Ask Professor Foxy: Things Change

My question is this: I have found it really hard lately to have sex with my boyfriend (5 year relationship). A little over a year ago he told me that he’s a cross-dresser and while he doesn’t want a sex change, he does think of himself as significantly female. We lived separately due to my work for about 6 months, and it was fine when we visited each other (about twice a month), probably because there was no sign of it, but we’ve been living back together again for another six months. He still looks mostly the same as ever (except for shaving legs and chest), and he’s keeping a cap on the behavior, but I think I see him differently. For the last four months, I think we’ve had sex three times. It’s weird, he doesn’t dress much, but it’s in my mind a lot. What’s weirder is, it’s not penetrative sex that’s the problem or cuddles, I just don’t like kissing him anymore, or him doing anything downstairs. I kindof just want him to get on with it. I’ve also been pretty down, probably due to stressing about his “hobby”.
Blah, this isn’t much of a question. I guess I’m wondering if the zero sex drive on my part is because of his CD, or because I’m depressed. It’s not like I’m lusting after anyone else, I’m just not interested in sex and particularly not in kissing.
Is there a way to get around this? I tried to make myself do it a lot because I read somewhere about fake it til you make it, but I just felt sad.
Sorry, this isn’t much of a question -

Hi Q -
I’ve been staring at your question for a few days now and what keeps hitting me over and over is how difficult a situation it is. First, I want to clean up a couple of misconceptions. Most cross dressers are heterosexual men. While for some people, this is a step for transitioning genders (male to female in this case), the majority of cross dressers are not interested in transitioning. Rather, they are turned on or comforted by wearing women’s clothing. I think you get this at least intellectually.
You are writing in to a feminist sex column, so I am going to make the assumption that you want to be accepting of his CD.
Here is the heart of it – things have changed. You acted and built on certain assumptions for the past four years and now, after four years of intimacy and relationship, you are discovering a new aspect of him. Are you pissed that it took him four years to tell you? It’s ok to be. You can understand how it took him time to be accepting of himself and to work up the courage to tell you, yet you can still be pissed. You give him deserved credit for “keeping a cap on his behavior” while you are trying to work through this, but at the same time his shaved arms and chest are actually a pretty constant and consistent reminder.
Gender matters in relationships. I don’t mean gender as in sex. I mean gender as the percentage we want our partners to be masculine and feminine. You found someone whose percentage worked for you – both sexually and in a relationship – now that percentage has changed. What does this mean for your own percentage?
I think fake til you make it works in certain situations, almost all of which are nonsexual. You need to stop faking and start being honest with yourself about how you feel. Do you have friends you can talk to about this? An online support group for women dealing with the same issue? You need a place to vent without worrying about hurting anyone’s feelings; you need to talk this out for yourself before you can work it out with him. You are having sex, but I don’t think you are having intimacy. You are trying and it is commendable. I just want you to put yourself first right now.
You may have depression, you may just be sad. I think finding a therapist for at least a couple visits would help. Check out the American Associations for Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists for a therapist who is less likely to be judgmental of the CD and more able to focus on the actual issues.
At the end of the day, this relationship may work and it may not. We want to be GGG (Good, Giving and Game – to borrow from Mr. Savage), but there are some things we just can’t be ok with. And this may be yours. But you need to give yourself time and space to really flush out what you are feeling. And then you need to talk to him about it. What compromises can be reached? Maybe he can have other partners who he dresses up for? Maybe you can have other partners who are not into CCD? Maybe he does it ever third Thursday? While being caring for him, you also need to be caring for you.

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  1. MissKittyFantastico
    Posted March 7, 2009 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    My question was more, are most men who cross-dress aiming to be trans? That seems to contradict the oft-repeated line that most cross-dressers are heterosexual men.

  2. MissKittyFantastico
    Posted March 7, 2009 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    Can you clarify what kind of cases you’re talking about?
    What I meant is (in American culture), its really taboo for a man to wear a dress or a skirt. But a woman can wear pants and a tshirt or collared shirt with no issue. True women’s clothes are usually more fitted, but I can easily wear loose jeans and a loose shirt and I might not look like the height of fashion but no one would really consider it that big a deal. It doesn’t approach the level of reaction you’d get if a man wore a dress.

