about them are in instances where, for instance, a celebrity’s wife files for divorce on the grounds that her husband prefers his obsessive-compulsive fetish behavior to having normal sexual relations with her. There are some non-celebrities who do the same, as I will mention below. But ordinary (i.e., transgender) crossdressers are not extreme transvestic fetishists such as those persons.
The word “fetish” itself is rather vague, and thus we should distinguish between the mild and the very extreme. Well over half of all adult Americans use “sex toys” of one sort or another. (See, for example, the New York Times article “Vibrators Carry the Conversation” by Hilary Howard.) Both men and women use various kinds of sex toys; and for some men items such as garter belts are a variety of sex toy. Although I personally am not into fetishes, I would not begrudge others the satisfaction they may get from them, as long as they’re not hurting anyone. For both women and men, mild fetishes are just private behavior that doesn’t harm anyone.
Indeed, it may help. According to reports I’ve read, a surprising percentage of US adults engages in “intimate play” involving what might reasonably be called mild fetishes. Married couples may be especially prone to this as they try to keep their marriages fresh and exciting after the first several years have passed and the passion has diminished. Personally, I have never found fetishes appealing; but I think that all of us should try to tolerate differences that do no harm and that may help others to be happier. The important points for this discussion, though, are that crossdressing of the usual sorts is not a fetish; and “intimate play” involving fetishes has no distinctive connection with crossdressing. The Diagnostic Dictionary of Psychology Today contains some illuminating material:
“There is a degree of fetishistic arousal in most normal individuals … [That] is generally considered a problem when it interferes with normal sexual or social functioning and where sexual arousal is impossible without the fetish object. … [Common] objects used by fetishists are panties, bras, slips, stockings, other intimate apparel, footwear, and gloves. Common materials … include rubber and fur. … Examples of [body-part] fetish objects include hair, legs, and buttocks. Fetishism excludes cross-dressing and [the use of] objects specially designed for sexual use such as vibrators …” (Diagnostic Dictionary)
What about the Vitriolic Dissenters? 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 “crossdressing” with very serious kinds of sexual sicknesses, and doing so for dishonest 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, much like the celebrities alluded to above, 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 a cherished part of themselves; it is NOT to express a facet of their gender identities. It is something much more carnal and sexually primitive. Someone who prefers masturbating over making love to his wife surely is NOT expressing his feminine feelings!
What, then, are their real motivations for their vitriolic dissing of “crossdressers”? Well, some may be total fakes whose 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, 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 alluded to above (i.e., extreme transvestic fetishists). They rail against some sort of all-inclusive or generalized “crossdressing” without being 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 four years has a Facebook page, which I found to be rather creepy.
The absence of content on his page illustrates his excessively guarded tendencies. The general introduction to the Facebook social utility advises 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 allegience 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.) The Freund-Blanchard theory, while clearly outdated, 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 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.”
Finally, to see his charade more clearly, consider an analogy. Suppose that someone’s doctor had told him that he needed to quit smoking; and that he had made a firm commitment to himself and his wife 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 Saint Paul 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 put it out of 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. A part of the motivation for his highly public charade, I think, is to harm others. 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, they don’t. Some crossdressers, however, 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.
I truly sympathize with extreme transvestic fetishists and others with similar obsessive-compulsive disorders that are harming their lives, particularly those who honestly want to put those 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 with emotionally distressed or incapacitated persons. One may sympathize with the latter, 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 is nothing wrong with being homosexual, whether a person is female or male, crossdresser or non-crossdresser; but the stereotype of male-to-female crossdressers being essentially a category of gay men may be worrisome to the wives of some crossdressers, as well as to other family members.
Most stereotypes have at least a grain of truth; the “crossdressers are gay” stereotype has some evidence to support it. In the Philippines, for instance, 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 to many other nations — even though 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.3
At the same time, though, research shows that roughly 53% of male-to-female crossdressers in the US are married, while only about 49% of the US adult male population is 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
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 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 2013 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. Let’s consider some of the fragmentary evidence that calls the traditional conception into question.
