One of the most impact-full moments of my self discovery was working through the This or That section in Dara Hoffman-Fox’s “You and Your Gender Identity: A Guide to Discovery”. This section of the workbook allows one to confront and analyze the possible options identified when discovering a gender identity.
Before reaching this section I had already narrowed down my list to these three options:
- Am I only a cross dresser?
- Do I fetishize my need to present as female?
- Am I transgender?
Let’s explore each of these and the answers I came up with using this workbook along with a lot of self introspection. When I say a lot I mean a LOT. I spent nearly six months in this two hundred fifty page workbook. I did all the exercises on my own, which in retrospect may not have been the best course of action. I have heard a few of my transgender family have gone through this process with their therapist’s assistance, guiding them through the workbook. Ensuring the necessary self care is performed when dissecting and examining everything they thought they knew about themselves.
Am I only a cross dresser?
I have always had a fascination with women’s clothing. As a small child I fondly remember playing dress-up. I would try to wear dresses and carry purses as much as possible. I also remember taking this a little further such that my play would take on a more motherly and feminine role. I would pretend to the the shopping, cooking, performing the caretaker roles and the stereotypical feminine chores in a family dynamic. Please keep in mind I’m not saying any of these are specifically feminine. The time frame I grew up in and the locale did impress on me these were the things women did.
I specifically remember the feelings I received when playing in this way. I felt as if I had become a calm and caring individual. Mimicking these chores made me feel complete. The dresses also provided this same type of feeling. A sense of calm and completeness which came from the very core of my being. I don’t remember the details but at one point I was no longer allowed to play dress-up. This did not quash my desire for the feminine, instead it opened a door. A door to a closet which I remained locked inside for decades.
I first learned the differences in women’s and men’s underwear when learning how to do laundry. I took advantage of the fact that our laundry room was in the basement adjacent to a bathroom and not too far from a bedroom. I would sneak articles of clothing belonging to my mother or sisters. I would wear the items for a while, then return them to the laundry. Wearing the female clothing gave me such feelings of happiness, calmness and completeness.
This is the foundation of my cross dressing. In order to rule this out I needed answers to the question. Is cross dressing something I can stop doing?
I attempted an experiment. Granted, this is not the first time I had attempted to stop cross dressing. It was however the first time I was stopping as an attempt to identify who I am.
This time I kept a log of my moods, feelings and experiences. Essentially who I was and who I would become. I began the trial period feeling optimistic for the experiment. I hoped I would be able to stop. I hoped for a normal answer to my problem. A week went by. My mood gradually decreased. I began to become very irritated with everything. I was unhappy not being able to dress in a feminine manner. Two weeks went by, my stress levels had increased. I drank much more than usual. I drank until I basically passed out for the night. Waking up and getting ready for work was miserable, but not because I was hungover. I was miserable because I would see my feminine clothes hanging there, watching me put on my male persona, mocking my attempt to be normal. They seemed to already know. She’ll be back for us soon.
They were right. Most of the way through my third week I gave in. I needed to feel the comfort, and the peace of being feminine. My clothes knew it, I knew it. I just hadn’t accepted it yet.
So can I quit? No, if I do I will spiral downward, ever closer toward becoming a person I do not like.
Do I fetishize my need to present as female?
Ah puberty! That wonderfully confusing time of life for normal people. That guilt ridden confusing time of life for a cross dresser who knows nothing about the possibility of being transgender.
My puberty manifested when I was around ten or eleven. I had continued my ritual of wearing women’s clothing in private. One day when I was wearing a lace trimmed slip and had begun to pull a dress over my head, something happened. I received my first erection, or at least the first I can remember. My parents had not sat me down for any of those talks yet. I knew nothing of sex thus far. All I knew was this was REALLY weird! I instantly felt guilt and shame but I had no idea why. I quickly took off the borrowed clothes and returned them.
Weeks went by, I felt angry & upset for not allowing myself to indulge in the one thing I had found which had provided such joy. I had been the recipient of a few more erections in the mean time. Each just as confusing. I also had heard from my friends that this can happen to a guy without really any reason. Armed with this information I again borrowed a slip and a dress. I rushed to the bedroom and put them on. Magically I was cured! I did not receive my unwanted friend or the accompanying guilt and shame. Well at least not at first.
While dancing in the dress, again I had an erection. More than likely caused by the silky fabric bushing against me. This was followed by the immediate feeling of guilt and shame. This pattern continued for many, many years. Eventually I incorporated masturbation into my routine. Every instance would begin with the euphoric feelings I so craved, but I ALWAYS crashed headlong into guilt and shame.
The pattern of fetishizing my cross dressing was well established but was this all it was? Again I needed my answers. Is this purely a sexual fetish? Can I be feminine without the sexual arousal?
I needed another experiment, one more difficult than any previous to it. I knew from my past that I would often, very often, become excited by the soft caress of silky smooth fabric against my skin. I knew I would have to somehow overcome the excitement. I knew that if I focused on something else I could somewhat control my erection. Yes, I would still have one but I could through focus lose my erection without having to climax.
Armed with this knowledge I planned my experiment. I would dress feminine for a weekend, but not too feminine lest I fall prey to my fetish. I would go about a normal routine. I would do housework, and check things off my honey-do list. As soon as this experiment started I knew it would be difficult. After all, I had trained my body over many years to feel excited when I expressed my femininity.
I did become excited, but it soon passed. I went about my day. I performed task after task on my list. By the end of the day I was exhausted. I decided I would fill a glass with wine and the tub with hot water and take a long bath. I hadn’t taken a bath for some 30 plus years. Baths were feminine I was male. As I drew my bath I also decided I would fully shave my legs. Previously I had only shaved my thighs and only a few times. I justified the change as I was trying to embrace femininity without arousal. Also having something to do in the bath would occupy my mind as I relaxed.
With my legs now silky smooth, the bath water cooling down and an empty wine bottle lying on the floor I decided I would turn in for the night. I selected a long silky red nightgown from my hidden wardrobe. I turned back the covers, climbed into bed and started watching a chick flick. Before I knew it morning had arrived. I quickly took a personal inventory. Did I wake in the night with an erection? No. How did I feel? Amazing! My smooth legs, the silky nightgown were great, but the feeling I had inside was nearly indescribable. All of my life I had chased the calm, peaceful feeling I remembered from those first few times dressing in my youth. I had found it again. This time I had no remorse, no guilt, and no shame and best of all it remained with me for quite some time.
Do I fetishize who I am? No. Through this experiment I learned I did not need the sexual arousement to claim my inner peace.
Am I transgender?
I now know I can feel feminine without pain, guilt, or shame. I truly enjoy who I am when I am feminine. I am happy. I am at peace. I am complete.
What does this mean? I believe it means I am a feminine person. Am I truly transgender? The term transgender means something that crosses the generally accepted gender boundaries. The person I am internally does cross these boundaries. I am feminine while my body is male. I wish to no longer fight with my true self. I want to be the happy, calm, and peaceful person I was able to catch glimpses of in my past and in my recent experiments.
While these are by no means all the possibilities I explored they are the most important ones in my case. To quote one of my favorite fictional characters Spock from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country “ When you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” My circumstances are much different, however I do feel I have eliminated the impossible. I used to think being transgender was improbable. I have eliminated the doubt of improbability from my mind on this. My truth is I am Dana, a transgender woman.