The Change We Wish To See

Article resposted from

The Change We Wish To See
By Lacey Leigh, June 3, 2004

One of the more common threads of conversation among crossdressers (CDs) centers around a quest for the reason behind crossdressing. Some speculate about hard science; prenatal "hormone wash" theories, hippocampus or corpus callosum brain structure, and XY-XXY-XX alphabet soup genetics. Others embrace soft science; childhood environmental factors, absent fathers, and withheld affection as the root cause. One individual has even suggested a nutritional precursor, citing infant consumption of cheddar cheese!

As amateur psychiatrists, geneticists, and behaviorists, CDs argue their pet theories with a certain emotional investment. They are seeking an explanation, a reason, or a cause for that which has so negatively impacted their lives. Some pursue a sort of cultural forgiveness; a way of proclaiming, "Don't blame me, it's not my fault. I was born (shaped, influenced) to be this way. I'm a victim! I'm ashamed of what I am but I'm helpless to change."

These folks aren't looking for an answer; they're seeking absolution. Plus, copping a plea to some warm, comfy, and loosely defined "disorder" only serves to further reinforce the notion that we belong in a box of granola - with all the other fruits, nuts, and flakes.

Honest introspection is always a good thing. However, staking one's happiness on stumbling into crossdressing's Prime Directive is a fatally flawed premise.Think about this: If everyone related to crossdressing in the same manner we regard left-handedness (ie: different but no big deal - unless you can put a 98 m.p.h. fast ball over the inside corner of the plate, about knee high) we wouldn't even begin to agonize over all of this.

The roots of our problems are not biological, psychological, nutritional, or behavioral. They are cultural. Period.

Although I'm reluctant to dignify these negative cultural attitudes with a term, the one that fits best is "transphobia" (an irrational fear of transgendered people). Transphobia is, literally, a social disease; a malady of the culture. Until our culture evolves, we can excuse, justify, or self-diagnose until there's ice on the river Styx and it won't make a whit of difference. The malady lingers on...Some activists favor a political attack: "We'll agitate & demonstrate, lobby & march, and huff & puff until we blow down the walls of prejudice. We'll badger legislatures, picket city councils, and pester county boards into passing more laws to make culture accept us!"

Yeah, that'll work.

The problem with any sort of attack is that quite often those who are targeted will reflexively respond with a defense. And who can fault those among the public for resisting, especially when something they yet don't understand "... is being shoved down their throats."?

While I admire the dedication, sacrifice, and vision of those who use politics to advance a transgender agenda, extrapolating their slow and painful progress thus far projects out to full transgender emancipation ... somewhere in the year 2073, give or take a decade or two.

One high-profile transgender lobbyist shared her frustration with me during a chat at last year's Southern Comfort Conference. "We just don't have the numbers yet," she confessed. "The transsexuals - a tiny percentage of the transgender population - get their surgery and dive 'into the woodwork' to disappear from sight, while the crossdressers - the largest and least outspoken group of TGs - won't come out of their closets!"

Setting aside the possibility that most crossdressers may not even consider themselves as transgendered, I suggested to her then and to you now, perhaps we are looking into the wrong end of the telescope.

Cultural change of the sort we're after is rarely a 'top down' process. It's almost always a grass-roots evolution growing from the bottom, up. Rather than waste breath on those hardened walls of social resistance (unresponsive bureaucracies, indifferent legislatures, and butt-covering-finger-in-the-wind politicians) perhaps we might consider another, parallel approach. One that offers enormous potential to accelerate that change.

In order to modify cultural attitudes, it is helpful to be visible within that culture. As long as we allow the public's first impressions to be made by drag movies, slasher flicks, and drive-by observations outside fetish clubs, we have no right to expect the culture to react any differently than now.

One great way to demonstrate to the public at large that crossdressers, transsexuals, and TGs are harmless is by providing more opportunities for the average citizen to interact with harmless open crossdressers, open transsexuals, and open TGs.

Show the public some confident, proud, and self accepting TGs who don't perpetuate the stereotype by whining about dysphoria and I'll show you a public that is beginning to understand.

Give the average citizen a few moments of conversation with a confident, poised TG who doesn't extend the cliché of man-as-bimbo-in-miniskirt and I'll give you another citizen who is beginning to 'get it'.

Such an approach first requires an act of faith on our part. We must be prepared to eschew the comfortable, easy, cop-out, dismissive, excusing, deflecting, and justifying theories, explanations, and diagnoses (that carry with them the corollary expectation of a 'cure' - or worse, the pronouncement of 'incurable'!).

We will be better served by refusing to concede that anything is 'wrong' in the first place! Of course that means unburdening ourselves of the accumulated shame, guilt, angst, and denial that our culture has so generously inculcated within us.

This purge not just desirable, it's critical.

Most individuals will be much more comfortable around an open crossdresser or a non-stealth transsexual who is pleasant, self assured, and levelheaded rather than one who appears to be justifying culturally shameful behavior with pseudoscience and psychobabble.

