"I'm not afraid of dying, I just don't want to be there when it happens."
-- Woody Allen
Frequently Asked Questions
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Much has been written about crossdressing and the resources on the Web are extensive. You've probably got lots of questions of your own, but if you're looking to us as part of your support system it's helpful to know how we feel about things, isn't it? So - here's what we usually get asked.
You may find that some of these answers don't fit with what you know about yourself. That's okay; this is not a cookbook. Remember, this is your own life and your own pathway. Keep exploring, studying and questioning to make it truly your own. You wouldn't want anyone to judge you - make sure you return the favour.
Harrrummph! Edward Hyde, Lord Cornbury (1661-1723) probably didn't think it was weird! Although a great many of his contemporaries certainly thought he was! Born in England, he was appointed by Queen Anne as Governor of New York and New Jersey in 1701 for the British. The father of many children, Cornbury often dressed as a woman, once opened the government assembly "fully" representing Queen Anne, had his portrait painted in a low-cut gown and even attended his wife's funeral dressed as a widow in mourning. He was a bit too much for the colonists to take, though, because they shipped him home in disgrace in 1708.
Some scholars are beginning to question whether the high gossip value and scandal potential of Cornbury's habits may have overshadowed some of his very valuable leadership and legal innovations. The Lord Cornbury Scandal, by Patricia U. Bonomi, makes interesting reading.
Okay, so maybe he is and maybe he isn't the greatest role model, but certainly had no qualms about dressing as he chose to!
Besides, it's a cool name.
The short answer: times change :-)
In fact, there are many reasons. We have the expertise and resources to help crossdressers regardless of why, where or how often they dress. It is appropriate to share that with anyone who needs it.
Crossdressing is not limited to gays, straights, males, females, transsexuals, geography or any other demographic parameter you care to name. Since our focus is crossdressing, we think it only makes sense to serve the diversity of people who practise it.
We'll always be there for the closeted male heterosexual crossdresser, of course.
No. Regardless of popular assumptions, there is absolutely no established connection between homosexuality and transvestism. While some transvestites are gay, the majority like dressing as women for very different reasons than wanting to "catch a man".
To be fair, in some homosexual relationships the roles are divided along stereotypical gender boundaries and clothing choices may enhance or underscore that - but your clothing preferences do not make you gay, nor do they indicate your sexual preference.
Turn it around: putting a gay man in a suit will not make him prefer women any more than putting a straight man in a dress will make him want men. Similarly, you can't assume a man is straight just because he's wearing a suit!
Not in Canada per se. However, there are the usual laws against disguising yourself or impersonating other individuals for criminal purposes, regardless of whether they're the same sex as you. Be aware, though that if you live elsewhere, your mileage may vary.
Cross-dressing is still a social taboo, especially for men. However, there are many safe, accepting places to go dressed and there are social clubs and support groups for crossdressers in most major cities.
Trick question! Yes and no. The current social taboos against crossdressing can cause intense feelings of guilt and can harm or even destroy personal and family relationships. Cross-dressing can also become an obsession, and like any other obsession can grow to leave no energy or room for anyone else. A crossdresser's partner may come to feel sexually threatened or inadequate.
However, many crossdressers who have come to accept their habit and who are in relationships with understanding, accepting partners find that their crossdressing can be a rewarding, enjoyable aspect of their lives. Many partners enjoy the company of their mate's feminine side and don't see it as a challenge.
The short answer: we don't know.
The long answer: it depends on what crossdressing is for you. If it's a fetish (you're hooked on the clothes, the thrill of doing something illicit, the purely sexual charge etc.) then like any other fetish, we don't know. You probably have a good idea about what turns you on and why, though.
If you feel there's something else to it, like acknowledging your feminine side, expressing your real self and so on, then perhaps it's an innate part of your personality wanting some uptime.
Either way, we believe it's healthier to recognise and accept all of who you are and what you like, and express yourself in whatever ways that don't hurt or exploit others.