According to a US National Health Statistics Report issued by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) dated 03 March 2011, the percentages of women in the most sexually active age groups who consider themselves “heterosexual” are as follows: Those aged 35–44 years: 96.6%; 30–34 years: 94.4%; 25–29 years: 91.9%; 20–24 years: 90.4%; and 18–19 years: 90.1%. Notice that the percentages who do NOT consider themselves “heterosexual” ranges from 3.4% to 9.9%, with steady increases as age decreases. Whether that is a real trend in prevalence or merely a trend in willingness to report non-heterosexual feelings is uncertain. But what is certain is that the percentage of young-adult and middle-aged American women who are willing to label themselves as not strictly heterosexual is much larger than the traditional conception. Moreover, among young adult women it is nearly three times as high as it is among middle-aged women. And those who call themselves “strictly heterosexual” (as the Australian study suggests) almost certainly include many who are not, or have not been, strictly heterosexual in their behavior.6
Three other sources of information also raise doubts about the conventional view in the US. First, clinical studies using phallometric or vaginometric measurements find larger proportions than do the more commonly reported survey studies.7 Second, one recent survey research study found that about 10% of US men who self-identify as completely straight are in fact completely gay in their actual behavior. This was a survey of 4,200 New York City men. I emphasize “completely” because that omits all those who have gay encounters just once in a while. It would not be going out on a limb too far to double that 10% to include those who are not strangers to gay sex, but whose frequency of homosexual trysts would not get them included in that research report. Third, according to one evidently popular website, there are perhaps 50 thousand “meeting places” in the US where those who (probably) are predominantly in that once-in-awhile category can go to have gay trysts. That “cruising for secret gay sex” phenomenon is largely invisible to the general American public.8
Whatever the precise prevalence of non-heterosexual orientations in the US today, a conclusion that is almost certainly valid is that homosexual tendencies and behavior expressing them are much more prevalent in the general adult population than Western cultures typically acknowledge. The percentage isn’t 2.5% or less, as some have claimed; it may be ten times that percentage. Some researchers who study these things believe that if we were to define “homosexual tendencies” in terms of persistent thoughts and fantasies, not just fairly regular overt behavior, then the prevalence of homosexual tendencies in the human race probably would be in the neighborhood of ½. I will tentatively assume that ⅕ or 20% is a reasonable inference. If the true proportion in the general human population is about ⅕, 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.
The Crossdressing Subpopulation. Studies focusing on crossdressing and sexual orientation that I would trust very far are few and far between. Most have been done by evangelical religious groups and others who have an agenda to uphold, not by reasonably objective researchers. Also contributing to misleading perceptions, male-to-female transgender persons who seek male sexual partners are much more visible and easier to study than those who are largely home-bound. Most of the research studies in existence are based on small samples and/or samples that are not representative of crossdressers as a whole. It is practically impossible to obtain a representative national sample of crossdressers, due to the fact that well over half (according to the best guesses) are very secretive about it. Not even their families know about it. They crossdress at home or in hotel rooms where they can escape the eyes and ears of everyone but themselves. If they were gay, then they probably would leave their homes or hotel rooms and go looking for so-called “CD admirers”. One must assume that this “invisible” portion of crossdressers is motivated by crossdressing desires per se, not by desires for sexual encounters.
But we must try to maintain some balance. While homosexual interests are much more common in the US than conventional views presume, we must not jump to an unwarranted extreme. Many people, including many crossdressers, are indeed 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.
Whatever the answer to that question — the available data do not yet justify a firm conclusion — I would like to see greater tolerance of all combinations of gender identity and sexual orientation. Realistically, there are many different subgroups. 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 preferences 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. In my view, 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.
For anyone to whom these issues of gender identity and/or sexuality are important, I recommend that you 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:
There are other factors that I will not belabor, because I don’t think they’re crucial, but I will acknowledge two of them briefly. One is that sexual orientation is multi-faceted; the heterosexual-bisexual-homosexual classification scheme is one-dimensional and thus not fully adequate for describing a person’s orientation vis-à-vis potential partners. Another is that some people discover their sexual orientations relatively late in life, whereas others believe that they knew theirs by middle childhood. Thus, the apparent distribution of sexual orientations among (say) a group of teenagers will differ from the apparent distribution among (say) a group of 40-year-olds. I doubt that there are systematic differences between crossdressers and non-crossdressers on those two factors, but I could be wrong.
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.9
The “Religion” Issue
“Within the evangelical
world, tensions have emerged between those who deny secular
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.
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 2013, they 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 you should “turn the other cheek” rather than engage in endless conflict and vengeance against others, and that you should “judge not, lest ye 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 sum, 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.
The “Sex-Change” Issue
Aren’t crossdressers inevitably headed towards living full-time as women? That question goes to the heart of variance among different kinds of crossdressers and whether that variance is merely faddish or strongly rooted in stubborn parts of the human personality. 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 labels of the four vertical bars are: M = non-transgender male; HM = homosexual male; F = genetic female; and TM = transgender female (genetically male). The height of a bar represents the number of neurons, in thousands, in a particular portion of the brain. A full versin of that article can be found online (click on the red text).
