It is What it is But it’s Not What it Seems

I’m sure we all feel this way but I wish I could switch my brain off. Like, give it a rest, stupid. Can you just be quiet for five minutes?

I tend to overthink and when I do (which is all the time) I start to speculate what COULD happen and then I start down multiple rabbit holes of potential outcomes. If I dwell on a positive outcome I start to get excited. If I am wrought with negativity I get anxious. Either way my mind starts to race.

This tends to happen when I am trying to fall asleep. I put my book down, click off the light, and close my eyes. My brain is tried but girl, it still wants to talk. Sometimes I can ignore it but other times I have a thought that captures my attention.

Sometimes the thought is “hey you forgot to email that person today” and then I start to dread the next day at work. Sometimes the thought is introspective and I can’t help but think about it.

I was driving home from the MN T-Girls holiday party recently and although it was late and I was tired and I had been up for about eighteen hours my brain was still going strong.

I was thinking about all the things that the T-Girls did this year. I thought of all the new friends I made. I thought about how similar we all are, even if we are at different points of our lives and journeys. Many of us identify the same but not all of us. Some of us identify solely as a crossdresser, a t-girl, non-binary, and many other options.

It’s not uncommon for us to relate to a different identity at different points of our lives, and it’s not uncommon for us to wonder who we are.

I was about a mile from my house and was looking forward to wrapping up the day and hoping my brain would cooperate but no, it gave me a thought:

It’s not stressful trying to think of who or what we ARE. It’s trying to figure out who the WORLD thinks we are that is difficult.

And it was like, “well, now THAT’S an interesting thought”.

Growing up and discovering this part of myself was never burdened with trying to sort myself out. For a long time I didn’t even know of the existence of the word “crossdresser”. Until I learned this word, I was a boy who wore girl clothes. That’s all. AND that’s EXACTLY how a crossdresser was defined to me when I eventually heard the word for the first time. That’s the only explanation (if one was necessary at all) that I needed. I was, and always have been, at peace with who I am.

I mean, sure, I thought about this side of me and speculated about my identity but it never stressed me out. It never vexed me. Until I was eighteen years old, I was a crossdresser and that was that.

And then I realized what the world thought a crossdresser was.

Thanks to the search results the internet provided on my first day of college when I had access to the web, I realized that the world thinks that a boy who wears girl clothes is a fetishist, in denial, confused, and a pervert.

Aaaand it seemed that many crossdressers reinforced that perspective.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with crossdressing as a fetish, but this wasn’t a kink for me.

This changed everything for me. It was like being the last person in the world to learn that the earth was flat. I mean, I know that sounds dramatic but you know what I mean. Like, the world is flat?? Or, wait, people think that I’m a pervert??

Learning this made me unwillingly question who I was. Was I a pervert? Is this side of me, well, wrong? How could something that brought me such peace and happiness be, well, exclusively a sexual thing?

Suddenly the world “crossdresser”, which made me feel less alone, was stained, in a way. Tinged with such a predominately sexual connotation. Again, there’s nothing with sex or fetishes but I didn’t like the world thinking I was something I wasn’t.

A few years later I learned the word “transgender” and, I don’t know, it sounded… classier? The first time I saw this word was when it was associated with the queer community. There was a T in LGBTQ+! LGBTQ+ was about accepting who you were and being proud of who you are. It was the first time I saw any sort of… validation and acceptance for someone like myself.

Mind you, this was almost thirty (oh my god, thirty??) years ago and the definition for transgender wasn’t as broad or as inclusive as it is today. Back then a transgender person was someone who was going to transition or did transition. I never felt that this was right for me, so in a way I was back to where I was.

I was in some weird limbo between a crossdresser and a transgender person.

I wasn’t who I was for any sexual reason, but I wasn’t who I was because I was in the wrong body.

Once again I was back to wondering who the world thought I was.

Of course it doesn’t matter what the world thinks of you, but when you are growing up it’s not as easy to not care about other’s opinions of you.