  3. Sabriel
    Posted March 7, 2009 at 8:43 pm | Permalink
  4. Sabriel
    Posted March 7, 2009 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

    @ MissKittyFantastico
    You’re right, I agree with your interpretation of GGG. It is perfect if you can interpret it to fit the context of your relationship. The “Game” part is helpful, as long as you don’t go too far with it. Sometimes people have specific things that they need in order to be sexually satisfied, and a Game person is willing to at least try something new if it means a lot to his/her/hir partner. However, I just think that it needs to be applied on a case by case basis, depending on why somebody might have reservations about the action in question. So yeah, I think GGG is great as long as it is applied sensitively within a relationship. You’re also right that Dan himself doesn’t treat GGG as if it is the be-all-end all. He often does tell people that they don’t have to do things that are triggering or traumatic or highly unpleasant.
    And yeah, I agree with Agnes Scottie that GGG is fine if both people are GGG, because a Good and Giving partner will never ever ask you to do anything that you have a strong aversion to. Basically I agree with everything everybody here said.
    I just worry about what happens when GGG gets applied badly. When people take it to mean they are a bad sex partner if they don’t do things they hate doing, or when one person is trying to be GGG but the other person is an asshole.
    That is why I wouldn’t call GGG the ideal. I think there needs to be something that indicates self-awareness and boundaries. The ideal sex partner is aware of their own needs and is able to communicate when to stop and when something is inappropriate, and draws lines when they need to be drawn. There is no element of self-protection in GGG, and I think that’s a bad thing. I honestly think that my ideal sex partner would be a little selfish because that would mean they are looking out for themselves and their own needs as well as mine, and that is a good thing. Selfishness is a good thing.
    I’m not dissing GGG, I’m just saying that as a goal or ideal for human sexual behavior, it is flawed. It’s useful, but not perfect, and we need to be careful about how we apply it.

  5. Posted March 7, 2009 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    Unfortunately I don’t quite get your question as asked.* But I’ll see if I can answer what I think you may be asking.
    The vast majority of men who crossdress are attacted to women, so you could call them heterosexual and they usually see themselves that way. Although “heterosexual” and “homosexual” can get confusing when it comes to trans people, since the gender points of reference can shift. So it’s often clearer to talk in terms of “attracted to women,” “attracted to men,” etc. My experience has been that male crossdressers who are attracted to men are present in about the same percentage as gay men are to the overall population — though many of them end up going the drag queen route because it’s a society acceptable outlet.
    In my experience, most crossdressers usually do seem themselves as fundamentally male — and unlike transsexuals they generally aren’t at odds with their bodies. For example, I’d love to have a female body part of the the time. But crossdressers usually do see themselves as having a “feminine” side to themselves, one that’s an integral part of them. (Transitioning transsexuals often feel that their masculine persona was a facade.) “Bigendered,” akin to “bisexual” is a good way to think of it — although in my case it’s more “multi-gendered”: man, woman and drag queen, which is a gender unto itself. So when we’re en femme, as it’s often referred to, we do see ourselves as women and desire that others treat us as such.
    There’s a whole discussion we could have about to what extent crossdressers have a real understanding about what women’s lives are really like given how little real-world experience most of us have as living as women. But my point is that we usually see ourselves as having an aspect of ourselves that society deems “womanly” and an overwhelming need to express that — and not as a feminine man, but as someone society sees as “a woman.” So we alternate between genders, fully inhabiting the particular gender we’re presenting as at the time. Unlike transsexuals, who generally feel they’ve got a single gender self-identity — one that’s at odds with their physical body and the gender they were assigned to at birth.
    There are also people on the trans spectrum who feel who feel their gender doesn’t fit the gender binary, those who they’ve got no gender whatsoever, etc. Most of these people usually self-identity using other terms, such as “gender queer.” FWIW, my experience is that these folks are usually female-bodied, and consequently their ambiguity leans upward in social status (as opposed to male-bodied people, for whom gender ambiguity usually means a loss in status and privilege).
    Both crossdressers and transsexuals usually desire to be seen as and treated as their target gender not as trans women or trans men, and often find being treated as the latter to be very hurtful. As opposed to gender queers, etc. who revel in their gender ambiguity.
    Sorry to be long-winded yet again, but it’s an issue with lot of nuances. Hope that helps.
    * “Trans” and “trangender” are umbrella terms intended to cover a variety of people on the transgender spectrum, although lately some transsexuals have adopted “transgender” as a more “genteel” way of saying “transsexual. Don’t worry, the terminology can be a bit confusing — even to us…

  6. EthicallySexy
    Posted March 7, 2009 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    The case of Brandon Teena might be a good example of of discrimination and violence against a woman dressing in men’s clothing. (Boys Don’t Cry)
    There have been many cases of violence toward women that dress in a masculine fashion, including beatings, rape and murder even if the woman’s sexual orientation was unknown.
    I’ve personally been harassed for dressing too “manly” for a woman. I am bisexual, but I have been primarily with male partners. I’ve been called a “dyke” before and given negative attention for being in masculine attire. It does happen, sadly.
    I wish people could be more accepting of different gender expressions.

