The Complicated Legacy of Crossdressing

It’s amazing how many words are available for girls like us.  But it can be overwhelming when it comes to choosing how to identify.  Some crossdressers may feel that all of THIS is more about clothes, but they may not feel ready to identify as transgender… yet.  What is the difference between non-binary and being gender fluid?  Does any of this matter?  

I am thankful that some words are slowly making their way out of our lexicon.  Words like transvestite and transsexual have been outdated for a while and we are thankfully seeing them less often.  Words and their meanings change and evolve over time and I think the term ‘transgender’ has expanded to become more inclusive than it was perceived twenty years ago.  It used to predominately mean transitioning but identifying as such no longer necessarily means that.  I think many of us have our own personal definition of this word, I mean, I certainly do.  Some of us are scared of the word, some of us might not feel “trans enough”.  I mean, I get that, I was there at one point, too.  

As words such as non-binary and gender non-conforming (and the increase of people using them/they pronouns) become more familiar to those outside of our community, more people are becoming more accustomed to them.  Ten years ago identifying as non-binary would have resulted in confused stares, but today?  Well, probably still confused stares but at least it’s likely someone has at least heard the term before.  

I like non-binary.  I like gender fluid.  I think they are more inclusive and help break down a lot of the barriers and expectations (and limits) of BOY and GIRL.  I think more people would identify as non-binary if they had a better understanding of what the word actually means.  I’m non-binary (of course) but I feel bi-gender is a more accurate way to identify (as I am presenting as boy OR girl). 

The very first word I identified with was ‘crossdresser’.  The way my friend in middle school offhandedly described this word to me was a man who wore women’s clothes.  And goodness if that didn’t describe me when I was younger.  I loved the word, mainly because I was comforted by the fact that there were so many others like myself that we had a word to call ourselves.  I carried this word in my heart for years.

When I was in college the internet was a new thing.  On my very first day of my freshman year I went to the library, plugged in the modem and searched the word ‘crossdresser’.  I wanted to see what I could find.  I wanted to get to know (but not meet) other crossdressers and read about their experiences and their lives.  I was… surprised and taken aback by how… well, sexual the results were. 

Most of the search results came back portraying crossdressing as a fetish.  Now, there’s nothing wrong with having a fetish or a kink, but this is who I was, not something I did to arouse myself.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but the word ‘crossdresser’ became forever linked in my mind to something sexual.

As I got older I realized that the term was associated with fetishism more than I thought.  Crossdressers were often portrayed as deviants and perverts in movies and books.  It was always, always, always about sex.  Of course this would shape how others outside of our community would think of the word ‘crossdresser’.  It was frustrating, to say the least.  What I wore had nothing to do with sex, and eventually I started to wonder if this WAS a fetish since everyone else seemed to think it was.  But I knew in my heart that it wasn’t.  It was intimate, absolutely, but not a kink.  

We are forever cycling through thoughts of who we are and why we are.  Am I a crossdresser?  Am I transgender?  Am I non-binary?  For me, it’s yes to all of it.  I wore and wear “girl clothes” because I am non-binary.  I don’t think clothes are for boys OR girls OR any other gender.  They are just clothes and I love wearing clothes that are “for girls”.  I don’t feel limited to what I can wear, or what I do wear.  There are no men’s or women’s departments in stores.  I shop wherever I need or want to.  It’s true certain clothes make me feel a certain way.  Let’s face it, it’s more fun to wear a dress than it is to wear a shirt and tie, but I’ll wear what I want.  I mean, not really.  I want to wear a dress to the office but I know I won’t, but it would be fun, wouldn’t it?

Our collective thinking in society is evolving (slowly and kicking and screaming along the way) in the way we think about gender.  However the word ‘crossdresser’ still seems to be associated with sex.  Given that there are so many ways to identify these days, is it time to “retire” the word?  I don’t see the stigma of the word going away anytime soon and I think it will be a loooooooong time until people stop thinking of the word as a fetish, so perhaps it’s time to move on.

What do you think?

Love, Hannah

14 thoughts on “The Complicated Legacy of Crossdressing

  1. Wow. Soooo good again! Yes, retire the word. PLEASE. I don’t know if all the words apply to me but I feel like they do. I am older and have had the same experience. It is a fetish to most. Not something that we deal with on a more intellectual or even spiritual level sometimes. In many ways, the word crossdresser makes many feel like we are a deviant of some sort, but most are highly intelligent and more evolved. We have to be to function. For society to evolve, like most of us have, the words and conversation need to change.


