I get a lot of emails from girls like me and it never surprises me how similar our experiences are. For most of us, we started dressing when we were younger and whether it was conscience or instinctive, we knew we had to hide this. Some of us felt shame, some of us were embarrassed, some of us terrified of being caught.
We usually started to experiment a little more with this as teenagers. We started to buy (and hide) clothes, usually starting with panties. Endless cycles of shopping, shame, terror, purging and ultimately shopping again. Like a caterpillar into a butterfly, we are constantly trying to be beautiful.
We suppress it as we start to date and find committed relationships and we either hope this side of us will go away or that we will ignore it.
But we cannot outgrow this part of us. This is who we are. It will never go away.
I’ll say it again in case you don’t believe me, but this is a part of you and it will always be a part of you and it’s a beautiful part of you.
I think feelings of shame, embarrassment, and fear for some of us come from the perceived link between sexuality and wearing lingerie or anything else.
Every single one of us knows that what we wear has zero connection to who we want to be intimate with or who we want to be in a relationship with.
But not everyone knows that. If you’ve ever come out to someone, whether intentionally or not, you probably have been asked if you’re gay. The first time I was asked that I was a little taken aback. I knew there was no link between what I wore to bed and who I wanted to go to bed with.
People who ask this about us can be forgiven, though. For many, the first introduction to our world, whether we are trans, gender non-conforming or something else is drag. The world of drag is typically dominated by gay men dressing up in a very exaggerated fashion. For most of us, that is not who we are. We know the difference between wanting to dress up and hit the mall and glamming up to strut the stage at a drag show.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. 🙂 Or any of this.
The point I am trying to make is that a label can be very divisive when it comes to who we are. We might be offended by one label, we may need to clarify a different one, or change our label at different points of our lives.
Of course, I don’t care for labels, but I understand the nuances our community has and in come cases, a specific label might be useful.
The big T word is a loaded word. When I identify as transgender, I often will clarify what being trans means to me. Yes, Caitlyn Jenner and Lavern Cox are transgender but I am not trans like them. I have not transitioned nor do I feel that I want or need to. I resisted identifying as transgender for a long time until a t-girl friend of mine said that her definition of trans was anything that went against the societal norms of the gender you were assigned at birth.
So, you like to paint your nails? Trans. You’re rocking eyeliner? Trans. Wearing a beautiful matching bra and panty under your suit? Trans. Looking amazing from wig to heels at the mall? Lipsyncing to Madonna in 7 inch platforms at a gay club? Trans.
I know that this is a very broad definition and that’s what I like about it. When I identified as a crossdresser, at a certain point I felt that the term didn’t really encompass who I was. It was more than just clothes but I didn’t feel that it was appropriate to call myself transgender. Using the definition my friend gave me, I accepted that a crossdresser was also transgender.
I embraced that term and never looked back. I like identifying as trans. People know the term. If needed, I can get more in-depth about what being transgender means to me specifically, but more often than not, just identifying as transgender is enough. When I used to schedule makeovers I could, if needed, tell the salon I was transgender. These days I don’t because I don’t think it matters; makeup is makeup. Every face is different, regardless of gender.
As I said, people know the term. Over the last few years the rest of the world has gotten a crash course in the different ways someone can identify as when it comes to gender. It’s been exhausting for many of us as we often take on the role of educator and explaining the difference between terms like cis, trans, non-binary and many others. It’s also been heartbreaking as we see our community lose our rights, attacked, misunderstood and portrayed in completely inaccurate ways.
It’s a complicated term for some of us in our community, too.
I often get emails from girls like us who are looking for support and looking for friends and others like them. Many of us start by identifying as a crossdresser. For some, they just want to look beautiful. Some just want to wear lingerie. Some want to have adventures in the real world presenting as the gender they (sometimes) identify as. Crossdressing is a comfortable label for them. I get it, I was there.
When someone is looking for support, more often than not I refer them to PFLAG. According to their website, their mission is in uniting people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) with families, friends, and allies, PFLAG is committed to advancing equality through its mission of support, education, and advocacy. PFLAG has 400 chapters and 200,000 supporters crossing multiple generations of American families in major urban centers, small cities, and rural areas in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. This vast grassroots network is cultivated, resourced, and serviced by PFLAG National, located in Washington, D.C., the National Board of Directors and 13 volunteer Regional Directors.
I attended PFLAG meetings years ago, back before I identified as trans. The meetings were wonderful and I got to meet people who loved and accepted me regardless of what I was wearing. The support groups were important too as I met others like me, others who wanted to be beautiful but were happy to live most of their lives as male. PFLAG meetings and support groups are also a safe way to go somewhere dressed, especially the first few times you go out. It’s helpful to know you are going to be surrounded by people who will not bat an eyelash at a girl like us.
Some people get angry or offended when I suggest PFLAG. They insist they are a crossdresser, not transgender. They want to emphasize that they are straight and do not want to transition. They like wearing lingerie, dresses, they have a femme name but they are not transgender. They just want to meet others like them and to talk about this side of themselves to others.
Number one, yes, you are transgender.
And number two, that’s what PFLAG is for.
I don’t want to transition. I do not, and have never wanted to date men. But I am transgender.
We all remember the first time we wore…something. Whether it was a pair of panties or a high heel we remember that thrill. We also knew that it was a complicated moment. What did it mean? We tried our entire lives to understand this and why we do what we do, but there is no reason. Nothing to understand. Just something to accept and embrace.
We tell the media and the cis-world to not be afraid of the word transgender. We shouldn’t be either.