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. 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 des hommes et des femmes, both masculine and feminine, 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 ladies from Pattaya, Thailand (above left) all were classified as “boy” at birth, but anyone who thinks that they are men today has a vision problem … they are very pretty young women!
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?” First, 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 and Southeast Asian transgender women are beautiful. Also, I love 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. Because it is more socially accepted there, transsexualism is more visible and open in Thailand, Brazil, and other relatively tolerant nations than it is in the US. In the US, it is estimated that about 1 out of every 30,000 genetic males is living as a transsexual woman, which means about 5,000 total. But most are in “stealth mode,” practically invisible. Perhaps inspired by the transsexuals of other nations, a few of those in Europe and the US have been becoming more visible in recent years, one example being Kayla, who is featured below. 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.
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.
Crossdressing for me is about personal satisfaction — about being myself. This makes it similar to other kinds of “dressing up” that express aspects of a personal identity. As Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage.” And we play not only the parts society requires us to play, but also other parts that express distinctive facets of ourselves. I have known public interest lawyers who dress in characteristic Harley Davidson attire each weekend, and accountants who spend time dressed in military garb, coming together on weekends to engage in mock‑military exercises. Indeed, in the recent hit movie, “Spider‑Man,” Peter Parker expressed a facet of himself that was enhanced by some very distinctive clothing! I, too, express a facet of myself that is enhanced by some distinctive clothing. My hunch is that most (if not all) people wear clothing in certain limited settings that helps them to experience aspects of their personalities that they enjoy and that they could not as easily experience without the visual effects their clothing creates. Crossdressing may simply be one instance of this much larger human phenomenon.
“Not simply,” my neighbor Melissa replied. “You have convinced me that wearing feminine clothing is a natural way to express a feminine inclination in yourself. But why is a facet of your identity being a lady, whereas a facet of Peter Parker’s is being an insect? What causes the inclination in the first place?” Well, supposedly, a mutant spider bit Peter Parker during a field trip for a high school science class, but I doubt that we can generalize from that incident. The prevailing view among psychologists is that a cross-gender orientation reflects some combination of genetics and early experience. No one knows the exact details, and I am not sure that those are important. Whatever the truest or most adequate explanation of crossdressing’s causes, I would prefer to focus on its consequences. Not only does it help us to open our minds and hearts, but also it makes our lives more interesting. It allows us to enjoy an additional dimension of ourselves that otherwise would be festering beneath the surface. Would the world be better off if everyone had an artificially narrow conception of themselves, seeing themselves, say, only as a soldier … or only as a spider?
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.
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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 most of us do it sometimes. 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 that one-in-a-million chance your (say) 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 of us want 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 (80 km) 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 venues and possibly hook up with other genetic males they meet. According to the US Census Bureau, roughly 50% of US adults are unmarried, some by choice and others by circumstance. Single adults naturally will seek full adult lives that include sex. With only rare exceptions, married adults are not going to be interested in “cruising” for same-sex sexual partners; but many single adults are. There is nothing inherently wrong with that; however, it does present more hygiene and safety issues than married people typically face.10
Among crossdressers, there are literally thousands who are single and bisexual or gay in any large city anywhere in the world. (In a city of one-million population, we would expect there to be 4,000 bisexual or gay male-to-female transgender persons — i.e., about 0.4 of 1% of the total population.) For those who are single and unattached, socializing with interested men is a common choice. I personally have done it; so I can relate to others who have done the same. The only real issues are safety and discretion. Crossdressers of this group have a different set of concerns from those of the other groups described previously.11
Whether someone is female or male, gay or straight, if they are single and unattached, then having sex outside of committed relationships is likely to be part of their lives. Assuming that the people in question don’t have abnormally weak sex drives, the relevant population statistics practically dictate a certain amount of sexual hooking up, which in the US today usually takes place in conjunction with weekend entertainment.12
Each of these degrees of “getting out and about” has its pros and cons; however, if you are among those who want to combine crossdressing with sexual activity, then please read some of the literature written for genetic women, which frankly 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 go beyond nonsexual socializing. Most genetic women who are single and sexually active know how to have a sex life that is 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!
This year’s Southern Comfort Conference was held September 4 - 8, 2013 at the Crowne Plaza Ravinia Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia. It was the 23rd edition of the conference, whose theme was “Blazing New Trails.” Vendors, authors, entertainers, and leaders from the entire spectrum of the transgender community were in Atlanta to produce a 5-day event filled with learning, networking, and fun. There will be seminars, on-site activities, and several planned trips away from the hotel. There is something for everyone at the SCC. Whatever your connection to the transgender community — whether you are a part-time crossdresser, a transsexual, or somewhere in between; a spouse, a partner, or a family member; straight, gay, bisexual, or asexual; young or old; married or single; FtM or MtF — if “transgender” is relevant to your life, then you are part of what this conference was about!