  7. eastsidekate
    Posted March 7, 2009 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    I’m not Catons’s ex, lol, but I was in a similar situation from the other side. I originally came out to my partner as a cross-dresser. In my case, that phase lasted about 2 months– then I started down the path of gender transition. For me, I identified as a cross-dresser because I didn’t know what else to do, and was afraid of being trans. On the other hand, that’s just me… there are tons and tons of cross-dressers who are nothing like me.
    Anyhow, I second pretty much everything in Professor Foxy’s letter. It’s important for everyone to be honest with themselves, and it’s important for people in a relationship to be honest with each other. Everyone deserves the right to be happy in a relationship.
    A footnote… it’s years later, and my partner and I are still together, and are happier than ever (and now have a family). Part of this comes from the fact that I’m now true to myself and am I much more fully formed person. It also wouldn’t have worked if my partner wasn’t quite happy being in a lesbian relationship (e.g., in our case, she hadn’t completely found herself yet, either).
    So yeah… it’s all super touchy ground. I can imagine couples breaking up due to cross-dressing, and I can imagine couples staying together through gender transition. Cross-dressing also doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with transsexuality. Anyhow, best wishes to all involved… it’s a crappy situation. I wish all the taboos would go away, along with closets— everyone would be a lot happier.

  8. eastsidekate
    Posted March 7, 2009 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    Also, as an addendum to Q, I disagree with Caton’s suggestion that you read books on crossdressers. I’ve found that most books about trans people are written by idiots. FWIW, I also don’t trust TRI-ESS or other advocacy/interest groups. There are also lots of trans people that are willing to tell you how things work, but IMO this usually involves mercilessly defending one’s own trajectory and perspective, and insisting that it’s “the way things are.”
    Ultimately, Q owes it to herself to figure out what she’ll tolerate in the relationship (and tolerate is a really depressing word– Q should be happy, damnit), and her SO owes it to himself and Q to be honest about his cross-dressing. Trans people are so diverse, books aren’t useful on this count. Anyhow, I understand how it can take 5 years for the secret to come out, but now that it’s out, the time for honesty is here.

  9. lezbianthezbian
    Posted March 7, 2009 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

    But with Brandon, it was his living as and telling people he was a man. Not because he was a woman wearing men’s clothing. Still a valid point, I just think that’s an important distinction to make between the clothing being the tipping point or his transgender identity.
    I also dress in men’s clothing and am often accused of being a dyke in public. I usually reply with something along the lines of “yes, and…?” and people leave it at that. Any violence or serious harassment has been for homosexuality as opposed to dress.

  10. insomniac
    Posted March 8, 2009 at 12:46 am | Permalink

    They are the same thing. But the term preferred by the transgendered community and academics is transgendered because ti brings focus to the aspect of importance, that is, ‘gender’. ‘Sex’ usually refers to biological sex which is changed via operation as a consequence of gender.

  11. MissKittyFantastico
    Posted March 8, 2009 at 3:34 am | Permalink

    Well, what I meant was, people usually say “most crossdressers are heterosexual men.” I think it even says that in this post. To me that means they are men who want to stay men, who are attracted to women. If you’re saying that they actually want to transition to being women, then that sentence completely loses the meaning that I always thought it was supposed to have, which was “don’t worry, just becuase your boyfriend likes to cross dress doesn’t mean he isn’t still a straight guy.”

  12. mobius
    Posted March 8, 2009 at 3:57 am | Permalink

    I tend to think that people either are or aren’t attracted to certain traits on a sexual level. Some people certainly have more fluidity than others, some don’t. We can all be honestly accepting and encouraging of varying levels of gender identification and roles, that doesn’t mean we are going to be attracted to everything.
    I’m bisexual and am attracted to a pretty wide spectrum of females (as long as they are not scrawny like me ;) but the men that I find sexually attractive tend to be more stereotypically masculine. Metrosexuals are very pretty, but I’ve no desire to have sex with them.
    If that makes any sense at all?
    I think that Q should cut herself some slack, put herself and her needs first for a bit and sort out how she feels about this shift in the relationship. There’s nothing wrong with staying or going. Obviously she entered into the relationship attracted to the persona that was presented to her over a long while…she was initially attracted to that. Things change.

  13. omphaloskeptic
    Posted March 8, 2009 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    Q, Just wanted to say that I don’t think your question was weird at all. It takes a lot of courage and strength to tell your story so openly and honestly, and to look for support and ask questions. So I just wanted to thank you for opening your story up to this community, as you opened up conversations that are so important and likely helped others in similar situations, even just by helping to lessen the stigma around talking about issues like these. On top of that, depression can be so isolating, and it’s so important to reach out to others and know that you’re not alone. Just know that there are likely many in this community who understand that your situation is not easy and who are pulling for you and wishing the best for you. (I’m one of them!)

