By Amanda J.
The life of a crossdresser, or CDer as I’m going to refer to them for brevity from now on, can be bewildering. After all, it’s not exactly normal for a heterosexual guy to feel an overwhelming urge to dress from head to toe as a woman is it? Society dictates that men should be men, not in touch with their feminine side. I’m sure we all know the words to ‘The Lumberjack Song’; some may find it amusing but others may feel that it does nothing to move perception of crossdressing away from being a target for ridicule. And yet read between the lines in that song and the struggles that we face to conform to what society wants while secretly having very different desires are there for all to see (but I will stress at this point that while I may have shopped on Wednesdays, eaten buttered scones for tea and worn high heels, suspenders & a bra, I have never hung around in bars!).
When I started CDing in the 1970s, I had no one to turn to for moral support or advice. And nothing had changed when, after a two decade hiatus, I returned to it in 2009. I was on my own, ashamed of what I was doing and desperately wishing it would go away whilst experiencing profoundly fulfilling feelings about my identity when I succumbed. But eventually I did manage to emerge from the mire and accept who I was.
There are several contributors here who have forgotten more about their CDing lives than I have actually ever experienced. Ask any of them and they’ll be able to tell you far more about being out and about, shopping for clothes, interacting with others and all of the other facets of the unusual lives that we lead than I ever could. But I feel that I’m very much on a journey between the totally closeted secretive CDer that I was until recently and the ‘girl about town’ that I aspire to be. I know from experience, for example, that if I walk into a shop, see a dress I like, go through the rails to find my size and then take it to the checkouts to pay for it, there will be absolutely no issues. And yet I still feel that rush of apprehension and nervous energy as I do it. In many respects, CDing is like mountaineering in the Himalayas – we get the exhilaration each time we scale a peak but then realise that there’s another higher and more challenging peak to conquer – and I’m very much still in the foothills.
So who is this series aimed at? In short, those struggling to come to terms with these strange feminine thoughts that they’re having, don’t know where to turn for support, are worried about shopping for clothes etc. or are paralysed with fear at the thought of being out and about en femme. So if any of those sound close to home, what follows is for you. I’ll often use my own experiences to illustrate the points that I’m making, not because I believe that I’m a shining beacon of inspiration – I most definitely am not – but to give hope to those just a few steps behind me that what may seem like insurmountable hurdles can be negotiated.
Anyway, enough of the preamble so let’s get started and go back to first principles. What exactly is a crossdresser? A quick Google search returns definitions along the lines of:
‘a person who wears clothing typical of the other sex’
That all seems reasonably clear. But is it really? It doesn’t say how much clothing is involved. It doesn’t give any guidance on whether a full, convincing transformation is required or just being a ‘bloke in a dress’ is fine. It doesn’t specify what the motives for wearing said clothing are. And so on. So if this post is not to rival ‘War and Peace’ in length, we need to narrow things down a little bit.
To be clear, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with CDing whatever the motive. If a little bit of underdressing – wearing nylon hosiery under male clothes for example – satisfies your urges, then that’s fine. If crossing the gender divide evokes a sexual reaction like no other you’ve ever experienced, that’s also absolutely fine. If exclusively dressing as a certain type of woman – perhaps a flight attendant, French maid or lingerie model – floats your boat, then that’s fine too. And if wearing the clothes without makeup or wig does it for you, then guess what – it’s fine by me! But I’m going to put those and many other flavours of CDing including drag, female impersonation and other artforms to one side and focus in on one particular area – the complete and total transformation of a male into the most convincing female that they can be. And I do claim to have some knowledge about that given that I am a male who, for some inexplicable reason, needs to transform himself into the most convincing female that he can be from time to time. So I’m going to use myself as an example to give reassurance to anyone reading this who is trying to come to terms with, and perhaps battling, thoughts and urges to cross the gender divide that they may be having. Or, to put it another way, if I can get on top of all of this, so can you!
With the exception of my wife, no one who knows male me is aware that beneath the slightly scruffy, bespectacled 63 year old guy they recognise lurks an inner woman, the polar opposite of ‘him’ in practically every respect. And whilst Mrs A does know that I CD, she has no idea of the extent of my feminine persona. In my normal life, I wouldn’t dream of wearing anything vaguely feminine. I have no feminine mannerisms that I’m aware of. I’m heterosexual and married with two grown up kids. My interests and hobbies are typically (or probably ‘stereotypically’ would be a better word) male. I could carry on but I’m sure you get the picture – I’m just your typical guy in pretty well every respect. Except that I have frequent thoughts of crossing the gender divide to present as my female alter ego ‘Amanda’.
At this point, I want to stress that I am not a woman trapped in a man’s body and have neither the desire not the need to permanently transition to female. I’m just dealing with an ongoing desire & curiosity to experience life from a more feminine perspective when the mood takes me. For most of the time, those thoughts are under control and just simmer in the background. But every so often they boil over and become almost uncontrollable urges. I say ‘almost’ uncontrollable because there is, of course, one way to instantly calm the urges – retrieve the bags from their hiding place, cut the cable ties, spread out the contents on the bed and start the transformation.
