More Stereotypes of Crossdressers

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.


About Ralph

Male. Straight. Married.
This entry was posted in crossdressing, psychology. Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to More Stereotypes of Crossdressers

  1. Ralph says:

    Always, brother! I value your insights more than words can tell.

  2. Vivienne says:

    Hey Ralph,
    Jinx! or Snap! Or whatever you say when someone says the same as you. OK, I think you were maybe a little ahead of me in posting this article.

    I thought I had read Amy Bloom’s article and got all the angles, but as usual you proved me wrong.
    For point 2, I happen to think Blanchard is right in his interpretation. Nonetheless, you are correct in that nobody can know what another is thinking, or their motivations. In terms of Blanchard, I think he spent a lot of his life dealing with crossdressers, (and listening to them, and talking to them) and was able to see patterns and themes.

    For point 3, I realised (also prompted by a comment from Sally) that a generation ago, homosexuality was considered a pathological fetish behaviour. Now it’s more or less accepted as normal (in most quarters). So the fact that some people dismiss crossdressing as simply a sexual fetish today, doesn’t mean that in another generation it couldn’t be accepted as just an unremarkable variant of gender expression. Nobody asks why people are gay any more. (“What motivates them? How did they start out? Surely it’s all about the sex??”) We accept that the answer is: they just _are_.

    Does Amy Bloom have an accurate image of crossdressers? I have to say, that so many of her observations hit right on the mark with me personally that I think (though it pains me to say it) the answer is yes. Though I will do my absolute best never to look “matronly”. Outrageous, perhaps. Quirky. But matronly? Urgh.


  3. Ralph says:

    Your “matronly” remark had me giggling with the image of myself at 80 years, shuffling around the nursing home and trying to “dress my age” as we are often commanded. What does the fashionable but modest octogenarian wear?

  4. Vivienne says:

    When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
    With a red hat that doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me,
    And I shall spend my pension
    on brandy and summer gloves
    And satin sandals,
    and say we’ve no money for butter.
    I shall sit down on the pavement when I am tired,
    And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells,
    And run my stick along the public railings,
    And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
    I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
    And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens,
    And learn to spit.
    You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat,
    And eat three pounds of sausages at a go,
    Or only bread and pickle for a week,
    And hoard pens and pencils and beer mats
    and things in boxes.
    But now we must have clothes that keep us dry,
    And pay our rent and not swear in the street,
    And set a good example for the children.
    We will have friends to dinner and read the papers.
    But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
    So people who know me
    are not too shocked and surprised,
    When suddenly I am old
    and start to wear purple!

    Jenny Joseph

  5. Ralph says:

    A search for “red hat society” + “transgender” turns up this discussion in which a transperson asked them if he/she could join. Their reply left no doubt about that possibility:

    Dear Mr. Arthur,
    Your email was given to me for follow up.** Sorry, but no.**To answer you simply – Red Hat Society is a*women’s social organization.* Men have their clubs, this is ours; it’s a girl thing

    So I’m guessing a non-transitioning crossdresser would be right out. Pity, I love their hats.

  6. Vivienne says:

    Hi Ralph. Leanne Arthur’s mistake (if she can truly pass as a woman) was announcing her trans status. She should just have joined and turned up.

    I think the response from the Society was deliberately harsh (starting with Dear Mr Arthur). Nonetheless I think that there is no particular reason why a trans person would want to join something like the Red Hat Society unless to validate their identity as a woman. There are surely plenty of other places to find stimulating conversation, plus acceptance.


  7. Grok says:

    I made a number of comments to the Fashion Freestyler (formerly Casual Crossdresser) blog. I posted a number of links. In particular, check out the links I posted to “I’m Not Gay, Dude.” I am not any sort of expert about gender, or GLBT, but there have been some important observations by scientists.

  8. Grok says:

    I believe that there is a number of individuals who identify as heterosexual males, but have a feminine component int terms of gender expression. That may include an interest in feminine clothing, but not necessarily in wigs, fake breasts, etc.

  9. Ralph says:

    Interesting article, Grok. I think the author is overcomplicating it a bit, though. I can understand your biological sex and your self-identity being separate, but I don’t see how gender identity and gender expression differ. Would I identify myself as a man but express myself as a woman? What does that even mean?

