Understanding, Part 3
(note: before reacting negatively to anything in this post, please read the previous installments in this series)
How then may we describe the distinction between transsexual and crossdresser? To be fair, one must acknowledge the old saw that implies that a crossdresser is simply a transsexual three years earlier. There is some truth to the notion that a significant minority of male-to-female transsexuals are so afraid to confront the implications of their identity that they spend a great deal of time and effort trying to be “only” a crossdresser.
But that said, it is nonetheless true that most self-identified crossdressers have no interest, open or suppressed, in giving up their malen-ness permanently. While a skeptical spouse or partner may wonder and worry that their crossdresser partner may at some point want to transition, in most cases they do not have to fear that outcome. For the purposes of tonight’s discussion, I will use the term crossdresser (CD) to refer to those men – the ones who have no interest in modifying their body or living as a woman full time. Transsexuals (TS) in these discussions are those who do need these things to achieve inner peace.
So if you are a concerned loved one who has NO idea what to expect from the CD or TS in your life, here’s a very simplistic and rudimentary overview. A starting place for your understanding, not the sum of it. If your loved one identifies themselves as trans, that person that you think of as male sees themselves as female. The most compassionate and caring thing you can do is to affirm that no matter what your eyes tell you. Remember, he assumes you will reject him -her actually. She’s been wisely advised to not admit to it unless she was prepared to lose literally everything – including you. The greatest gift you can give is to lovingly accept that “Larry” is now “Lisa.” You have every right to be concerned about the larger implications for you, your family, and your relationships and you have a right to express those and have them taken seriously. But these concerns do not require you to reject her female identity. She has a long, painful (physically and emotionally) and expensive process in front of her. Your understanding, if not your support, will be priceless to her.
On the other hand, for the CD almost none of this is true. He may well be hiding his hobby because he fears you will not understand it or find it attractive, but he is – on the whole – glad to be a man. He’s been raised in a culture that places a heavy exception on males to “be manly” and to avoid being “girly” at any costs. He probably has spent many years ashamed and/or confused about-why he has the fetish he does, and this fear/confusion naturally leads to denial and secrecy. It may well be that you find such behavior in a male partner unattractive , just as one might find that being tied up during coitus, or being a nudist, is an uncomfortable and unacceptable sort of relationship. But if that’s true, it does not require you to be harsh, disapproving, judgmental to your loved one.
In the discussion of activism and politics, these distinctions mater. But ultimately, on the interpersonal level, the first rule is love. View all your upcoming difficulties and choices in that context.
Image by: Julian III