As always, the seminar schedule reflected Southern Comfort’s commitment to serve the diverse needs of our community. The topics included basic information for the newbie as well as the long-time veteran. The official attendance has not been reported yet, but there were 880 registered attendees last year, roughly half of whom had never been to this kind of event before. It is encouraging that so many transgender persons are getting out to conferences such as the SCC.
The schedule for the 2013 SCC can be located by clicking this link.
Holiday Shopping: An Occasion for ♥ Crossdresser Ecstasy! ♥
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 the Girls Met the Girls!
Roughly ten years ago, I attended my second ever crossdressing social event in a public setting, the first having been the 2002 Southern Comfort Conference (a mega-conference that included social events as well as much else). About 30 girls a lot like me congregated in the lounge adjoining the lobby of a major downtown Atlanta hotel. The temperature outside was hovering at about 20° Fahrenheit (about -7°C) — very chilly by Southern US standards! — so many of us opted to remain in the hotel lounge, rather than continuing to another location, which would have meant 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 above average in most respects. In addition, it was exciting to meet a few of the leaders of our community, whose contributions have given us opportunities to socialize and feel good about ourselves that did not exist in most places before the last few years.
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!
Learning from Genetic Women: Better Femme Presentation
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 flat-chested. In fact, a lot of really 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?”
Crossdressers who dress fully, even those who have little or no sexual interest in genetic women, may have very positive reactions to them, which probably reflects having more sympathy for them than most other men; but it also probably reflects the insight that we can learn a lot about feminine presentation from them.
One of my crossdressing friends, when in bra and 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 DDD (triple-D) size breast forms from a well-known crossdressing store for $316.25 (before taxes and shipping), and she thinks that this money was well spent considering how “feminine” she looks when she wears them. After all, only the female of the human species has prominent breasts; the bigger the breasts, the more feminine the woman, right?
Well it’s time for a reality check. If looking good in women’s clothing is our aim, 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, Great Britain (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 Miss Universe 2004 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 requiring beauty, she is drop-dead gorgeous. As I finished the article, I noticed that her bust-waist-hip measurements were given as 32B-24-35. Certain aesthetic standards are widely accepted across cultures and geographic areas for an excellent reason: 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). BMI is computed by dividing weight in kilograms (kg) by the square of height in meters (m²). That is, BMI = kg/m². Now, at 5'6" (1.68 meters) and 130 pounds (59 kilograms), Marilyn Monroe’s BMI = 59 / (1.68²) ≈ 20.9. By the criterion of health and well-being, medical researchers consider the range 18.5 - 24.9 “ideal.” What’s most relevant to this discussion, though, is that genetic women in that so-called “ideal range” tend to have characteristic bust-waist-hip proportions.
Specifically, young adult women (say those in their 20s) who fall in that “ideal range” usually 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). 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.
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 Marilyn Monroe or Tanushree Dutta, but she could come tolerably close to attractive proportions with standard “figure enhancements” such as a waist cincher, some hip padding, and small breast forms (see below). You’d be surprised how first-rate someone can look if they focus on proportions and are willing to follow the example of good looking women.
While figure 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.
Laura’s Playground contains links to a variety of articles on crossdressing. The owner of Laura’s Playground, Laura Amato, has created a regularly updated list of news stories pertaining to CDs speaking broadly. Some of her material pertains mainly to transsexuals, intersexed persons, and others who are transgender in a general sense of that term, which means that some of the items probably will not be of much interest to a typical part-time crossdresser (or crossdresser’s significant other). Still, the beauty of her inclusive presentation is that you can read the articles that address your interests or needs and skip the rest. I also should mention my own page, Questions About Crossdressing, which might help to provide some perspective on the range of purposes and modes of expression found within the transgender communities. Lastly, for those with an interest in, or even curiosity about, transsexual matters, the Transition Transmission website is an excellent resource.
I want to leave you with the observation that transgender people have made great strides toward public acceptance over the last decade. 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 us as people with serious mental health issues. They now have revised their positions — regular transgender persons are now considered normal! Much of the credit for that progress is owed to our sisters in Asia, South America, and elsewhere outside the United States, nations where transgender people are slowly but surely winning the respect and acceptance of their non-transgender neighbors. 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 the hearts and minds of the general public. When that is being done in other nations, people in the US are likely to notice and to rethink the possibility that old prejudices may not be as valid as they once took for granted. 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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