    I suspect that this author, too, is falling into the trap of assigning a rigidly defined gender role to every behavior. So if I identify as a man but I like sewing and romance novels, I’m “expressing” qualities of a woman, rather than just being a man who happens to enjoy those activities. But it’s not fair for me to accuse this author of an interpretation I am reading into the work on my own, so I’d best stop speculating.

  10. Grok says:

    Yeah, I think you’re right, Ralph. Anyway, I’m thinking now that I don’t really care anymore. I’m tired of trying to figure things out. At this point in life (57 years old) my inclination is to kick back and mellow out.

  11. Grok says:

    “…clothing that is explicitly more feminine in its design.” I’m thinking that is why Fashion Freestyler has failed to take off. I think that the author’s proposals are too cautious to inspire others.

  12. Grok says:

    Proposed new GLBT pigeon hole-The No Name Group. 🙂

  13. Grok says:

    Anyway, I don’t care about other peoples’ pigeon holes. If they don’t like me, I don’t need them in my life.

    Life is too short, anyway.

  14. Jonathan says:

    Hi Ralph

    “but I don’t see how gender identity and gender expression differ. Would I identify myself as a man but express myself as a woman?”

    No – but things always get confused when we use “gender” in more than one context. Here (sticking to binaries for simplicity) “gender identity” refers to male/female, whereas “gender expression” refers to masculine/feminine. So, for instance, I identity as male (or rather, I am male) but express myself in a sort of “feminine” way.

    “I suspect that this author, too, is falling into the trap of assigning a rigidly defined gender role to every behavior.”

    Again no – but again things get confused when we use cultural terms to talk about these concepts. Thus “feminine” is generally taken to imply a correlation with “female” – but that, as you indicate, is just silly. We should take “feminine” simply to mean “what the local culture regards as female”, even if we think think such cultural designations are nonsense.

  15. Ralph says:

    Good point, Jonathan. In fact, I do the same thing myself when I hear a crossdresser say “I’m not really a crossdresser because I’m wearing clothes that are right for my inner gender” — be that as it may, most of society disagrees with you and considers those garments as being intended for people who are biologically female.

    I am also equally guilty of using an inaccurate single word as a shortcut to avoid repeating the longer, more accurate description every time (such as just saying “feminine” instead of “traits that society has historically considered feminine”).

    So, yeah… I stand corrected 🙂

  16. Grok says:

    I am not in a position to say what is true of most cross dressers. I am aware that at least some do the full cross dresser thing with wigs and so on, but I know little beyond that. Other than there are a few who aren’t interested in doing the wigs, etc., but like to wear the clothes.

    After posting a bunch of links to the fashion freestyler site, I came across the term “Erasure” for bisexuals, where their existence as a distinct group is questioned not only by straight people, but also by gay people. It sounds like “Erasure” is being applied to The No Name Group.

  17. Grok says:

    I will refer you to

    I will quote: “…many people are essentially Bi-Gendered, and would be able to function in either a male or female role, as circumstances dictate. Relatively few are strongly gendered, but for those that are, its unchangeable….”

    I don’t understand the rest of the article, but I think what the author is saying is that some people are unusually flexible/versatile in these matters. Perhaps this permits some people to self identify as male, but chafe with the narrowness/rigidity of the imposed male sex role.

  18. Grok says:

    Online I came across the term “femmophile” (or spelled “femophile”?). “Fem” from feminine. “-phile” refers to liking something, or having an affinity for something. I believe this is in reference to classic cross dressers, but I think this term could be applied to males who simply like feminine things, without going through the whole female impersonation thing, with wigs, etc.

    I think this term could be appropriated for individuals who like to wear feminine things, but who don’t try to hide their male gender.

    A new designation for the no-name-group…Femophiles! 🙂

  19. Grok says:

    Really, I there must be several different groups. I just became aware of “cross dreamers.” Distinguished, I think , from classic cross dressers and transsexuals. But I believe there is a fourth group, what I think of femmophiles, who simply like feminine things . So, with perhaps four different groups, it would be easy to overgeneralize.

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