And! When the entire world seems to think that you are either a pervert or in denial it tends to weigh on you a bit. It’s like every person in the world loving a food or a television show that you’re not a fan of. It’s easy to wonder if there’s something, well, wrong with you.

So, I went to therapy.

Actual photo of me on my therapist’s couch (not really)

Mind you, I didn’t go to therapy because of this. If you really want to know I had a very abusive parent (spoiler alert, it was my dad) growing up. This type of situation can really, well, fuck you up. I think that’s the medical term.

As you grow up you assume the dynamics and behaviors or other people in your life, specifically your parents, are normal. It’s not uncommon to adopt these characteristics or at least normalize them. Eventually you learn that no, it’s not normal to have a parent that… did what my dad did. Again, it fucks you up.

Once my dad left I was able to start dealing with that trauma. But I didn’t. Instead that untreated trauma impacted everything. My Check Engine light was on but I ignored it. This reluctance and fear contributed to several unhealthy romantic relationships. One relationship I tolerated abusive behavior and another I drove her up the wall with my insecurity and paranoia and everything else.

It was time to talk to someone.

Therapy was a blessing. It was crucial in my early twenties and lifesaving in my early thirties. I still go.
I don’t feel that my gender identity was ever something that needed to be addressed but it inevitably came up.

Why, though? If I was at peace with who I was (even if the world wasn’t quite sure), why out myself to a therapist?

Here’s the thing. You don’t out yourself to a therapist the same way you out yourself to a family member. Therapy is a safe place. A therapist is a lot smarter than I am.

I brought up my love of pink and lace and lingerie because it was part of me. I wanted my therapist to have the whole picture, if you will.

And I wanted to really find out if I was in denial.

Spoiler alert, I wasn’t.

Therapy brought, and still does, peace. It’s reassuring to know that there’s nothing wrong with you. I mean, there might be a need for a change in perspective or perhaps some medication (thank you Prozac) that would be beneficial, but no, there’s nothing wrong with wearing panties or needing to talk about your childhood.

Listen.

Therapy is not easy. The bravest thing we can do is go to that first appointment. Just know that only one appointment might not change your world. It takes time. It might take trying different therapists. Therapy helped me realize that my thoughts and many moments from my childhood were indeed harmful and not normal. Realizing this helped me begin to heal.

And yes, I cringe at the phrase “begin to heal” but come on, that’s exactly what needs to happen for most of us.

If you have ever emailed me with a pretty serious question (such as relationship issues or whether or not transitioning is right for you) I’ve likely encouraged you to seek out a therapist. Therapy doesn’t mean something is WRONG with you. Our hearts and minds are complex and there’s nothing wrong with getting the advice of an expert. I listen to my mechanic about my Kia, why shouldn’t I listen to the perspective of something who understands people better than I do?

When I discussed my crossdressing with my therapist(s) I had expected a major deep dive into this side of myself. I was prepared for the BIG questions, questions I hadn’t asked myself, questions that might lead to uncovering truths that I hadn’t considered.

“It is what it is”, she said.

This simple, straight to the point statement came after what felt like a long, rambling reveal of who I was and what I wore. I covered every aspect that I could think of.

“I wear dresses BUT….”

“I have a different gender identity AND….”

And so on. I was honest and open and acknowledged that most people would assume I was in denial or on my way to transitioning but I was quite comfortable and happy with who I was.

It wasn’t easy to summarize decades of gender identity but it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. I had been internalizing (except for the few people I had come out to up to this point) so many thoughts and feelings and perspectives for decades. Years and years of overthinking and self-reflection contributed to me being very prepared for the talk.

“It is what it is”, she said.

Which sounds absolutely oversimplified but… it was refreshing considering how needlessly complicated the world makes gender out to be.

We chatted a little more about, she asked for some clarification and really, that was it. I think she was satisfied with my perspective and felt that I had a fairly decent grasp of who I was and what this was all about.

There was no long exploration of terminology or trying to put me in a certain “box”, if you will, of a label.

After this I was comfortable with, in a way, defying prevailing public perspective. Sure, the world thought I was a) a pervert or b) in denial but I wasn’t. I knew this and therapy helped reinforce this. I was a third option: c) I am who I am.