  14. tinuviel
    Posted March 8, 2009 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Hi!, You’ve opened a discussion, whether by choice, or chance, that seems to be centered on crossdressing.
    I am “his” second self, and I have already read many of the common perceptions of a cross dresser here. All, basically true, but not applicable to all across the board. “turned on or comforted by wearing women’s clothing”, Professor, is more correctly descriptive of transvestic fetishism.It exists, but is not truly an across the board case. We exist in all “forms”, and express in different manners.
    I am seven years “out”, I am a past president of a Tri-Ess chapter, I am 16 years divorced, because of who I am.
    Who am I? I am genetically male, physically male, and I have a strong feminine gender identity…..strong enough that I need to be perceived to be a woman, at least part of the time.
    I lived 58 years “in the silent treatment” (yes, she was never seen, heard, touched, loved) until the pain of it,……….I put the gun down,nine years after the divorce, and found the courage to accept who I was, and live “our lives”.
    I chose to respond here so that any one who has questions can ask, and I will answer. I still have “demons”, but I no longer fear confronting, and owning them. I cannot answer for all, but I can answer as the question applies to me. I intend to be as honest as I can possibly be, to be otherwise would make this offer pointless.
    If I can, by honest answer, help you understand who a crossdresser is, then, what discomfort it may cause me will be worth the effort.

  15. Posted March 8, 2009 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    The rub is that while the vast majority of crossdressers are hetero men who want to remain men, many late-life transitioners (i.e. MTFs who transition in their 30s/40s or later) are typically in denial for years, and consequently see themselves as “just crossdressers” during this time.
    There’s no study that I’m aware of how many crossdressers end up transitioning, but anecdotally I’d guess it’s probably around 10% of people — at least among those who are brave enough to join online forums and mailing lists (there’s probably still people people who are so deeply closeted that even that’s too scary do to). Needless to say that’s a high enough figure to freak out many SOs, who’d prefer that the walls between CD and TS be high and impregnable. (Which is one reason for years Tri-Ess publicly claimed that “crossdressers don’t transition.”)
    The denial by late-life transitioners can be akin to the sort of denial and repression experienced by gays and lesbians who come out late in life — I saw one figure that 1 in 8 lesbians comes out after 40 — and probably has some similar dynamics. I.e. It takes that long for you to realize IT is not going away, combined with more general “taking a look at your life” introspection that goes on at that age.
    Regardless of the numbers, it’s a common fear among SOs that eventually their crossdresser will decide to transition — and unfortunately there’s just no way for us to prove that that won’t happen (until least until we drop dead).
    FWIW, during these years it’s pretty common for both late-life transitions and “ordinary” and crossdressers to go through “purges” where they throw out all their clothes, wigs, make-up, etc. and vow never to do it again. Unfortunately, it usually ends up being like the Depeche Mode line: “never again is what you swore the time before.” Thankfully I never it myself, but I’m one of the rare crossdressers who never felt a lot of guilt and shame about it — it was something I sure as hell wasn’t going to tell anyone about it because I know it was something society thought was weird, but for whatever reasons I was self-accepting of it.
    One of the things that can scary for SOs it that it’s also pretty common for crossdressers in their late 30s/early 40s to feel an increased need “to dress” around that age and/or venture out of the house. Which was true of me. It literally took decades to work up the courage to go out in public. The first time I was into my backyard at midnight on a moonless night and I was literally shaking with both exhilaration and terror that PEOPLE WOULD KNOW. Part of the reason I think I ended up also doing drag, was it was a way of confronting those fears head on by deliberating making myself the center of attention. Crossdressers usually desire to pass unnoticed in the crowd and being “read” is usually pretty upsetting to most — we’ve got our own appearance anxieties, particularly since we know we’re further from the “ideal” than someone who’s born female. Statistically speaking, I’m much taller, much more broad shouldered and barrel chested than the average woman, and I’ve got huge hands and feet (size 12Ws). So I felt freakish, and it was only coming to the realization that yes, there are women my size — maybe not a lot but they are out there — that I felt less freakish. But I digress yet again…
    Anyway my point was that when crossdressers do so an greater interest in “dressing” and going out of the house — aside from the issues inherent in that — it can also trigger fears among SOs that they won’t want to stop at that and end up transitioning. So, as helen boyd aptly put it, it’s the constant sound of the other shoe not dropping.

  16. Caton
    Posted March 8, 2009 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    “That said, yes, as they age most CDs do become more comfortable with the side of themselves that society deems “feminine,” and for many this does mean having a feminine persona, including mannerisms, and a fem name.
    However, none of that inherently means they’ll end up presenting as a woman more than they present as a man. I’ve met hundreds, if not thousands, of CDs in person and online and very few do so.”
    Sorry, I don’t see how these two statements are not contraditory.
    Also, it doesn’t matter how many you’ve met, I’m talking about what they do at home.

  17. Caton
    Posted March 8, 2009 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    “Also, as an addendum to Q, I disagree with Caton’s suggestion that you read books on crossdressers. I’ve found that most books about trans people are written by idiots.”
    I don’t know what books you’ve read, and I cant’ remember the two I read, but I had to order them from the publisher and they were academic books.
    If they were written by idiots then they just happened to be idiots who correctly predicted the exact progression of my partner’s cross-dressing.
    I left him, but I wasted nearly ten years. I just want to be certain that we understand, especially in a place that uses quotes around words like “normal” and gendernormal”, that it’s OKAY to be heterosexual too. YOu don’t have to apologize to no one for not wanting to fuck a woman, or, for being sexually disgusted at a man who takes on a female persona. You don’t have to fuck him. You don’t have to be tolerant. You can leave. Get out. It’s okay to want to fuck a man.

