February 20, 2017

Interview with a Love Shy Crossdreamer

Last year I was contacted by a young male to female crossdreamer from Britian, who wanted to ask me some questions about how to cope with being gender variant. The conversation ended with me asking her a few questions. 
Photo: Hramovnick

(I am using female pronouns on her request).

The more I learn about crossdreamers, the more I realize that this is a diverse group of people. That is: You cannot make up a profile that fits all crossdreamers, in the same way there is no pattern of personality that fits all women or all men, all Europeans or all Asians.

(This also means, of course, that crossdreaming most likely is not the end result of one particular type of psychological event.)

Still  some crossdreamers have more in common than others. Some, for instance, tackle their gender variance by isolating themselves socially.

Q: We have been chatting a bit about crossdreaming and loneliness over at facebook, and I would love to share some of your reflections with my readers. Could you say a few words about where you stand today?

Jennifer replied:
"I live at home with my parents and I work, I really want to cross dress and find someone who truly gets me but I'm worried about being mocked etc."
And that sentence sums up, as we will see,  Jennifer's major challenge quite nicely.

Q: I know that for you crossdressing has been one way of expressing "your other side". Could you say some more about what role crossdressing plays in your life?

Jennifer tells me that for her crossdressing has been an important outlet for crossdreamer feelings:
"Cross dressing helps me be the real me or Jennifer as I've come to know myself. It's like I hear her calling me to express who I really am and I love it, I need it."

However, since she lives with her parents, she finds it extremely hard to find room for her transgender feelings. There is no family cabin or friends that can give her the space she needs. She is afraid her parents will find out, and especially her mother.

Indeed, she is very afraid that coming out or taking this further will harm the life she knows.
"I've been a cross dresser since I was around about 11 and I'm now I am in my early twenties,  but I haven't been able to be that side of me in any way for about 5-6 years. When I've cross dressed it's always when I've 'borrowed' clothes like swimwear and bras and when I look in the mirror I feel sexy and kind of girly too. It is a rush when you slip on girls clothing and it's torture when you haven't been able to do it for as long as I have."
Q: Some male to female crossdreamers find it hard to combine their gender variance with establishing a love relationship with another man or woman, and you have told me that you long for a girl friend, but find it hard to establish such a relationship. Could you say some more about this?

To this Jennifer replied:
"I've never had luck with women, I'm 23 now and still single but my dream would be to find a girl who will accept me and Jennifer too."
It seems Jennifer is stuck in the same Catch 22 as many others of the more "love shy" crossdreamers: You are damned to loneliness if you don't do anything, you risk having to play the role of a regular male if you hide the truth, and you risk ridicule and rejection if you do come out to the girl you like.

The fact is that it is possible to find love for crossdreamers, both those male to female and female to male.

There is a distinct possibility of rejection, but that applies to all human beings.

We tend to interpret reality through the lens of gender stereotypes and forget that there is an insane amount of variation among human beings. To quote L.A. Story: "There’s someone out there for everyone – even if you need a pickaxe, a compass, and night goggles to find them."

It also seems that women are slightly more flexible as regards sexuality than men, or that they are better at realizing that love is so much more than sexual preferences.

(See "How to find love: The challenges facing crossdreamers and transgender people").

Q: To what extent do you think it is your crossdreaming that leads to this social isolation?

Jennifer's reply tells us how much expected gender roles stop us from being who we are:
"I think I struggle to relate to guys and I don't know exactly know enough about girls to become fully one of them. I try to talk to girls about things that I want to learn like clothes etc but I feel awkward."
I still remember the awkwardness of  taking in male bonding rituals when I was at Jennifer's age. Drinking beer in a pub full of testosterone and a TV screaming soccer results was definitely not my kind of thing.

That in itself is not proof of me "being a woman", but it reflects the kind of social dissonance crossdreaming can lead to. Your friends expects you to behave in a certain way, because you "are one of the guys". Your own sense of self tells you otherwise, so you end up pretending all the time.

All people play social roles, but they will normally take their gender and gender roles for granted.

Q: You say that you never had any luck with women. Could you say a few words about what makes it hard for you to establish a relationship with them. Is it because of the crossdreaming or could there be other reasons? For instance: Are you in general a shy person?

Jennifer replied:
"I'm not sure really, I'm not really any good at small talk. I doubt it's to do with who I really am but I think it's just a lack of confidence perhaps."
It is often hard to find out what causes what: Is she shy because she is a crossdreamer? Or is it shyness that stops her from going out and take her chances?

It is important to keep in mind that many crossdreamers are not shy people. Some even flaunt their gender variance, making it an integrated part of the persona they present to the world.

Others again bloom when they come out of the closet (whether they transition or not). Friends and family marvel over a shy friend who has suddenly become the life of the party.

In other words: Many crossdreamers are both introvert and extremely sensitive, but others are not. Their shyness may be caused by fear, not inborn introversion.

Q: Have you spoken with anyone else about this? Family members? Friends? Teachers or colleagues? A therapist, maybe? And if so: How did that play out. And if not: Is it hard to find someone to trust?

Jennifer says that she has never told anybody, too scared of the consequences:
"One of my parents almost caught me crossdressing in a one piece swimsuit and called me weird and a freak. I want to be who I am but a combination of fear, no privacy and lack of free time prevents me from being true, meaning, Jennifer."
I cannot help wondering how some parents would feel, if they truly knew how much such comments can harm a transgender child or youth. I suspect many of them would behaved differently had they known.

Q: There are some really active communities for transgender people online, including some for crossdressers and crossdreamers. Have you ever discussed your crossdreaming with some of the people there, and -- if so -- what did you talk about?

Jennifer told me:
"I have never tried anything like that partly down to make lack of privacy/free time. I have no idea where to look for any of that sort of thing and I doubt that only talking online will help me. I want to be able to meet people like me and get any kind of help they can. "
I think she is right when she implies that talking online may not solve her problems, but I do know that online discussions help a bit. Talking is the best cure, they say, and writing about your feelings and your life and having others affirm you by responding helps you integrate that other side of yourself into your whole personality.

But the fact remains that a lot of crossdreamers do not discuss their crossdreaming online, even if they can do so anonymously. Crossdreamer sites like this one and the Crossdream Life forum have a lot of visitors, including visitors who come back to read, but they do not necessarily take part in the conversation. So I have encouraged Jennifer to take part.

We have also discussed the possibility of contacting crossdresser and transgender communities in Britain. If any of my British readers have some good ideas, please add them as a comment!

Jennifer would very much like to hear your ideas about where she can go from here.

Discuss crossdreamer and transgender issues!