I think it’s easy to overthink who we are and why we like what we like.
Why do I like heels? Why do I wear panties?
I suppose we are a psychologist’s dream, an opportunity to examine and dissect every aspect of our lives to determine why we are who we are.
But the truth is that this is just who we are. There’s likely no psychological reason for what we wear, just as there likely is no reason someone prefers a particular season over another. It just is.
I absolutely think there is too much time debating and discussing gender and why someone is who they are. We simply are who we are. There are a lot of terms someone can identify with when it comes to gender and I think it’s wonderful there’s so many options, and at the same time I think these labels are there to make others feel comfortable with us.
“Why is that man wearing a dress?”
Because they are transgender.
“Why is that person referring to themselves as ‘they’ and not ‘he’ or she’?”
Because they are agender.
Using a label or a term can help someone put who we are in some sort of framework. When we say we are transgender, it gives them sort of structure for them to process who we are.
“Oh, you’re transgender, like Chaz Bono or Laverne Cox.”
Well, yes, and no. Yes, we are transgender, but we are transgender is different ways. Some trans people take hormones and legally change their name, some happily and deliberately bounce back and forth between gender identity and presentation.
For someone who thinks that we overthink labels and gender, I sure spend a lot of time thinking about them. I wrote about how my definition of transgender is pretty expansive and inclusive, but I started to think about what crossdressing is.
If I consider my definition of what I feel being transgender is, crossdressing falls under that umbrella. Some in our community identify as crossdressers but not as transgender.
But what is crossdressing itself?
When I was younger I knew I liked wearing “girls clothes”, but it wasn’t until I was in grade school when my friend mentioned an episode of the Donahue show that featured crossdressers. As someone who was raised Catholic, that term could have very well meant something religious. I asked her what that word meant and she said it was a word for men who wore girl clothes.
My world exploded.
I never thought there was anything “wrong” with me, but I knew that not many boys dreamed about wearing dresses or sneaking into their mom’s closet and trying on her high heels. I couldn’t imagine that I was the only one like me, but to learn that there were so many others like me that there was a word for us was a life-changing moment.
I was a crossdresser.
The word, in a way, legitimized who I was. It explained me. It defined me. It was a word I could use to describe myself. It was a word I could use instead of telling others that I wanted to, and that I liked to wear makeup, dresses, and, well, girl clothes. It’s hard to describe, but I suddenly felt better about myself. I wasn’t alone.
As I grew into adolescence and into my teens, I learned that the word wasn’t necessarily one that had many positive associations. A crossdresser was a freak, an ugly portrayal of women, a pervert, a joke. A crossdresser was someone to be afraid of. Pop culture did no favors to the non-gender conforming community. Whether it was the Tina character in ‘Funky Cold Medina’ or Bugs Bunny in drag, a boy wearing a dress was played for laughs.
I was crushed. I was never ashamed about who I was, but instances like these made me more protective and paranoid of my secret more than ever.
The internet wasn’t much help, either. My first day of college was in 1994 and the web was still a newish thing. The computers in the library was my first opportunity to look up anything I wanted. Google wasn’t a thing yet, but I looked for the term ‘crossdresser’ on my very first online search.
Pictures and stories of men wearing lingerie flooded the search results. I panicked. The last thing I wanted on my first day of college is someone to walk by and see what I was looking at. I logged off, more dispirited than ever.
Were crossdressers perverts? Was I? There was never anything sexual in my dressing. Yes, I loved, and still love lingerie, but that’s not what it was about. What is more beautiful than a lacy bra and delicate panties paired with stockings? Dressing was about looking and feeling beautiful. The feeling of belonging that I first felt when I learned that word had completely vanished and I felt more alone and misunderstood than ever before. I questioned who I was and whether or not the word was right for me.
I hadn’t learned the word ‘transgender’ yet so crossdresser was the only word I knew for someone like me. So, what were we? What is a crossdresser? This is a discussion many in our community disagree on. I fully accept that there may likely never be a term that is satisfying and universally accepted. However, I wanted to clarify what I mean when I use this word.
Crossdressing is simply wearing clothes that are typically associated with another gender.
A boy wearing panties, a woman wearing a tie. That’s crossdressing.
I use the word ‘typically’ with some qualifiers. I do not think cisgender women wearing pants is considered crossdressing. Women have been wearing pants long enough for society to accept that women are “allowed” to wear pants. Yes, there are ties that are made for women, just as there panties that are made for the cisgender male anatomy. I still think that my example above fits my definition as those clothing items are overwhelming associated with a specific gender.
What crossdressing does for the individual person is as unique as the person. Someone might feel beautiful, powerful, horny, calm, happy, whatever. I do not believe a crossdresser is necessarily a pervert. I do not believe everyone who identifies as a crossdresser is wearing what they want for a sexual reason. Yes, there are those that do, but not everyone.
A crossdresser may have a limited scope for what they enjoy wearing. Some crossdressers may only enjoy wearing high heels or lingerie. For some it’s all about eyeliner and that’s it. Some crossdressers will wear anything from wigs to stockings to skirts to leggings to jewelry. There’s really no right or wrong way to crossdress. So, just like my definition of transgender is pretty far-reaching, my definition of crossdressing is just as expansive. I believe that by having an expanded perspective on this word, it makes it more socially acceptable. It challenges the exhausting, inaccurate, and common ‘crossdressers are perverts” opinion.
Hopefully someday terms like crossdressing won’t need to exist and people can wear whatever they want without people batting an eyelash. The hill I’ll die on is that there are no such things as boy clothes or girl clothes. They’re just… clothes.
So, what do you think? Do I get this right or am I far off the mark?