  18. Caton
    Posted March 8, 2009 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    “I tend to shut people out now and not really date”
    You were damaged by this relationship.
    Let’s all of us tolerant people grasp that.

  19. Caton
    Posted March 8, 2009 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    “Clearly in an ideal world this would be something which we wouldn’t find so strange, but the way we are socialised now means that something like this will always pose a great challenge to a relationship.”
    I’m sorry, but I think you’re wrong here. What you are saying is that being heterosexual is a result of being socialised.
    People who say that about homosexuals are rightfully ostracized as bigots. I feel that some people believe that being tolerant, means being disapproving of heterosexuality. That’s bullshit!

  20. Caton
    Posted March 8, 2009 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    You’re not weird and neither is your question.
    It sounds to me as if you feel guilty because you think that in order to be a tolerant person who believes that people have every right to be whatever they want to be sexually that you will be intolerant if you don’t want to have sex with them.
    That’s wrong. Please don’t hurt yourself. I have gay friends, I’m very comfortable around gay people. It’s okay that I don’t want to have sex with them. It’s okay that you are heterosexual and are turned off by a man dressed as a woman. It does’t mean he doesn’t have any right to dress that way. It only means you shouldn’t be with him.

  21. MissKittyFantastico
    Posted March 8, 2009 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    My thought after reading these comments is that we should try, as a society, to be more accepting of people who cross dress or are trans or whatever, partly so that they are not so repressed that they end up in relationships for years with people who don’t like that. I think at a certain point in history it was more common for older, married people to suddenly come out as gay, which is really hurtful to their families not becuase they are gay but becuase it then seems they’ve been faking this whole time. I’d rather have someone be comfortable being gay or trans or what have you their whole life, than lie about it for years and end up hurting the people who have fallen for them while they lied.

  22. asferdinand
    Posted March 8, 2009 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    Caton, what exactly is your issue? No-one here is saying that it’s not okay to be hetero. We get it, you’re straight, congratulations and relax.
    We have on this thread cross-dressers and people (other than yourself) who have been partnered with cross-dressers sharing their experiences, and yet you seem determined to dismiss anyone’s experience that doesn’t match with your own. I don’t see anyone here (other than yourself) telling Q what to do in her relationship. I also don’t see anyone telling her that she absolutely must stay and be happy about her partners’ cross-dressing, lest she be deemed a horrible, intolerant person. Maybe her partner’s cross-dressing does mean that he’s not suited to her. Maybe not. I don’t know and neither do you. But it seems to me that directing Q on what her course should be, based solely on your experience, is neither helpful nor particularly compassionate.

  23. ephraim
    Posted March 8, 2009 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, women can wear men’s clothes on the street, casually, and not face the kind of harassment that a mtf crossdresser/transvestite would, but try showing up to a job interview in a man’s suit and tie, and the repercussions are gonna be equally extreme – i.e. no job.

  24. Ariel
    Posted March 8, 2009 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    Wow. Did you just want to yell at someone? That’s not what the post said at all. It was a plea for Q not to beat herself up over this. Not an attack on anyone or anything. The only one attacking is you. Take a chill pill

  25. Posted March 9, 2009 at 12:57 am | Permalink

    It’s true that lately some transsexuals have used transgender as a more genteel synonym, and that press accounts have done so as well due to an unfortunately ambiguous entry for “transgender” in the AP Stylebook.
    But “transgender” has traditionally been an umbrella term intended to encompass a variety of people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. Using it as an equivalent for “transsexual” disappears people like me (a crossdresser), people who have precious little visibility to begin with.
    Yeah, it’s a bit of a sore point with me…

  26. d2kd3k
    Posted March 9, 2009 at 3:36 am | Permalink

    > I just don’t want to touch him – it’s this girl I don’t know.
    That seems like a really important insight.
    You started a relationship with a great guy. Now there’s this other person, female, in the relationship. You didn’t invite her and you don’t know her. It’s pretty obvious how the situation could be stressful.
    Do you think that scheduling some non-sexual, low-key, get-to-know-her time could be a helpful thing?
    I’m wondering if you could create a safe space for you two to get (re)aquainted, if that might take some of the pressure and stress out of the situation for you.
    The suggestion might be premature, and it might not be appropriate at all. I’m just putting it out there for your consideration.

