The other day I posted a Ask Hannah question and it certainly inspired a lot of comments and emails. A lot of what I was reading was really interesting and I wanted to chat about it a little.
For some, crossdressing (and I am using my own definition and perspective of what crossdressing is) is a fetish. Simply put, the idea and the act of wearing panties or lingerie or presenting completely en femme is 1000000% sexual and stimulating to them. A fetishist crossdresser (for lack of a better term) will put on (or fantasize about) something and… let their imagination take its course, either alone or with someone else. There is nothing inherently wrong with this. Having a fetish doesn’t require an explanation and in most cases, there isn’t one. Someone develops a fetish, a sexual association with a physical object (such as an article of clothing), early in their life and it stays with them.
I am not one (nor should anyone be) to judge what is acceptable and what is not when it comes to an object of arousal… IF it doesn’t hurt someone (mentally, emotionally, or physically). I may not understand or relate to someone else’s fetish, but really, it’s not my fetish and it’s not my business. And in most cases I don’t WANT to understand it, lol.
As long as we’re talking about it, I do 1000000% understand why crossdressing is a fetish to some. It’s fun to wear stilettos and lingerie, and a fetish should be fun, I think. I feel sexy in lingerie. The lingerie ITSELF doesn’t arouse me, but I feel good and beautiful when I am wearing it.
I also understand (on some levels) why someone like us arouses or is fetishized by someone else. I reluctantly accept that I am fetishized, no matter how much I wish I wasn’t. For some people, anything that is a taboo, or against societal norms, is, well, kinky. Boys aren’t supposed to wear bras and panties so it’s erotic to some when a boy does so.
Of course, this is all very…hmm, basic. I’m sure an entire book could be written on the fetishization of crossdressing and gender identity but I think I’ve established that if a fetish isn’t harming someone, regardless of what it is, then who am I to criticize? Even if we can’t relate to someone who is aroused by WEARING lingerie (which is different than wearing lingerie WHEN sexy times are imminent), we need to acknowledge that crossdressing (and really, almost anything) can and will be fetishized.
And yes, crossdressing as a fetish may make things more… complicated for those who identify as a crossdresser but do not dress for an sexual reason. I’ve written before how I was comforted and emboldened when I learned there was a word for someone like me, but crushed when I learned later how sexually charged crossdressing was portrayed and perceived.
But! It’s not the fault of crossdressing fetishists.
Yes, the word is, and will likely be forever linked to fetishism but I can’t really point the finger at a someone who crossdresses as a fetish and blame them that the majority of the word thinks of *this* as perverted and kinky.
For a very long time, men wearing dresses (or anything else) was portrayed for laughs. Whether it was a crossdressing Bugs Bunny or Bosom Buddies, men dressing up as women was “hilarious”. Decades ago, no one used the word transgender, so crossdressing/transvestitism was really all the world had. And every non-binary person that was assigned male at birth was labeled as a crossdresser or transvestite. Simply put, whether it was on stage or in a movie or a children’s cartoon, men wearing girl clothes was supposed to be comedic.
Well, comedic or perverted, I suppose.
These portrayals have forever shaped the narrative and the public perception of what crossdressing is. Of course, we know differently. We have to acknowledge that for some crossdressing IS indeed sexual, but that is not the reason most of us wear what we do or present how we feel is right for us. I don’t think the majority of us are aroused by what we wear but let’s face it, that’s the perception for someone like us.
Crossdressing was comedic, punishment, or was meant to ridicule.
Is it fair? No. Is it frustrating? Yes. Does it complicate our lives more than they already are? Also yes.
But it is what it is.
For years I identified exclusively as a crossdresser. When I learned of how the word was seemingly associated with sex and fetishism, I started to reconsider identifying as such. As my gender identity evolved, transgender (or more specifically, bi-gender) felt like a better fit.
Identifying this way doesn’t make things easier, however. When I came out as a crossdresser I would always qualify the revelation that it wasn’t sexual. Now when I come as transgender, I qualify it with not wanting/needing that transitioning or HRT isn’t in my future.