The simple truth is that others take their cues not so much from what we say but from the manner in which we are seen to regard ourselves. People will mirror our attitudes - whatever they may be. So it's in our best interest to settle our own internal conflicts first.

It's difficult to imagine how we can expect acceptance from others when we haven't yet found it within ourselves. And just in case you're from the "Fake it 'till you make it" school of thought, self acceptance can't be pretended - so don't bother. Inner esteem is built through multiple small successes over time. True self confidence starts to develop as we begin eradicating the residual, internal belief that there is anything in transgender expression about which we should be ashamed. It is helped along by refusing to consider convenient disempowering diagnoses or tempting theories that, if embraced, excuse us as helpless to change, compensate, or adjust.

Both change and charity begin at home.

The change we wish to see?

We must be the change we wish to see.


Lauren Thomas said…
Personally speaking if I had to choose the reasons why I crossdress I would have to say I was probably affected by "Childhood enviromental factors." As a little boy I envied the attention given to my sister, and at the same time I was often told how cute I was, and that I should have been a little girl. So, at some point I decided to try on my sister's clothes and that was it for me. Of course later during puberty I discovered another good reason to dress, however that's another story!

Now here I am some 40 years later, and although for most of my life I have wondered why, I have never been able to come up with a reason that was both logical and acceptable. In fact I stopped looking for a reason 10 years ago and started enjoying what I now consider to be a blessing. In my lifetime I have had many people asked my reason for crossdressing, however the two most important people in my life at the time, my two ex-wives, asked me this question and I really didn't have an answer that would help them to understand. Maybe understanding the reason, may have somehow made a difference in the relationships, but then I will never know that; and again at this point in my life it really wouldn't make much of a difference. What's done is done, and the past cannot be changed or altered.

During any given week I may hear from one or two individuals that want to share their feelings about crossdressing. In most cases these individuals are married and in the closet and will never have the opportunity to explore their "Feminine Side." As such they can only talk about it, and imagine what it would be like to be completely dressed, and for the most part they live out their dream through others. Usually after only one or maybe two emails I never hear from these individuals again and I understand that. However, there are few that have reached that point in their lives where they are ready to come out of the closet, however first they somehow need to explain this to their wives. Frankly I don't have any answers, but what I do tell then is to throughly consider the consequences of revealing this information to the person they have been living with for 10, 20, or 30 years. Consider if the the shoe was on the other foot and their wife approached them saying that she wanted to look and dress as a man. I'm not speaking of wearing female clothing that is somewhat masculine looking, but actually dressing in male clothing, wearing a male hair style, wearing a mustache or beard, and wanting to be accepted as a male! Just how would they respond to her revelation, would they be open minded and accepting, or would totally totally freak out?

This leads me to one particular experience I had with a professional person who was ready to come out to his wife. This particular person gathered together a series of articles, and other materials that dealt with the subject of crossdressing. Based on what was described to me in emails I could only imagine this stack of paperwork neatly bound for his presentation to his wife. In theory this may have sounded like the perfect way to introduce his wife to crossdressing, presenting a logical and somewhat scientific look at the subject, however, at the sametime this was his wife, not some follow professinal he was dealing with. I can only imagine how he would present this information to his wife, and I can only imagine her response. It has been 4 years since I heard from this individual, and so I can also only guess that either he decided not to take the chance, or if he did the response was not positive and like so many other crossdressers that are in the closet his dream of exploring his feminine side, may be out of the closet, but still remains a dream.

Please excuse my slight detour from the topic, which is really about those crossdressers that are not in the closet, but those that are out. As the writer concludes change for crossdressers starts at the bottom, and not at the top. We start with ourselves not by trying to intellectualize why we dress, but just accepting that this is part of who we really are. The shame and guilt that we may often feel comes from how society has told us we must look in order to be considered normal people. Men, must always look, dress, and act like men, however for those of us who chose to sometimes look, dress, and act like women we first need accept ourselves for who and what we are, and then start feeling comfortable from within. The change we wish to see does come from within, and with each individual experience we have when we interact with others. Even so, we may never be able have a definitive answer to the question of why, but we may come to learn that the question really isn't important. We may also come to learn that depending on how we feel about ourselves, and how we interact with others, the question may never be asked.

Our reasons for crossdressing are varied, and I don't believe that they can ever be fully explained, at least not in the same way that a person might explain why they are Transsexual. After 40 years of crossdressing I really don't need a reason to help me understand or accept why I enjoy dressing as a female, however there may be those I interact with that do need to know my reason. So, today I have two thoughts on the subject; the first being that I have a feminine side with some strong feminine feelings, and that I feel comfortable expressing that side of me by changing my appearance to suit how I sometimes feel. Then there's my second thought on the subject, which is less intellectual and probably a little more honest. Simpley put, I just love wearing female clothes!

Thanks Michelle for bringing up this topic.

Love and Respect, Lauren
Anonymous said…
What a breath of fresh air! I love your site. Out in the open spaces for me. (en femme that is) Closets are dark and musty. I prefer the wide open. Besides, there's no light switch in there. And my full lenghth mirror is out in the hallway. Thanks for having me here. My name is Darlena. Love & kisses.

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