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.