Of course, this put me in a similar feeling as before of not fitting in, not belonging. It would be a long time until I found others like myself. People assigned the gender of male at birth but had more panties than a Victoria’s Secret. People who happily bounced back and forth between gender identities and gender presentations. People who felt sexy when dressed but not aroused BECAUSE they are dressed.

My exhaustion from the party and the day overcame my inquisitive brain. The next morning I poured a coffee and wrote a little bit about the thought my brain tried to keep me awake with from the previous evening. Over the next week I wrote and overthought and edited and rewrote and here we are. My thoughts have transferred to typed words and now YOU get to think about them. 🙂

Love, Hannah

8 thoughts on “It is What it is But it’s Not What it Seems

  1. HI Hannah,

    I have not at the same experience with therapy. I went to marriage counseling for a while and then twice to get a gender dysphoria consultation for surgery.

    The marriage counseling was very much a blame game.

    The dysphoria consultation was very much a formality for the letters. No real therapy involved.

    All of this is probably on me. I tend to be very guarded. I assume this is common in our community.

    I struggle with my mind racing when I wake up at night. I have found that if I get up and sleep on the couch or a different bed then my mind seems to calm down and I can get back to sleep.

    Jodi

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  2. My experience with therapy is that it has always been helpful. Therapy during my first year in graduate school and the first year I was married helped me in some ways and introduced me to Librium, which I took for a short period of time. My therapist a respected author of As The Twig is Bent did not seem to be enmeshed in any particular school of thought about how therapy should be done. He helped me during a difficult period. I will always be grateful. My wife and I had already dealt with how to handle cross dressing. Lots of love, Tom

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  3. Hi Hannah,

    i owe my therapist alot. Many many times i remember driving over to her office, thinking about how crazy my life was and how the sanest part of my day was diving down Lawrence Expressway to talk to her about girls clothes.

    She asked me a question that changed my life “so you have decided you are a cross dresser, what type of cross dresser do you want to be?”

    i am now at peace with myself and am looking for more ways to be visible and helpful

    thanks for all that you do

    -bri

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  4. I would like to see a therapist, but at my age, I am not sure it is worth it. If I was 20-25 again, I would definitely consider transitioning and I am certain that I would be happier. I truly love women’s clothes and dressing and “going out”!

    Bobi

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  5. Hello everyone,
    I think that you , if you consider to come out ( or go out enfemme ) for the first time , it could be useful to talk to a proffesionele
    You probably become more secure
    Love to you all and Merry Christmas and a happy new year

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  6. I believe therapy can be very helpful, or very disappointing— depending on whether it is the “right” match between client and therapist. Just like in any profession, 50% of therapists graduate in the bottom half of their class, and frankly, some are just not very well trained or lack experience dealing with transgender people. Most have absolutely no training in gender counseling or gender dysphoria.

    Since the best way to find a therapist is through a personal referral, that is hard to do for a closeted crossdresser. Some therapists who list transgender as an interest area on their Psychology Today profile actually have no specific training in gender counseling (they just checked the box that they have an interest in the area). Gender counseling is a specialty area.

    I am an advocate for therapy. I just think it is really hard to find the right fit. Those who do are very fortunate. Nancy

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  7. I have had those sleep-interupted nights as well. The thoughts swirl around unresolved in a mental sort of Brownian Motiion. At least in my case, such ruminations seem unproductive. I never reach a useful conclusion. One thought randomly branches into others. Usually, the overprising theme is worry about things beyond my control in the past, present or future. When this happens, I have to stop it by opening a book, focusing on the more orderly thoughts in someone else’s writing.

    Jumping to therapy, I came out grudgingly after 3-4 sessions. It was the elephant in the room. When I finally blurted it out, my physchologist calmly replied,
    ‘Its not a crime, you know.’

    She tried to engage me more fully in a discussion of my motivations, but I think, looking back, that I wasn’t entirely forthright or particularly self aware. And I suppose compared to the deep depression I was dealing with, my attitude towards my own cross dressing was a secondary issue. I still have some conflict with myself.

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