Things gained through unjust fraud are never secure.
Crossdressing… seen as something that should be left outside the transgender umbrella… seen as simply fetish or cosplay… seen as a hobby. Crossdressers have been considered as exclusions to the trans world because there isn’t male-to-female transitioning, no extreme gender dysphoria, no feminine permanence.
This all came about from a Reddit thread I recently came across during other research. The post talked about whether cis-male crossdressers should be included under the transgender umbrella[i]. The post’s mostly negative comments allude to the belief that if there is no dysphoria, there can be no attachment to the consideration of being transgender. According to the comments, there is no biological or neurological connection to the clothing we wear (regardless of the gender that the clothing was originally designed and manufactured for). The comments went on to say that gender norms are a man-made construct, while gender is real, defining crossdressers and drag queens as simply hobbyists of their dressing—that crossdressing is not a lifestyle.
In my opinion, the only comment having merit was that “gender norms are a construct, while gender is real”.
“The American Psychological Association (APA) defines sex as “a person’s biological status… typically categorized as male, female, or intersex (i.e., atypical combinations of features that usually distinguish male from female.” It defines gender as “the attitudes, feelings, and behaviors that a given culture associates with a person’s biological sex.”[ii]”
While I cannot fully understand the journey of a transsexual man or woman, or appreciate the severity of their fight against their personal gender dysphoria, I can attest to my own struggles with dysphoria. I believe every person suffers from dysphoria to some degree, a result of gender norms and pinnacles of social acceptance. General body dysphoria, most admittedly, pales in comparison to a person trapped in the flesh of a biology they do not associate with.
I spoke to two of my new friends, last night, at an LGBTQ+ support group. They are both transitioning to womanhood. We happened to discuss gender dysphoria and pronouns. One discussed how she was told “don’t be such a girl about it…”, leading to her belief that to be feminine was to be inferior. She told me that the onset of puberty was devastating to her psyche, leading to morbid thoughts of genital self-mutilation on hospital property so that the emergency room doctors would have to save her, re-construct her, and let her recover and heal with something less phallic. I can only sympathize with her plight as I have never suffered with such extreme thoughts.
She mentioned that she role-played a couple scenarios in her head in order to firm up her self-understanding. The first was, “If I was on an island with all the resources to transition and none of the stigma, would I do it?” The answer was, “YES!”. The second self-assessment question was, “If I could magically become a woman with a potion, would I?”. Again, the answer was a quick, “YES!” I agree with her on the second scenario. If I woke up tomorrow as a full-fledged woman, would I be okay with that? My answer would be, “Yes”. If I saw a feminine face and body in the mirror, I would be okay with what the universe had dealt me. My caveat, though, would be that I would prefer to be a shape-shifter, enjoying the benefits of a successful identity and expression in each gender form.
I am not dysphoric to the point of wanting to physically rid myself of parts of me. Although, in honesty, I have had several treatments for permanent hair removal on my back (and, used a device at home on my legs), and spent three years in the gym on a steep incline of a treadmill to beef up my posterior, thighs, and calves. Those were things I have done to help in my feminine presentation. But, as a man, I have no problem with a few days of facial scruff.
Even, last night… I was reading posts on a private Facebook group dedicated to makeup examples and applications for women in the trans community. A self-professed crossdresser “new” to the group added a post asking about makeup tips. The hundreds of comments under the post were less about helping the individual and more about gate-keeping against “men in dresses” and “men pretending to be women”. The simple inclusion of the word crossdresser in the post itself spiraled the conversation into why this individual should find another group and shouldn’t try to lump themselves in with transgender individuals. There were, luckily, some comments that defended the rights of the crossdresser as part of the group. Also, the next day, the group administrator re-established that this “trans” makeup group was inclusive to all.
I look at Savannah and all of her social media content. I look at copies of the books I have written and the words attempting to humanize and demystify what it means to be a crossdressing man. I understand some men who dress in feminine clothing do it specifically as a sexual fetish. I know some who attempt to brave the world and to be seen in the public eye without the tools, practice and experience to best “pass” as women. But, I also know men who dress as a coping and calming mechanism. I know men who have a strongly-developed feminine persona and presentation. I know crossdressers who just want to express their feminine nature when the timing is right for them. And… I know some crossdressers whose dressing was a milestone in their journey to permanent feminine transition.
While I cannot speak for anyone else’s internal strife, personal journey, closeted trauma, or goals, I can speak up for myself. I knew from the onset of accepting the label of transvestite and crossdresser that I was slipping into the heels of something steeped in stigma and heavily chained down with misunderstanding. At that time, in the 90s, I did not know about the similarities and differences to drag queens, transsexuals, agender folx, trans-masculine and –feminine individuals, and other colorful and varied individuals of the trans community. Since then, I have spoken with, written to, and strived to best understand people like and not-like myself. The best way to have a firm grasp of one’s identity is to expose one’s self to people similar and dissimilar to them. The trans community is a series of long, curvy parallel and intersecting spectrum lines, a vast clear night sky of brilliant stars and planets in their own orbits that make up a single tapestry of beauty and wonder.
I am a biological man who lives mostly a man’s life. I have a feminine gender identity that requires an outlet from time to time. I am an author of both apocalyptic zombie fiction and LGBTQ crossdresser self-improvement. I consider myself to be dual gender, bi-gender, gender fluid, gender queer. You can go ahead and pick the label that best describes you.
I can only emphasize the trials and tribulations of others in the trans community insofar as it mirrors my own experiences. I did not ask to be a crossdresser. I did not ask to live a more complicated, and misunderstood life. I did not ask to be afflicted with something that has, throughout my life, caused me to retreat into a self-made prison-like closet, ruined relationships, destroyed my self-worth and self-confidence. I did not ask to be a crossdressing, dual-gender person. But, I have come to embrace who I am. I may be a male of the species, but I am something more.
I can sympathize and rationalize with what people tell me of their personal journeys. We are contemplative human beings, with the capacity for understanding that which is beyond ourselves. We all have experiences that have shaped our own perspectives and biases. I only ask that you stop for a moment, take a deep breath, and be an active listener for the stories and experiences that have shaped those lives that are different than our own.
Check out the Psychologytoday.com article, Time to Move Beyond “Gender Is Socially Constructed”, for an interesting alternative view on the concept of gender constructs.