  2. Ms Hannah,
    Thank you! I get up early every day, make coffee, feed and let out the dog, then set down with my coffee and phone to read your blog.
    Why? Because for me, being a boy produced dysphoria, though boy mode no longer seems to bother me, as I am transitioning to be in girl mode full time.
    Though being something no one seemed to like did create a dysphoric state for my whole life from early childhood though living as a grandfather.
    I remember when it was first page news about all the young people transitioning, it made me very happy to know they wouldn’t have to live their lives as I did. Though for the longest, I didn’t consider it something for an aged person to do.
    They say, “there is no specific path for transitioning.” Each transgender person can choose from doing as little telling those they choose to tell that they are transgender to having each and every part of their gender changed from what they were declared at birth to what they are in their heart and mind.
    As for me, I do want to change to pass as a full/time woman. And what made me happiest so far were two specific steps:
    First was showing up enfemme to my doctor and staff who removed my beard.
    Second was feeling the estrogen coursing through my body and feminizing my outlook on life as well as physical features.
    So I am finally becoming who I have always been inside. Yes wearing the clothes helped, but transitioning moved me from dreaming about it, to actually becoming who I am, which mostly eliminates the dysphoria.
    But in closing, I do wish to point out again, the right path can and usually IS different, for each and every unique transgender person!


  3. I am not terribly doctrinaire about terms. I employ the words that are in common parlance, realizing that meanings can be subject to personal interpretation. Personally, I think of cross dressing as a description of a behavior, but I don’t like using the term crossdresser to categorize myself. To me, the term describes and act but does nothing to shed light on the reasons that a person might choose to wear the clothing normally associated with another gender.

    The choice of one’s clothes cannot ever explain the daunting question of “why”, nor can the clothes provide any really meaningful insights into who we are as individuals.


  4. I think the word cross dresser has run it’s course but for those who are married if they are aware and ever had to explain it that would be a word that they might feel better using
    I know for me much like you Hannah I know I’m trans and primarily I’m gender fluid and bi gendered
    I wear a lot of female clothing at my job but I’m not full on presenting female
    So it’s easy for me to describe myself this way.
    In some ways even gender queer works as well.
    Whatever it is I most definitely don’t fit the gender norm as it were and it took me some time but I’m very much ok with it and so I’m ok being who I am in public no matter what


  5. Even though that is kinda what we’re doing, I agree with what you’re saying, especially the sexual part, as that isn’t why I cross over to my girl side. I like both of my identities & wouldn’t transition, but I do so love my femme side, the dressing, the feel of the clothes on my body & just in general looking as cute & beautiful as I can.
    If I had to choose a word that I would identify as, it would be Trans Woman, but does it really matter, we just want to go out in the world & not be looked at as some kind of sicko, just let us be ourselves.


  6. I have been out night times I Bn winter with my face covered up dressed up as a woman. In fact one time a couple of years ago I wore out a clubbing mini skirt and a family friend two streets away from where I live couldn’t keep his eyes off me. So it was nice to know I could carry off the look. But what did annoy me about six years ago ,whilst at the Doctor’s I did say that I was a transvestite ,to which he agreed as to how I was dressed ,I did ask him about breast enlargement and he told me that unless I had my penis removed I was to keep wearing padded bras.I was not to happy !!


  7. Yes retire the word. gender fluid or bi gender is a much better way to describe ourselves. That is how my spouse has come to terms with me. Being a whole person not a deviant. I am me.


  8. Yes- A whole person who loves women’s clothes and likes to go out as a woman and shop! Heels and hose are wonderful!



  9. Hannah,
    Yes, yes, yes! It is time to retire a few terms for sure, and I find your perspective to be interesting. I do know that wearing my mom’s intimates at 9 wasn’t a fetish, but I think when I started dressing again in my 40s, the sexual fetish may have been the way she manifested herself? Only through some fairly deep introspection, and a fantastic relationship with a GG girlfriend who I have known for years and now considers herself gender fluid. Haley being accepted, acknowledged and recognized as me finally allowed me to understand that I don’t need what I needed…I would rather go to Panera and have coffee than allow someone to use me. So yes, please kill crossdresser, and while we are at it let’s kill tranny too! The vision of outlandish dress and makeup that term conjure up is certainly not who I am!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I identify mostly as trans and more specifically as bi-gender/gender fluid rather than non-binary. for the reason that I don’t reject the concept of gender or of being gendered, but want to be able to cross back and forth between male and female, and perhaps importantly be seen as the gender I am presenting at the time.
    The non-binary/a-gender position seems to me to imply a more radical rejection of the idea of gender itself, and I’m sure how compatible that is for transfolk or CDs. (Can you crossdress if there is nothing to cross between?)


    1. We can do what we want, I am what I am and I wish I was a full time female.Unfortunately I have balls and chain and not a love passage ,but there we go !!


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