I don’t think a fetishist crossdresser is trying to control the narrative or define what all of *this* means. I don’t there is an agenda, if you will. I think most fetishist crossdressers just want to be true to themselves and find others like them. I mean, I get it. It’s important that we all have others in our lives that are like us, whether for friendship or, well, something more intimate. It’s not their fault, or even their intention to be the top results when someone googles ‘crossdresser’. It’s a reflection of how much of the world thinks of the word. Those perceptions were forever influenced by television shows and movies and stories in the newspapers about people like us. Any damage was already done. Crossdressers were HILARIOUS. Crossdressers are PERVERTS.
But we know this isn’t true. We know that most of us who are crossdressing/presenting en femme are doing so because this is who we are.
And! We also know that there are some of us who find crossdressing incredibly erotic. And that’s okay. Again, if a fetish isn’t hurting anyone…
..But I suppose there is an argument that fetish crossdressers hurt the trans community. I mean, I can see that perspective. A small fraction of a people can absolutely be perceived as representing an entire community. But I don’t think fetish crossdressers are intentionally trying to paint all non-binary people as kinksters. I think (and I acknowledge that I could be wrong) that a fetish crossdresser is just trying to live their best kinky life and not bother anyone. I don’t think a fetishist is trying to influence the world when it comes to T people in the LGBTQA+ community.
But it happened and it’s not the fault of the fetish crossdresser community. This is how crossdressing was (and likely will be) portrayed in media for decades, if not longer.
So, are fetish crossdressers making life harder (for lack of a better term) for non-fetish crossdressers? Maybe? Should they “stop”? I don’t think you can stop having a fetish so even if someone “should”, they probably can’t.
You know, just like I can’t deny who I am.
Look, even if all fetish crossdressing were to magically stop, the public perception that crossdressing is a fetish is already set in stone. The link between crossdressing and kink will be entwined for a long, long, long time.
Sooooooooooooooooooooooo…. what is to be done if the non-fetish crossdressing community wants to stop being thought of as, well, fetishists? There’s no grand, sweeping act of reform that can be done. There is no global revolution to change the narrative of what the world thinks of what crossdressing is and isn’t. Rather the responsibility falls to an individual and communication.
We are a unique community. I believe the term transgender is rather broad with a lot of different facets and classifications, as you will. I am transgender, and so are drag queens, but I am not a drag queen. Same with a fetish crossdresser. I crossdress but it’s not sexually stimulating to me.
The point I am trying to make is that whenever a person that was assigned male at birth has a lifetime of conversations ahead of them if they ever choose to paint their nails, shave their legs, wear panties, or really, anything that isn’t thought of as masculine.
If someone comes out as a crossdresser, then they probably will have conversations as to what crossdressing means to them. For some, it’s a kink. For some, it’s not.
If someone comes out as transgender, again, they probably will have conversations about whether or not that means HRT or transitioning.
If someone comes out as non-binary, there will likely be conversations about clothes and pronouns.
Coming out as transgender isn’t easy. The hard part is obvious, such as working up the courage to do so, but it also comes with a lifetime of seemingly endless conversations of what identifying as transgender, in all it’s various and potential meanings, means to the individual.
None of us “owns” the words transgender, crossdressing, or female. We can’t be gatekeepers. As someone mentioned in the comments, “we are all in a marginalized group and know what is like to not be accepted or to be a “bother” to others. This is the exact argument that cis women make about transgender women.” This is spot on. Let’s not tell a crossdresser, a trans person, a girl, anyone, that they can’t call themselves such if the motivation, the desire to identify as they wish, is different from our own.
Thank you for coming to my TED talk.
4 thoughts on “Gatekeeping”
I know for me I began thinking mine dressing or wanting to was a kink or fetish, but once I figured myself out I knew it was more.
It took years to accept myself as trans and that is what I am, I’m not a biological woman but I am a trans person or trans female in 80 percent of my presentation.
I’m sure for most it takes a long time to work through our feelings and where do we fit
It’s a broad umbrella indeed
Part of the problem here might also be that nothing stays the same, including things like a person’s motivation and proper categorization in the pantheon of sexuality. In my case, I used panties and stockings for fetishistic purposes on rare occasions, over the course of many years, while living 99.9% of my life as 100% male. I did not wear any female clothing just because I enjoyed wearing it, or felt like it better expressed my authentic self.
But then something changed. I began to look for male clothes that were less masculine. I got rid of my boxer briefs and replaced them with bikini briefs. I bought pink socks and shirts. I got a pair of harem pants, and a kimono. To a limited extent, this was still fetishistic (I did get a sexual thrill from it, tbh), but these were all things I bought not just to use for my pleasure, but rather to wear all day long.
