I got very annoyed when a sister trans woman accused me of being “just” a cross-dresser last summer. It bothered me on two levels. On one, no one cares for their sense of identity to be questioned in such a manner that it is clearly meant to be an insult. On the other, the nature of the insult was to imply that cross-dressers are somehow a lower class of citizen under the transgender umbrella than transsexuals. It’s one thing to say ‘fuck you’ to me, but you have to go and say ‘fuck you too’ to an entire group of people whom we have every reason to embrace as sisters? Since then I have heard similar statements expressed, labeling cross-dressers as “perverts”, “fetishists” and whatnot by trans women. That is some elitist royal bitchery right there.
I do understand there is some history there. A few decades ago when the Tri-Ess (Society for the Second Self) organizations sprang up, some of them were very exclusive to cross-dressers and transsexuals were not welcome. I’m not entirely clear why. It may have been a bias against what was perceived to be a ‘deviant’ lifestyle on our part. It may have been a secret identity issue. I will concede it may be difficult for people very conscientious about being found out to congregate with people comfortable having their identity splashed up on a billboard. If Wonder Woman went public, I don’t think the rest of the Justice League would be super psyched having her hang out at the Hall of Justice where they try to keep it all on the down low.
Those days, however, are pretty much over and on a monthly basis I attend Belles meetings with a mix of both. Yes, there are differences. We tend to go on about coming out, transition, and hormones, while the cross-dressers may focus more on getting out, clothes, and other experiences. The commonalities we share well outweigh any differences. There is a reason cisgender people have a hard time telling us apart. Many of us understand that pre self-realization, more than a few identified as cross-dressers and felt very comfortable labeling ourselves as part of that demographic.
To those who like to point out that for some (but not all), the cross-dressing has a sexual or fetishistic component to it. So what? Are we that prudish that mere idea that someone might be stimulated by wearing opposite gender clothing at all an issue worth discussing? How can one huff and puff indignantly because a transphobe has judged them for wearing a skirt, then turn around and judge someone else for the same thing, just because the drive behind the need is different.
Aside from the very human need to identify a group of people to put down and feel superior to for completely arbitrary reasons, I think many of the feelings stem from being reminded of the past. Almost all of us at one time said, “well, I guess I must be a cross-dresser” and went with it for a while. We aren’t so humiliated by the labeling, but that we were unable to face our true selves just yet and hid behind a façade in such close proximity to the truth. I’ll be the first to admit that yes, I do feel embarrassed about my CD days. I was dancing right up against the real me, obsessively photographing myself in dozens of fairly ridiculous outfits I wouldn’t be caught dead in at the grocery store. This is not the fault of cross-dressers and it would be horribly wrong to consider myself better because I moved on from that identity.
Cross-dressers and transsexuals are cousins in the same family. We have different mothers, but we are close enough for kidney donation The foundation of any feelings of primacy under the transgender umbrella are both meritless and mean in spirit. Besides, she may turn out to be more like you than you thought.