This is not something I have any control over. Sometimes I can go several months without needing to transform myself. At other times, it’ll be several times in a week – my personal record is spending a total of 17 hours dressed in one week – that’s 10% of the total hours in the week. That was a pretty unusual week because, averaged over the year, I estimate that I spend only around 2-3% of my time dressed in female clothing. And that’s quite significant because for the other 97%+ of the time, I’m fulfilling those roles in my life that I place the highest priority on – the roles of husband and father. I would not have it any other way.
I should also make passing mention of how I got here. Whilst memories from over half a century ago are hazy, I do recall being particularly interested in the girls in my class at primary school. At an age when I was too young to have any sexually motivated desires, I remember wanting to play with the prettiest ones and being particularly fascinated by those who wore ‘nylons’. They were very much the preserve of adult women in those days but, oh boy, did that handful of eight year old girls who wore them look grown up?! Against that background, it was probably inevitable that, in my mid-teens, the urge to try a pair on for myself would intensify culminating in the fateful day when I found a pair of my mother’s discarded tights and tried them on. And that was the day, the date sadly unrecorded for posterity, when I became a crossdresser. Not because I’d worn an item of clothing ‘typical of the other sex’ – many males have done that to win a bet, for fun or for theatrical purposes – but because the die was cast. It was only a matter of time before full outfits were being worn and the battle began in earnest.
It’s a battle that I think that most of us have fought. We’re conditioned to act in a way that society views as ‘manly’ and yet we look at women with both admiration and envy, trying to work out whether we want to be with them or just be them. We shop with our wives taking pride & pleasure in buying them clothes that we secretly wish we were buying to wear ourselves and perhaps living our lives vicariously through our wives. We lament the rigidity with which society dictates what we should wear while our wives have the freedom to wear whatever they want, including borrowing our clothes, without anyone batting an eyelid. And many of us wish that, at the point of our conception, Ms X had got to the egg before Mr Y. Of course, our life would have been different in every respect but at least our mind and body would have been aligned and we would no doubt have had a happy life as a wife and mother.
There’s an important point to be made here. There’s a huge gulf between wishing one had been born female and wanting to take steps to become female. The former does not in any way imply the latter even though for some people both ring true. CDing can give us an insight into what might have been but it doesn’t mean that we’re buying a one way ticket to womanhood.
It was around 45 years after the aforementioned ‘fateful day’ when I finally came to terms with being a CDer. When I accepted that there’s a part of my personality that is decidedly female and needs to be given the same freedoms that I give my ‘normal’ male side. When I realised that ‘Amanda’ is not someone I become, she is part of who I am in the same way that ‘he’ is. Today, I may have made an outfit choice that society will determine is well and truly in the male camp but tomorrow, it may be different. However I happen to be dressed doesn’t change who I am at heart, though.
Simply put, being a CDer is nothing to either fear or be ashamed of. It’s just an indication that, like every human, we’re multi-faceted with, in our case, a stronger feminine side than most guys.
But let’s make no bones about it, self-acceptance isn’t easy. It involves turning every preconception we may have on its head. We may laugh at the Lumberjack Song, a pantomime dame or a CDing comedy sketch but it’s no laughing matter when we equate those to our own situation. We may suffer crushing disappointment or worse when, after finally plucking up the courage to acquire and try on a female outfit, we look in the mirror and see not the woman we’ve fantasised about being but just, well, the archetypal bloke in a dress. We hate ourselves for both having these thoughts and for the web of deception that we spin to keep it away from our loved ones.
And really, all I can say is hang in there. Pretty well every CDer will say the same thing – it can’t be beaten and resistance is futile. In fact, what I found is that the more I tried to resist it, the stronger it fought back. And the physical aspects can be conquered too. What any woman will tell you is that not all fashions work on all women. What looks good on one can look absolutely awful on another and, as you progress, you’ll find styles that work for you. Women aren’t born with the ability to apply makeup, they have to practise and learn from their mistakes (although they tend to have their mothers & older sisters as tutors while most of us have to resort to YouTube). Whilst it can sometimes be difficult, we have to persevere and learn from the disappointments, not let them dishearten us.
And when we do persevere, something wonderful happens. One day, we look in the mirror and looking back, in place of the aforementioned bloke in a dress, will be a smiling woman, barely able to control her happiness. She’s unfamiliar and yet instantly recognisable. We feel we know her well and yet want to get to know her better. And when she’s not been around for a while, we miss her. And that’s the point at which we realise that we’ve finally uncovered our whole self. And how many people ever really get to say that?
To close each part of this series, I’m going to list five key takeaways. Here are the first five:
1. There is absolutely nothing wrong with CDing. We don’t know why we need to do it, we just do and thankfully, the days of it being a criminal offence are well and truly in the past in most western jursidictions.
2. There are many flavours of CDing and we don’t have to conform to a single definition. Whatever works for a particular individual is absolutely fine and nothing to be ashamed of.
3. Self-acceptance is key. The need to CD is not going to go away so the sooner it’s accepted, the sooner the inner woman can flourish and enjoy life.
4. Being a CDer does not mean a one-way ticket to womanhood, a woman trapped in a man’s body or anything else like that. It just reflects, for whatever reason, a need to experience life from a feminine perspective from time to time.
5. Being a CDer doesn’t mean that male life cannot be enjoyed. In fact, for most of us the duality gives the best of both worlds.
That’s enough for now. Next time, we’ll look at how to put an outfit together by shopping on the high street.