  27. d2kd3k
    Posted March 9, 2009 at 3:39 am | Permalink

    > I just don’t want to touch him – it’s this girl I don’t know.
    That seems like a really important insight.
    You started a relationship with a great guy. Now there’s this other person, female, in the relationship. You didn’t invite her and you don’t know her. It’s pretty obvious how the situation could be stressful.
    Do you think that scheduling some non-sexual, low-key, get-to-know-her time could be a helpful thing?
    I’m wondering if you could create a safe space for you two to get (re)aquainted, if that might take some of the pressure and stress out of the situation for you.
    The suggestion might be premature, and it might not be appropriate at all. I’m just putting it out there for your consideration.
    And I truly hope that both of you find a safe, healthy, happy way to negotiate this–whatever that turns out to be.

  28. Joanna
    Posted March 9, 2009 at 4:55 am | Permalink

    From my own experience as a CD it increased mt sexual needs or desires ! I have been a CD since my mother dressed me in girls clothing Whom I now know
    had really wanted a baby girl She was a man hater dominant woman who spent a great proportion of my fathers earnings on her clothing-Dresses lingerie hats jewelry and shoes etc As a boy I had only one change of clothing. She however bout her “little girl” several dresses etc. When I left school I became a true CD buying my first feminine things for my self Now aged 68 I am still a CD My wife found out of course. A few months later she began to understand my addiction or was it a fetish ? That seemed to increase our sexual activities especially when I started wearing a nightdress As far as I know by experience in meeting other CD’s at a CD club with my wife. The majority were Heterosexual maybe 75% or more Only a few were gay A few seemed to be bisexual These always approached us Hetro”s for sex without success These also openly revealed they were living with a male partner Now at my age I still dress up go out in public enfemme But because of the medication I take for other medical problems my sexual desires have all but gone However I hate men. All of my friends are women who know what and whom I am I get along with women far better. Especialy those who are Lesbians My wife is now almost relieved that I am not having affairs with other women Of course my story is much more complex.But it eveolved and started in my childhood years.
    Life is complex and not easy for either a CD or a TS

  29. insomniac
    Posted March 9, 2009 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    Hi there,
    I’m sorry if I was too dismissive, but I have a genuine doubt now. I always felt that transgender was used exclusively with people who felt that they were born with the wrong biological sex organs. That is, people who were born with the body of a male and the identity of a female and vice versa. Hence the use of the terms ‘trans’ and ‘gender’. I thought this term was better than transexual because there are many transgendered people who do not opt for the operation, which is more of the focus with the term ‘transexual’ (imho at least).
    So when you say ‘crossdresser’, where exactly does gender come into play, is what I am curious about. People who like to dress in clothes of the opposite gender were called transvestites (which is not an acceptable term now, I think?) and the inclination is referred to as transvestitic fetishism. But this seems to include only the paraphernalia and not the mindset. My question is, to what extent does gender identity play a role in crossdressing.
    I hope I am able to convey my idea. I seem to be using a lot of words and am worried if I am using the right ones…

  30. Caton
    Posted March 9, 2009 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    What is wrong with me? Are you serious?
    The woman is crying during sex and thinking of hurting herself.
    Mostly what everyone here is doing is using this as a platform to show how much they know about cross dressing and how tolerant they are. There are a couple of throw away lines like “of course,everyone’s differnt, this might not be for you.”
    We can now safely conclude there are no maybes about it, this is not for her. If this were a non crossing hetero male we were talking about, this community would be up in arms! A woman forcing herself to have sex with a man during which she cries and has thought about hurting herself! This place would be up in arms.
    But it’s a cross dresser. So we ignore the huge red flags (crying during sex thinking about hurting herself) and instead, get out the soapboxes.
    I’m tolerant too. I’m tolerant of women staying alive, and not being so disgusted with themselves and messed up during bad sexual experiences, that they can’t go on to something better, or worse, hurt themselves.
    I’m tolerant of healthy, happy, women.

  31. Anacas
    Posted March 9, 2009 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    It’s just not as simple as you’re making it out to be. I’m sorry you had a bad experience with a similar situation, but your experience isn’t universal.
    She’s crying during sex and thinking about hurting herself, and it’s not okay. I’m sure things feel awful for her right now, and something is obviously seriously problematic. But those reactions don’t mean the relationship is dead, or that Q certainly dooms her mental health and happiness if she stays with her boyfriend. I experienced similar feelings of hopelessness, fear, dread, and lack of sexual attraction when I was in a similar situation (not identical, but comparable in many ways), and they passed. I’m not the only one; I know several people who had sexual issues with their partners when something like this came up, which passed as the couple found a way to integrate things and understand each other better.
    Traumatic reactions like this might mean a cross-dressing boyfriend isn’t an okay situation for Q, but they also might mean she’s reacting understandably strongly to a big change in the person she loves, and that things will get better as she and her boyfriend sort out their feelings and desires and fears together. Caton, you don’t have the one true inevitable answer. There are other possibilities.