And then things changed again. Because of a bedbug disaster, we had to send most of our clothing to be cleaned, and I ended up with basically a pair of pants and a shirt. I had to go buy some new things just to have something to wear. When I went to the Target, I had to go past the women’s clothing at the front of the store, which I had done many times before. This time, I didn’t go straight past, instead I went into it. It was a very hot day, so I picked up a tank top. And I bought it. Just to wear it, while cleaning the apartment and other mucky things. I also got a mens tee, in retrospect more as “cover” than anything else. When I put it on, my wife said “didn’t you know that’s a women’s top?” and I said “yeah, but I saw it and I liked it so I bought it.” She just through up her hands, and that was that.
That opened the floodgates, as it were. Since that day, I’ve bought some mens clothes: a pair of skinny jeans, for example. Also a couple of pair of extremely wide-leg pants (looks like a maxi-skirt, my wife said). But I’ve also gotten more tanks and tees from the women’s department, and a pair of girl’s jeans, and added some actual panties to my underwear drawer. I’m moving very slowly, but gradually building up a casual female wardrobe for everyday wear. I’d say right now I wear an item of women’s clothing about half the time, and I’m fully dressed about once a week; but fully dressed just means jeans and a tee with panties underneath, or something similar. I’ve also grown out my hair, and started regularly shaving my legs.
I’m in a pretty comfortable place now, and don’t have any ambition to get fully made up, or to wear a ball gown, or a wedding dress, or the kind of sexy outfits that Hannah looks so great in. But that could change! Because nothing stays the same.
So what’s my proper category? Am I a fetishistic CD? Or a regular CD? Am I trans, or gender-fluid, or something else? I really don’t have a clue what label fits best, and actually I don’t really care. I’m doing what I like to do. That’s it. Call it what you like.
I consider myself Transgender, but when I’m dressed I consider myself a Trans woman. I have found that since finding this side of myself that I love woman’s clothing, the feel, the look, everything about it. I love shopping for clothes (weather in boy or girl mode, I don’t care what people think) wearing leggings (they’re so comfy) & love, love, love wearing dresses of any type. I dress to look beautiful & go out to show the world how beautiful we can be! I & we are not a threat to anyone & hopefully the world’s perception of us will change over time
A male confidante I’ve known for some years on very close terms has helped me to reach a view that there shouldn’t be labels attached to how a person wants to be – merely that they should be allowed to explore, and be how they want to be without feeling persecuted or typecast, but sadly, that is what society does for whatever reason – societal norms, social media, the press, editorial norms or just plain ignorance.
These things are somewhat nailed on, often with little or no right of reply. I am very analytical so I like to get an understanding of how things are, how they came to be, and in my case, why I am / have been like I am / have been. It’s not necessarily the most healthy thing to do/
There is a part of me that hurts, and objects to being a fetish crossdresser. There have been times that wearing lingerie under man clothes was merely comfortable and of preference, but having allowed myself to be drawn into an element of submissive behaviour, use of chastity devices for example, there is, indeed a great degree of fetishism in that so perhaps that puts the cherry on the top of the icing on the cake in that respect. I’m not brutally offended – more so in an element of denial I suppose.
If I were to attach a label – one I would once never have even remotely have considered – it would be that I am bi-curious having been frequently intimate, but none penetrative (too much info?) with a male confidante for a number of years. I suppose the inner inhibitions and sexuality have been nurtured to the surface somewhat in that time.
I don’t consider myself transgender and have no wish to transition, but I am and have always been very much in touch with my feminine side and my crossdressing, albeit only in lingerie, has been THE outlet for that, albeit covertly deployed.
I don’t know how or why I started crossdressing – it just happened at some point around 15 years ago – that I recognise anyway, and, besides, I’m told not to over analyse things.
But to get to the point, and as my blog has frequently stated, whatever I have been involved in and however I might have presented has never been, in any way, done to cause offence to others trying to find their way in life in a still, unfortunately, very intolerant, ignorant society – albeit with signs of some progress in many areas. It is not so much a case of labels per se – more so, just a case of those being attached being far wide of the mark.
As always Hannah, a very thought-provoking and well written entry.