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Cross-Dressers: Equal Under the Rainbow

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.

About michellelianna

I'm a transgender woman now in the maintenance stages of transition having all the electrolysis and surgery one can reasonably be expected to undertake. While busy exploring my new world, I took to blogging about it with dubiously popular results. I don't have quite as much to say as I used to, but I'm not quite done yet either.

9 responses »

  1. I love the line about “close enough for kidney donation”… that’s a great way to put it. 🙂

  2. I have casually dated a guy who is still a good friend who like to cross dress. Sometimes it’s for sexual play but at other times he just does it to go out in public on festive occasions and challenge perceptions. I think that just like many other aspects of personality there are an infinite number of variations. The thing that we do have in common with cross dressers and other identity variant people is that we have decided to not let majority opinions define us.

    • Love your outlook Lyndabarry! I think “an infinite number of variations” is so, so true and it’s the common ground between us, as difficult as it can be to find sometimes, is what broadens understanding and breeds acceptance. Thanks so much for commenting!

  3. I self identified as a CD and thought myself part of the local community for a few years before realizing I was transsexual. And it was by exploring that community I was shown how wrong my CD self identity was. We simply had no common ground at all to talk about. They were much more interested in underwear styles and hiding from their spouse where I wanted to talk about female empowering books and picking out my first jewelry box. The small things I found so intoxicating were not reciprocated by the sexual type talk that ended up in my inbox. It was this variance in communication that started me to research why I wasn’t fitting into the CD title at all. When I tried to start a CD support group for talking and sharing it was met with crickets. Because I stated plainly it was not for sexual purposes. I was married for peat sakes!! And when I found out about hormones, surgeries and what transsexuality was, my whole life clicked and I’ve never given the CD world a second glance.

    And now I do know that not all CDs are sexually charged, yet I have never met one in my personal travels that wasn’t. And then add in my recent years with no readable Testosterone level nor sex drive, the separation in common ground has grown even farther with those I have met.

    Rationally, I think a lot of this is due to the tiny size of the community here. And that CDing part time in public is near impossible to hide and that must be a deterrent. The non sexual type CDs I figure must be here too but feeling that same rejection to the “out” CD population as I did. From my experience, and with the invent of easy internet shopping, why would they want to come out here anyway? Of course where you live has a lot to do with the type of community you will meet. I think in a larger area, being an out non fetishistic crossdresser would be easier to express and there would be a separate community in which they would feel best served.

    And before I get the daggers here. I mean no offense to the CDs who are fetishistic or otherwise. I respect them as needing human rights inclusion like all trans persons do. I am merely stating I see very little caparison in their narrative and my own experience with them. I see the same with drag queens, gay men and professional Football players too!

    • Hi Josie, like I said to Tedie, been there as well! While the awkwardness of learning we are not there for the same things can be horribly uncomfortable, in my case, and I think maybe yours, it help crystallize our self understanding. I thought I was a CD as well until I met enough, felt like a freak for not wanting the same things, and eventually managed to work out who I truly am. I think you are right about the size of the area. There well may be more sexual fetish based CDs than other kinds, but I have friends among the CDs who just enjoy getting out and enjoying their feminine side once in a while. True, many have a different agenda than I do in terms of focus, but there is common ground as well. If only I could dress half as well as some of them!

    • Sex is something I have never been interested ever! I see myself as asexual I have never had sexual attracitions and I know thats hard for anyone to understand. I just wanted to be loved, not alone and I wanted kids thats it, It caused alot of problems in my marriage in the first few years but we thank god are still together 32 years latter. I don’t want be be negitive just don’t damage my car and and just be nice and everone will know I can be the best friend you could ever trust!

  4. I would never want to offend anyone but my experience with cross dressers have not been that good. I hope this doesn’t upset anyone but my experience is that I find most fo them have came off as complicated and full of petty jealousy. I thought I had made friends with some early in my transition than found I was wrong.There is nothing worse than a cross dresser who thinks they can give you good advice on transitioning,(not been there not done that) so really can’t. I hope I haven’t offended anyone but I’m sure I did, I just wanted to be honest. Not that I had too, I do feel they are not so different just have a different set of basic needs. Just my opinion. I love reading the things you write

    • Hi Tedie, I do understand having bad experiences there. I had my own share of misunderstandings when I was younger in that area. I wanted to get together to created a kind a girl-space for conversation and support only to find out that they had something else in mind. Since then though, I joined the Buffalo Belles, a group comprised of both, and had a very different supportive experience.All in all, I came to conclusion that it takes the right environment and the right individuals to make a good common ground. Always love hearing your thought!


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