  32. annajcook
    Posted March 9, 2009 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    I just wanted to echo what a couple of other commenters have written on in response to your concerns, Caton: that pretty much every voice on this thread, including the original post by Prof. Foxy, has emphasized the importance of Q’s own feelings and experiences, and her right to be in a relationship that is fulfilling for her.
    It also seems clear from the original question and Q’s later comment that she is recognizing that right, and trying to sort out what her feelings are. With help from therapists, her SO, and supportive communities — including this one. I agree with Anacas that this is just not a cut and dried situation. Every relationship is unique and while hearing about others’ experiences is illuminating and often helpful, we shouldn’t be too quick to assume direct correlation.

  33. annajcook
    Posted March 9, 2009 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    oops: that should be a reply to Caton @ March 9, 2009 9:11 AM (above).

  34. everybodyever
    Posted March 9, 2009 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    I mean gender as the percentage we want our partners to be masculine and feminine. You found someone whose percentage worked for you – both sexually and in a relationship – now that percentage has changed. What does this mean for your own percentage?
    Does this segment of the column strike anybody else as kind of unfeminist and deliberately uncritical of “masculine” and “feminine?” The graf above seems to be accepting the terms at face value — as though you can just balance out the percentages, and voila! — despite the fact that I think many, many Feministing commenters are less invested in conceptions of masculinity and femininity as bullshit social roles. It seems to consider masculinity versus feminity as a given and a natural dichotomy that anybody with a sexual preference has to buy into. No thanks.
    All the helpful, practical sex advice aside, the above just really bothered me.

  35. enara
    Posted March 9, 2009 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    To be fair, sometimes a change in age does make a difference. Many people in long term relationships drift apart as time goes on. However, I think the reason why gender is such a big deal is that it plays a large role in determining the dynamic of your relationship and the interactions that take place. That’s not to say that this dynamic is always the same across all hetero couples, all homo couples, etc., but in all cases it is fairly significantly influenced by gender identity. With an existing relationship, the dynamic has been established, and I think more than anything it is the CHANGE in this dynamic that causes friction. (I also think this is applicable to any major change that only one person in a relationship goes through. Both people have to be able to adjust to the changed dynamic to be able to stay together.)

  36. ephraim
    Posted March 9, 2009 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    there’s a lot of inconsistency with all of this language use. ‘transgender’ is sometimes seen as an umbrella term for all gender varience. it was initially coined to mean people who live full-time as the gender they identify with (but were not assigned as at birth) but do not take steps to transition medically or alter their bodies.
    the definition i find most usefull accounts for the fact that ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ are different things. ‘transgender’ describes someone whose gender (identity, role, social interaction style, etc.) is at odds with the gender they were socialized as, and they take the appropriate social steps to be percieved as a man or a woman by the people around them. while, ‘transexual’ describes someone whose ‘sex’ is at odds with the sex they were assigned at birth (male or female) and they take the appropriate medical steps to make their bodies as congruent as possible with the sex their brain tells them they are.
    as a transexual man, i don’t think anything is particularly ‘trans’ about my gender. my gender has always been male, and that’s not changing. so describing me as ‘transgender’ doesn’t make a lot of sense. however i understand the utility of and need for some kind of umbrella term in a lot of situations. one organization i worked with used TTGI (transgender, transexual, genderqueer, and intersex…which notably and intentionally does exclude crossdressers/transvestites).

