We are all unique.
And yes! That is a cliché.
But! That doesn’t mean it’s not true.
Every gender non-conforming person is different. I am transgender, you probably are as well. But while I have no desire to transition, you might be legally changing your name today.
The scope of who we are and what we want and what our individual and personal journeys are like are all very broad and different. And I think that’s a good thing. We all have a word that we can identify as even if there are many nuances that go along with that.
I am transgender but I am not going to transition
I am transgender but I underdress and I do not present en femme
I am transgender but I am not fulltime
I am transgender and present fulltime but not at work
I am transgender and I take estrogen
And so on.
As time stubbornly struts on, our perspective of the world and of the amazing possibilities of gender changes. The world becomes bigger. We realize our potential.
Other people can change our perspectives, too. When I learned of the word “crossdresser” I interpreted that word exactly as it was defined for me. “A man that wears girl clothes.”
And although I was like twelve years old when I heard it, I immediately latched onto that word, albeit privately. I was a crossdresser. Hooray! There was a name for me! There were SO many of us that we actually had our own word!
And like a lot of things in life, the internet ruined that word for me.
On my first day of college I visited the library and they had computers that could go online. For my younger readers please understand that this was A Very Big Deal. It still amazes me that my microwave is connected to the internet because at one point if you wanted to go online you had to leave your house and go to an internet cafe or something. God, remember those?
I searched the word “crossdresser” because I wanted to know about others like myself. I wore girl clothes! I loved girl clothes! I wanted to wear more girl clothes!
After a few moments of the slow internet chugging along it eventually provided me with results. And my goodness these results were not appropriate for a public space. Very NSFW. As you can imagine most of the images and websites were very sexually charged and very fetishy.
I was probably naïve but I had really no idea that this was a sexual thing for others. I mean, I knew lingerie was synonymous with intimacy but, well, you know. Sexy yes, but sex itself, and only sex? Again, I was probably naïve. Also, most of the sex crossdressers were portrayed as having (or wanting to have) was with men which suggested there was a link between gender identity and clothing preferences and sexual identity. To me, what I wore to bed was completely unrelated to who I wanted to be in bed WITH.
This side of me wasn’t about sex. I had thought that through the magic of the internet I could find others like myself but I quickly felt that there WEREN’T others like myself… masculine (from a traditional societal perspective) presenting people who loved beautiful clothes.
And it goes without saying that IF this side of you is a fetish, wonderful! I promise I am not kink shaming you.
It took some time to find others like myself and it happened, ironically, through the internet. I went on to form the MN T-Girls and these days I know so many others like me. People who are bi-gender. People who crossdress. People who spend a day here and there en femme but happily return to their drab but fulfilling boy life.
It turns out there were, and are others like myself. There always have been and there always will be.
Although I was around twelve years old when I first heard the word CROSSDRESSER it wasn’t my first experience seeing someone that was somewhat like myself.
Most of us grew up watching cartoons. How many of us saw a male character wear a dress in a television show? It was usually played for laughs or to portray someone who was a little… off or even villainous. How many times did Bugs Bunny dress up?
Although I was seeing a masculine character wear girl clothes for reasons that were different than my own, it was still a significant moment.
I mean, I was a boy that wore girl clothes. And here was another boy that also wore girl clothes. I mean, it was an animated rabbit or an actor in a fictional sitcom, but still.
It showed to me that it was possible.
It showed that this side of me was… well, it could be fun. I mean, Bugs Bunny sure looked like they were enjoying themselves.
I moved on from cartoons and continued to see crossdressing in movies and television shows. A common trope was a boy disguising themselves as a girl for… reasons. Usually the boy did so reluctantly and unwillingly. I could not relate to that. I would daydream about the same situation and how happy I would be to volunteer to get dolled up. Why were these boys resisting it?
Buuut it did offer a new… “reason” to dress up. I could PRETEND to resist it. I COULD pretend to not want to do it. Like, “oh darn, I HAVE to dress as a girl?”.
Additionally, how many television episodes were along the lines of:
“I don’t want to wear makeup or a dress!”
“But you have to so we can trick someone!”
“I don’t want to! But I guess I have NO CHOICE.”
“You lost a bet! You HAVE to dress as a girl!”
“You know what would be fun? If we gave your brother a makeover!”
As someone who grew up with two sisters who frequently had friends visit for sleepovers this scenario seemed to have the most potential.
Most scenarios that involved crossdressing or genderbending were played for hilarity.
As I got older crossdressing was usually portrayed as a fetish.
As gender becomes more nuanced and understood these days, movies and television often portray non-cis gender identities as someone being lonely or misunderstood.
It seems our representation falls into either hilarity, kinky, or confusion. Rarely as healthy or as a positive thing.
On one hand at least we HAVE representation. On the other hand, misrepresentation very likely hurts us.
When I was in my early twenties RuPaul made the scene. Although I didn’t see myself as a frag artist it was really wonderful to see someone who loved dressing AND seemed to be having a lot of fun. If anything I was reminded that this side of us is indeed wonderful.
It probably won’t happen in my lifetime, but it’d be interesting and refreshing to see someone like me, someone like you, in a movie. Someone who knows exactly who they are and has a supportive and perhaps a slightly bewildered wife.
That being said, what was it like the first time you saw someone like you in a movie or a television show? They may not have been exactly like you, but seeing a male character slipping into a cocktail dress probably had a huge impression on you.
4 thoughts on “Someone Like You”
I’m not sure how I felt when I saw someone like me but yes I too did the research thing at college
In fact for a sociology class I did an interview with myself for a paper about wanting to wear girls clothes but did it in 3rd person so the class would not suspect it was me
Oh those days of hiding
It took a long time to accept the fact I was different and even longer to accept the face it was ok
Yes we are getting there but still a ways to go
All the same early recollections of cross dressing character. I used to cringe whenever I had to watch Klinger when others were around out of some fear that they would see something of me in Klinger or vice versa.
I do recall what I think may have been one of the first genuinely sympathetic representation of a transgender person on television. A character, I believe her name was Maureen, who became the love interest of LT. Hunter on Hill Street Blues. Maureen had transitioned (though that wasn’t the term used at the time. It was interesting because she wasn’t played as a joke and her relationship with LT Hunter was portrayed positively.
Of course at the time the character was portrayed by a genetic woman, but still it was fun to imagine being her.
I must have been about six years old when I first saw Flip Wilson’s character Geraldine. She was supposed to be a caricature of women but he played it with such authenticity I saw it as a homage to femininity. It was all in the details- the hairstyle, the lashes, the hip minidresses, the pantyhose and heels. It all seemed like such a fun way to express oneself.
Max Klinger on MASH was my greatest influence as a skirt enthusiast. He always demonstrated the highs and lows of dressing pretty. He’d complain about the cold wind up his skirt while on night sentry duty in a cocktail dress, or remembering to wear a slip, or shaving his back for a formal gown. But you could see the joy he took in his wardrobe, mixing and matching, accessorizing and the like. He even got married in a white satin and lace gown! When Colonel Potter banned him from dressing, you could feel his frustration (he underdressed with a slip to relieve the tension).