Just for the record, I never identified as a classic VP style crossdresser.
Heck, I was even lectured by The Prince about how I was denying my femininity because I wasn’t a crossdresser like him.
Now, I’ve been called a crossdresser. Michael/Miqqui Glibert, who I helped with some nail polish on the collar at Van Nuys, called me a crossdresser when using my “crossdresser years” idea in a paper (the idea that crossdressers only mature in their expression when they are out, and for some that means they only mature four days in a real year). I called Gilbert on this, and was told that they hate identity politics and I should just give it up. They hate identity politics? It was Gilbert who assigned me an identity not of my choosing, and then refused to respond to my complaints.
When I came out in 1986, I came out as a-guy-in-a-dress, using my birth name and all. This confused “Now I’m Biff, Now I’m Suzy” crossdressers no end, because they love their little game, the one where Suzy can stay in the closet while Biff is a big strong man.
My game, to explore androgyny and/or gynandrony, to try to be whole and complete while still living as a man, was baffling. They didn’t want to change their life, no they wanted a lifestyle, a hobby. Changing who they were everyday wasn’t it, it was just blowing off steam on a weekend.
I remember one who wrote a collumn about things they saw and liked while in their boy clothes and called it “The Hidden CD” and asked why they couldn’t just call it “Always Trans.” This is the premise of the badge I suggested, “This is what a Tranny wears,” which can be worn on boy suits, track suits or dinner suits.
What makes me crazy about The Prince crossdressing model, the one I argued against at IFGE 1995, just hours before I hosted the Virginia Prince Lifetime Achievement Awards for the second time, is how it works to deny that trangender expression has any deeper meaning other than the one we claim for it.
I know one person who wants to deny the term transgender to anyone who is in it for the sex, the guys who claim trans but then stay closeted and treat it like a fetish. I have a real problem cutting these people off, because I really believe that anyone with an intense drive is trying to show something deeper. After all, there are lots of ways to be male, not trans, and still dress up in costumes and have sex, if you are BDSM or Furry or even just an Elvis Impersonator.
But I do understand that there is some cross-gender expression that doesn’t come to the level of Trans. Just because Larry The Cable Guy tried on a Carmen Miranda outfit in his new movie, “Larry The Cable Guy: Health Inspector,” doesn’t make it trans expression.
Crossdressers, well, with regular and complicated trans expression, well, I see their expression as revealing something deeper, revealing some inner meaning.
The Crossdressing model, though, well, it has to insist that expression has no meaning, that everyday they aren’t dressed they are normal, self-diagnosed heterosexual man.
And that most often means that they need to deny that anyone can really be anything other than what they were assigned at birth, the compulsory role that this society ties to genital configuration.
Most recently, some people have gotten on a list to promote some trans mailing lists, where female partners are respected. They tell everyone it will help with their lifestyle.
The transsexual identified are up in arms because they don’t have a lifestyle, they have a life.
But in doing that, they make the difference between transgender as a lifestyle and transsexual as a life. I get peeved at that line, because being transgender has always been to me part of my life, not just part of some lifestyle. In fact, my lifestyle pretty much denies trans, even as I try to squeeze it in.
TBB gets upset when I talk about the limits of crossdressers, even as she, now almost two years post op, now gets their limits too. After all, she identified as one for a long, long time.
I offered her the distinction that works for me. It’s the difference between people on a path to growth, trying to be more mature, and those who are denying that path, trying to stay stuck. In many ways, it’s the same line as crossdresser years, the difference between those who want to grow and become more integrated every day, and those who want to have a lifestyle and disintegrate their life, compartmentalizing it with a vengance.
The one indicator I use is how these people affirm the paths of others. People on a path, who have often been called travelers, want to listen to others, respect their journeys, learn from them, use others as mirrors to see new sides of themselves that help them grow. People who want the comforts of stay stuck, who have often been called tourists, want a bit of novelty, some stimulation, but assume that everyone else is like them, has the same limits & desires, and end up rejecting the challenges that travelers crave.
I know lots of people who identify as crossdressers who are searching, and in that search are committed to the possibility of transformation and change beyond history, biology and tradition.
But I know more people who identify as crossdressers, and even as transsexuals, who are committed to supporting the status quo and writing off expression as something without meaning, something that doesn’t reveal meaning, something that is just play.
Does powerful play transform us or does it just let us blow off what we have to surrender to fit in roles?
This isn’t a clear line, of course. I know some trannys who really say that they want to embrace their path and the paths of a wide range of others, but who practically have to stay unchanged to maintain their work, their family and their relationships. They can’t afford to really explore change, even when they want to, and this shows in how they say they want to engage others with new and different experiences but they can’t find the time or energy to actually enter those other people’s worlds. It’s not enough to just say that if they come to us we will be welcoming, we have to go to them, especially if they feel alienated or iosolated from us.
The classic crossdresser model, and those who practice it, make me very uncomfortable. Men in dresses claiming femininity without ever moving beyond priviledge? It’s icky.
I hate how they deal with me. I spent a long time and lots of challenge to move beyond my inital training to enter the world of women and learn their language. Crossdressers, though, can’t afford to learn to speak woman, only to pretend, and so they can only assume that I am just pretending better than they are. They reduce my journey to something within their realm of experience, and in doing so, they essentialize me in ways that are often more oppressive than the person-on-the-street uses. I may know that they are doing this because they need that oppression to keep their “lifestyle” from changing their life, but it’s still hard for me.
I may know their actions are about them and not about me, but I’m still the one that gets bruised, bloodied and battered when they need to externally silence the same challenges they need to silence in their own heart & mind.
Crossdressers creep me out. As I promised TBB, though, I will always take everyone of them as an individual, as a group they, and the women who are invested in maintaining relationships with them are just creepy.