  37. Posted March 9, 2009 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    Not to worry insomniac. I don’t really expect cisgendered people (i.e. non-trans people) to be up on all the nuances of terminology — especially since it’s evolving and trans people don’t necessary agree on them either.
    FYI, yes “transvestite” is considered a bit a bit offensive by those of us in North America, largely because many crossdressers feel that it focuses on dressing for fetishistic purposes. In the UK, the meanings of “crossdresser” and “transvestite” usually mean the oppose, i.e. “transvestite” is more “respectable” and elsewhere around the globe the term applied to people like me is usually some local equivalent to “transvestite,” e.g. “transvesti.” That said, I’m one of those (few) people who’d like to reclaim “transvestite,” in part because its connection to the larger trans spectrum.
    As far where gender comes into play…
    For me (and I’d say I’m typical of many of my peers), I don’t have the body dysphoria that’s typical of many transsexuals. That’s to say, I don’t feel “trapped in the wrong body.” I’d enjoy having a female body on a temporary basis — among other things clothes would fit better and I wouldn’t require breast forms, hip padding, etc. But I enjoy male body — though if I personally woke up female-bodied one morning, I’d be comfortable with that.
    But I do feel that I’ve got strong aspects of myself that society considers “feminine” — and in fact I score as both strongly “masculine” and “feminine” on the BEM Sex Role Inventory test (which was created by a feminist scholar in the 1970s to gauge how well people “fit” traditional gender roles.
    Additionally, I feel a strong need to express these aspects — and it’s a lot easier to do so — as a woman, not as a man, or a feminine man. And yeah, it’s often “stereotypical” things, such as being more emotional, being able to adorn myself, etc. While I don’t use the term “male-bodied femme” to describe myself en femme because I think that potentially colonializes the experience of femmes, it’s not a bad analogy for the way I express myself.
    I’ll be the first to admit that its entirely possible that I’ve channelled these aspects into “being a woman” because I didn’t feel comfortable doing so as a man. (I don’t think most women understand how constrict the emotional range is for men — certainly it was a shock for Norah Vincent, a butchish lesbian, during her 18-month experiment living as a man. FWIW, I’ve got some extensive thoughts on the book on my blog.) But OTOH, back when I was in college 20 years ago, I took a deep look at the men’s lib movement — not the same as the “men’s rights” movement — and despite being more self-aware and more unconstrained that most men, expressing that side of myself as a man wasn’t enough.
    Why? That’s the question we all ask ourselves and ultimately I can’t answer any better than you can answer why you express your gender the way you do. That’s one way were the words “crossdresser” and “transvestite” (which is merely the Latinized version of the former) fail — they focus on the clothes, not the self-expression.
    The flip-side of having a self-identity that’s “bi-gendered” is a strong desire to be seen as woman by others when I’m en femme. Again, why? Ultimately, it’s hard for me to answer any more than you can probably explain why you want to be perceived the way you want to be perceived. Part of it undoubted is sociological and psychological, but the urge goes so deep — and there are far too many people who desperately desire not to crossdress, who can’t stop doing so despite their best efforts — that I’m also convinced there’s some biological aspect to it, i.e. it’s tied to something to how one sees oneself, and for many folks it may be a milder version of the dissonance transsexuals feel between their self-identity and the gender they were assigned at birth. Somewhat akin to sexual orientation, which I think is largely biological but subject to other factors, since both gender and sexuality are spectrums that most societies force fit into binaries.
    Part of being seen as my desired gende includes being seen as pretty and desirable, which is where gender expression often interwines with sexuality for a number of crossdressers, including myself. There’s a lot of reasons — to me it’s significant that the vast majority of male crossdressers begin doing so around puberty, so that alone is probably a major factor why the two get joined. But also male beauty is something that just wasn’t even in the picture for many of us growing up — consequently, I just don’t see myself as attractive in male mode. (Part of this is probably tied to the fact that the vast majority of male crossdressers are attracted to women, so we just don’t find men a turn-on. I’ve learned to appreciate men’s bodies, but it’s a learned taste — not the sort of primal zing I get from women’s bodies.) So while I’m acutely mindful of how the beauty myth can frak up women, it can also really mess with your head if you would like to be appreciated and feel that no one cares. Plus, needless to say there’s more than a bit of validation in having someone else find you attractive as your desired gender.
    FWIW,I think trans man Raven Kaldera has some astute thoughts about the “stylized” (OK, stereotypical) portrayals, including sexual ones, of women that can be common among crossdressers who’ve never left the house. My only quibble with Kaldera is that I think it’s not just things that they “don’t like” about women, but rather a wide variety of things, including things that they envy about women, things that they’re ambivalent about, etc. (FWIW, I’ve seen similar things among trans men, some of whom act like caricatures of masculinity.) But I totally agree with Kaldera that getting out in public and rubbing up against real people and real circumstances tends to make you a much more “fuller” people in your desired gender. Even if the circumstances are often constraints to “safe spaces” — which is why I make no claim to fully understand what life is like as woman, comparing my experiences to a close friend who transitioned makes me acutely aware of the different between part-time and full-time living.
    That said, one interesting thing is that after finally embracing my crossdressing, I’ve found I’ve been broadening my gender expression as a man. In large part because I’m not concerned about “leaking” femininity any more — since gender is a huge issue for trans people, we usually assume everyone else is paying close attention to it as well, which leads to a bit of paranoia. But also because I’ve gained the self-confidence to say “this is masculinity on my terms.”
    Anyway, hope this helps answer your question. Sorry again, for a long-winded answer. It’s tough to compress things down into a short reply.

  38. mandoir
    Posted March 9, 2009 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    The question that follows from that is that if many of these things are negotiable (after all, people do change and evolve or devolve in a long-term relationship), were we in love with just some of those things (like gender) or with the whole person? In my opinion, it is unfair to be simply in love with a person wanting to have kids, or a person wearing men’s clothing, or a person’s breasts, because a whole person cannot be reduced to just those aspects.
    I’m not speaking about just gender here, but if we accept that a “whole person” is the sum of his/her parts (personality-wise and/or physically), if one of those parts changes that we initially accepted to be a very tangible and vital part of that whole person whom we loved, then that person is fundamentally not the same whole person. It doesn’t mean they’re less of a person, or that the change has rendered them unloveable. It simply means that person is different. Love can either overcome that change and difference, or not, depending on the individual’s willingness to deal with the change.

  39. insomniac
    Posted March 10, 2009 at 2:30 am | Permalink

    Thank you for that explanation (and I think it helped me understand more because it was “longwinded”). I’m going to read up on this stuff more and see if I can make better sense of it (for myself) than I am struggling with.

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