Response to a CD

On a list, a woman whose husband now wants to dress like a woman asked for help from others like her.

I gave her the term SOFFA, the better to Google with, and directed her to Helen Boyd, who, being SOFFA*, probably has a handle on those resources.

Fine.  But one CD wanted to explain why she should lighten up, why dressing up was OK, why she should be sexy and play along.

That post creeped me out.    I felt the need to respond:

 It’s nostalgic to hear old arguments I used to hear from people like The Prince again.  “The Crossdresser And His Wife,” indeed.

I’m certainly not going to disagree that for many couples, gender play in the bedroom (or even outside of it) can be a fun part of their relationship.  I know it can.

But gosh, when I heard those people talk about a wife’s obligation to participate, it made me cringe.  And when those comments were bolstered by rationalizations about crossdressing, well, that just seemed twice odd.

Yes, men used to wear wigs and stockings, but that was what men wore when women wore panniers and corsets.   CDs don’t want more freedom in dressing like men — silk, fur, leather, whatever — they want to dress as women, from clothes to padding and even names.  Big difference.  Yes, today women wear pants, but they wear women’s pants, and don’t put false penises into their shorts.

In my experience, a wife acting more feminine and sexier has never, ever stopped any husband’s desire to express their own transgender impulses.   It may staunch the desire a bit, but in the end, the trans nature is the trans nature.   To suggest that wives being sexier is at all a solution to the husband’s issues just seems offensive to me.

Suggesting that a husband engage, explore and express his feelings, usually with the help of a therapist, is a much better suggestion, at least from what I have seen.  Men are used to having women process emotions, but they need to understand and own their own feelings to be able to make choices that balance the range of their desires, from the desire to be wild and sexy to the desire to be tame and embraced with a healthy family.

The only way a couple can create new possibilities and engage change in their relationship is if both partners come with maturity and openness.  Some find new ways to be together, with just some gender play, or some changes, and others find that they have lost what brought them together in the first place.

It’s your trans nature, it’s your desires, it’s your feelings; you have responsibility to own them and help bring them into balance in your life and in your relationship.  Sure, it takes two to tango, but the one who needs change brings a special responsibility to make the change gracious, fair and open.

I know this isn’t what The Prince said.  In his world, the wife had more responsibilities to be the dutiful servant to the altar of manhood.

It’s just that’s not a world I have seen many happy people in, and not a world I can imagine living in.  It doesn’t seem particularly fair and enjoyable for women.

A partner expressing trans doesn’t have to mean the end of a relationship, that’s true.

But the only way I have seen it work is when the trans-partner takes responsibility for their own life, their own desires and their own choices.


* SOFFA == Significant Others, Family, Friends & Allies

Banh Is The Name Of God

Banh is the name of God.

Well, one name, at least, thanks to her warm welcome to be at church this morning. She remembered my name as I came in.

Then after I sat, she came over to me, put her hand on my arm, and with a big smile, said she liked to see me here.

It was nice, simple and from the heart.

After church, I spoke to Laura, whose son lives in SF. She and her husband have rainbow “Celebrate Diversity” pins on their name badges.

She was sorry she wasn’t there last week to meet me, and understood the issues of educating & negotiating the fears of others. I gave her the address of this blog; Hi Laura!

The pastor, well, not so warm this week. No real engagement at all.

Could be that she was just busy, or maybe that I popped a circuit breaker somewhere. I have a history of doing that, even with people I care about very much.

But Banh, and Laura, thanks.

(not) Working It

There is a cost to hiding.

When I am wearing my pretty clothes, I need to figure out, for example, how to go out and grab the paper. Mowing the lawn, well, that takes going back into hiding.

And this isn’t just around the neighborhood. Too many employees around the women’s room in Wal-Mart? Look elsewhere.

No wonder I find it much easier to go around in the world in hiding. No wonder so damn many of us find it easier to go around the world in hiding, either as the gender assigned, or in an attempt to perfect presentation.

The cost of stigma is high. If a woman my age goes out in something less than flattering, something that doesn’t conceal her flaws, well, she just looks like a woman. If I go out in something less than flattering, well, then I can easily look like a man, and more, a man acting shamefully, a man acting out of control, a man who shouldn’t show that in public.

When you feel you are already living on the edge, it’s very tempting to play small, to try and minimize risk by hiding.

But that hiding has a price.

This week I have been reminded that one of those prices is the cost of not getting important work done, because you shrink from the engagement and conflict it takes to make it happen.

This was one lovely thing about SCC. You were just out, anyway, and that was OK, so you could concentrate on the work rather than on navigating the stigma.

Normative people don’t worry about this. A friend was concerned, worked hard to conceal the scar from her heart bypass surgery when she wore a dress. Another friend, born female, told her that she was silly to worry, and showed her scar where it lay in plain sight at her neckline. On the cover of Sick Girl, Amy Sliverstein shows her heart bypass scar proudly, and writes about all that scar signifies.

But we worry. We are trained to hide, and that hiding has a cost that cripples us.

I think this is what TBB recognized when she was in the front row at that concert last night. Sure she wanted to be pretty and sweet and normative appearing when she was with her galpals, but if she didn’t stand up and challenge that weatherman, who would?

You can’t both hide and work it proudly. Hiding has a cost.  And to overthinkers like me, who hold the gift of carrying history with us, that cost can be high.

And I, still hiding, am getting sick of it.

But as Rachel would happily remind me, being sick of sickness is never sick.