We Are Not Alone

Fortunately, unlike my teachers and classmates, my parents never forced gender roles or even a ended identity on me. I grew up on a farm, so all that mattered was working hard.

Rain Dove

It is true.

We are not alone.

I remember growing up in the 1970s and early 1980s, not having any concept of why I was so interested in wearing my mom’s and sister’s clothes whenever I had a chance to be alone. I’m still trying to figure out just how in the world I managed to be alone in the house at all. I guess the answer lies in the fact I grew up in a simpler time. The problem was, as well, I grew up in a simpler time… a time where racism and bigotry were not spoken under one’s breath, but aloud for all to hear… a time where there was no internet super highway at my fingertips. I grew up in a time where I truly felt I was the only kid who had a need to dress up in the more feminine clothing of my female family members.

I didn’t know anything about what it meant to be bi-gender or dual gender or gender fluid or understanding that there was such a thing as identifying as two genders. When I grew up, there were little boys who played with Tonka trucks and liked to rough-house and get dirty, and there were girls who wore dresses and liked to play with Barbie dolls and pretend to be teachers in class. The neighbor boy, across the street, swung his arms out when he walked and liked to dress in his mom’s heels when we were playing “school” on his front porch. My parents had made enough negative “gay” comments about his actions to let me understand that I had better keep my feminine dress-up to myself.

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By the early-1980s, I had finally discovered people like me on television and the big screen. Tom Hanks dressed up as a woman in 1980-82 in order to have a place to live. When that show went off the air, Dustin Hoffman dressed like a woman on the big-screen in the film, Tootsie. The film was critically well-received and was nominated for dozens of awards from the Academy and the Golden Globes (nominated for 15 awards, winning 3). I didn’t understand the power of reviews, accolades, or statues won. I did, however, understand that there were men out there donning feminine clothing and creating female personas—even if it was only for entertainment. I did not see Hanks or Hoffman as role-models or advocates for a dual-gender lifestyle. They only made me realize that there was something out there bigger than just men being men and women staying in the home.

Bigenderbi-gender or dual gender is a gender identity that includes any two gender identities and behaviors. Some bigender individuals express two distinct personas, which may be feminine, masculine, agender, androgyne, or other gender identities; others find that they identify as two genders simultaneously. A 1999 survey conducted by the San Francisco Department of Public Health observed that, among the transgender community, 3% of those who were assigned male at birth and 8% of those who were assigned female at birth identified as either “a transvestite, cross-dresser, drag   queen, or a bigendered person”. [1]

It took me my first 27 years of life to recognize and accept the label of crossdresser for myself. A year later, the persona of Savannah finally started to take shape. She was born in NYC and has been evolving continually ever since. She still continues to evolve—discovering better fashion, perfecting more makeup techniques, devouring more information from that world-wide-web that is now available. There have been ups and downs, moments of utter confidence and paralyzing fear, exciting victories and humbling defeats. They all serve to harden my skin–like impervious diamonds– to make me more empathetic and sympathetic to others in need of support or education. The following article from PBS.com illustrates just how big the world is—that while America is considered a First World power in resources and technical ingenuity, it also lags behind in an expansive understanding of gender identity. Other, more “primitive” cultures around the globe recognize more than two distinct gender types.

On nearly every continent, and for all of recorded history, thriving cultures have recognized, revered, and integrated more than two genders. Terms such as “transgender” and “gay” are strictly new constructs that assume three things: that there are only two sexes (male/female), as many as two sexualities (gay/straight), and only two genders (man/woman).

Yet hundreds of distinct societies around the globe have their own long-established traditions for third, fourth, fifth, or more genders. The subject of Two Spirits, Fred Martinez, for example, was not a boy who wanted to be a girl, but both a boy and a girl — an identity his Navajo culture recognized and revered as nádleehí. Meanwhile, Hina of Kumu Hina is part of a native Hawaiian culture that has traditionally revered and respected mahu, those who embody both male and female spirit.

Most Western societies have no direct correlation for this tradition, nor for the many other communities without strict either/or conceptions of sex, sexuality, and gender. Worldwide, the sheer variety of gender expression is almost limitless.

If only I had grown up in a world where this information was readily available. Would my life be different if I had grown up knowing that I was not the only crossdresser in my family, in my neighborhood, in my town… in the world? Would I be more confident and true to my gender identity instead of continuing to struggle with fear of societal unknowns and prejudices? I cannot escape to an alternate past that might have altered my present. All I can do is take the knowledge I have gathered to shape my present… and my future. And, maybe, I can be someone to relay the information I have gained in an effort to arm those youngers coming up in today’s world for their brighter futures.

Author: livingwithcrossdressing

I am many things. I am a life-long male-to-female crossdresser and author. I hope my journey is of value for those who may need help to foster, support, and understand who they feel themselves to be.

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