Apparently an old 2002 article on crossdressing has been rekindled in the Trannysphere, so I’ll go ahead and add my comments to the mix. As usual, I’ve already made many of these observations on other blogs who got there before I did, so I’m plagiarizing myself; this is only an expanded version of those previous comments where I held back because I didn’t want to hijack another blogger’s page into a topic all about me. Here at RiaD, it truly is all about me.
Before you read my response, if you have not read the original stop now and read the Amy Bloom article here.
Now, Ms. Bloom makes a number of assertions that I must dispute. I was going to say “a number of broad stereotypes”, but I use that joke nearly every time and even I am beginning to find it tiresome.
1) Crossdressing necessarily involves the difficult parts of female attire: Girdles, wigs, high heels, etc.
My response: I’ll concede that this may be true for most crossdressers, but there are plenty who have no need whatsoever to encumber ourselves in this way.
2) “Cross-dressing is an attempt to resolve an internal conflict, and it’s not about fabric. If we had clothing for men and women that was identical in every way except men wore shirts with four buttons and women had shirts with five, cross-dressers would want more than anything to have the shirt with five.”
My response: I have a real problem in political debates where the opponent claims to know what the other side is thinking. My liberal friends and my conservative friends all have an annoying tendency to assert some kind of clairvoyance: “So-and-so says one thing, but he or she really thinks/wants/fears this other thing…”. No. You do not have any special knowledge as to what someone else thinks. If you want to point out inconsistencies between what the person says and what he or she actually does, I’m with you all the way. But as soon as you claim to know what thoughts they have, you are just making stuff up.
Now having said that, I’ll also concede that I have seen some crossdressers openly state that they have a deep desire to wear the women-branded version of gender-neutral clothing (e.g., jeans or t-shirts) just for the internal thought that it was meant for a woman. But from what I have seen, most crossdressers that I meet (online) are specifically attracted to clothing that is explicitly more feminine in its design. But having said that, I also can’t claim to have surveyed most crossdressers; my experience is limited only to a few dozen with whom I have had conversations online. So neither of us can speak to what all, or even most, crossdressers desire to wear.
I can tell you with absolute certainty it is not true for me, or for the crossdressers I most closely identify with. Admittedly we are a minority, but there is a small faction who identify fully as male. We absolutely don’t deal with wigs or false breasts, many of us don’t shave, and most of us don’t care for makeup (for my own part, I don’t even like make up on genetic women). We really are in it for the fabric. We are men, inside and out, who like soft fabrics and prefer the gentle caress of skirts against our legs rather than the stiff confinement of trouser legs.
3) “[…] it begins in a man’s life as an erotic response and becomes an erotic fetish.”
My response: Again, you’re attempting to know the inner mind of someone else and you’re assuming that all crossdressers are driven by the same urges. For some, it is indeed a sexual release, and I won’t argue that any external stimulation that you need to find sexual fulfillment can be characterized as a fetish. For others, it’s a nonsexual validation of their perceived inner gender. And again, for still others it’s neither sex-related or gender-related preference for clothes denied to men in current society.
Now having said that (why do I always feel the need for a disclaimer when I make sweeping generalizations?) I would be lying if I did not confess that there is more to it than “I’m a man who likes wearing dresses.” While I do not have a sexual response to soft fabrics, there is certainly a sensual pleasure in the way a skirt of nylon or satin or velvet or rayon or whatever caresses my legs. The fact that I am drawn primarily to long-outdated clothing of exaggerated femininity, with floor-length skirts that impede walking and portray the wearer as a delicate flower, probably speaks volumes about my psychological background. I could even carry that further and say that I am stimulated on an intellectual level by any portrayal of gender nonconformity: I am drawn (not, I stress, in a sexual way) both to bulky, hairy men in delicate dresses and pretty, feminine women in traditionally masculine attire like business suits and tuxedoes. I deliberately married a woman who is assertive and self-confident, and I favor strong, independent (but feminine!) women in books and movies. I’m very curious how all that ties in with my crossdressing, but not enough to spend the time or money on a shrink to figure it all out. My point, such as it is, is that there are many complex layers to what drives a man’s urge to wear women’s clothing, and no one answer fits any two men, much less the whole lot of us en masse.
4) “The Fairfaxes believe that heterosexual cross-dressers are just normal folks, not at all like those gender outlaws— bearded men in dresses, “chicks with dicks~—whom Jane Ellen calls “gender mockers”“
Here, sadly, I must agree… and this is my biggest gripe about the transwhatever community. As I have written before, the GLBT world likes pigeonholes. If you’re a man who loves men or a woman who loves women, great. If you’re a man who wants to become a woman, either permanently or part-time, we have a place for you. But if you’re a man who claims to be a man and likes being a man and expects to be treated as a man and acts like a man and oh by the way also wears nice dresses… you’re an abomination. You don’t fit into our neatly categorized world. You’re mocking genetic women, you’re mocking transwomen, you’re even mocking drag queens.
Well, there you have it. I’d like to hear from my visitors on the subject. Do you think Amy Bloom has an accurate image of crossdressers, apart from the admittedly small minority of exceptions who identify fully as men?
Bottom line, I’d like this site to be one that welcomes all forms of crossdressing. Do you get a sexual thrill out of breaking the clothing rules? Do you find it relaxing to become the woman you deep down feel you should be? Are you a regular beer-swilling, crotch-scratching, NFL-watching guy who just happens to prefer wearing a skirt or dress? Welcome to all of you! And if you’re in that last category, I’m especially glad to meet a “brother” who refuses to fit any of the accepted categories.