This depends very much on your situation and personal beliefs. Even though crossdressing is not illegal in Canada, it may cut straight across the sexual values of your family and friends. On the other hand, it's perhaps one of the least harmful or exploitative of all sexual unconventionalities.
Serious crossdressing can cost lots of time, energy and money. Whether you view it as a hobby or a lifestyle, make sure you budget for it. Respecting your family's needs as well as your own goes a long way to maintaining trust, understanding and acceptance. The Cornbury Society's "Significant Others" group offers support and a place to talk for spouses of and those involved with crossdressers.
Coming to terms with your (or your spouse's) crossdressing can be an intense emotional experience. That can be a profound source of strength for you.
Again, your answer depends on your own situation. If you're single, perhaps nobody needs to know. If you're in a marriage or relationship, you should weigh the consequences of coming out to your partner against the consequences of keeping secrets.
Telling your children is always difficult. Generally, young children are much more accepting than older ones or teenagers.
Being able to tell a trusted friend may be a valuable source of confidence and support.
You may wish to tell your neighbours, if only to beat the gossip.
Transsexuality and transvestism (crossdressing) are different phenomena, although one person may have both characteristics to varying degrees.
Transsexuality refers to the innate, unshakeable conviction that you are in the wrong body: you really are a girl but somehow you have a boy's body - or vice versa. Transvestism, on the other hand, relates more to the desire to emulate the opposite sex, be it through dress, mannerism, role-playing and so on.
Curiously, transsexuals will often dress contrary to their anatomical sex, but do not consider themselves to be crossdressing.
Crossdresser or transsexual or something in-between? Is there more to all this than the clothes?
For some, transsexuality is at best a puzzling phenomenon, a curious affliction that some people suffer from. For others, it's an irresistible force that irreversibly changes your life and that of those you love. For most who are personally acquainted with transsexuality, it's somewhere in between.
What follow are not definitive answers. Many may seem vague, almost evasive. The point, as much as anything, is to get you to think about these questions too.
So - here are a few more questions we get asked - and some you may want to think about if you see yourself in this.
While the two words are obviously related, they carry somewhat different meanings. "Transgendered" implies a process that one went through, such as "married", "circumcised" or "born again". "Transgender" implies an inherent attribute, like "male", "female", "short" or "tall".
Most transgender folks think of themselves as always having been what they are, thus for them, the right word is "transgender".
"Transgendered" could be used to refer to a portrayal of the opposite gender, so (for example) a performer could present a transgendered performance of the opposite sex, even though he or she is not necessarily transgender. Terence Stamp (the transsexual in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) and Felicity Huffman in Transamerica are not themselves transgender people, but they become transgendered to perform their (transgender!) characters.
Transsexuality, as we've used it here, refers to the innate, unshakeable conviction that you are in the wrong body. Your plumbing and your wiring, as it were, don't match. There are many theories as to why this happens. The most likely one is that something happens in utero around 13 weeks after conception that disrupts the normal distribution of hormones; that in turn affects how the brain develops with respect to the body. Hence the old jest:
"My mother made me a transsexual!"
"If I buy her the wool, will she make me one too?"
All joking aside, please remember that this is NOT because of something your mother did or didn't do during pregnancy and there's no evidence that it came from either parent. Blaming your folks for what you are is not appropriate.
Transsexuality is considered to be everything from a sinful choice of lifestyle to an incurable condition to a marvellous gift. It is not something that is treatable by psychiatric means or counselling.
A crossdresser is someone who (for whatever reason) wears clothes conventionally associated with the opposite gender.
A transvestite is a crossdresser who learned Latin in school.
A transsexual knows that his or her physical body is at odds with his or her inner gender identity.
This is usually used as an "umbrella" term covering everyone who portrays or experiences some form of gender variance. Thus it includes the drag queens who portray women on stage; crossdressers who like dressing as the opposite gender; and transsexuals who believe they are the opposite gender.
If you've read this far, you'll have realised that nothing is black and white. There are degrees of intensity. It's quite possible for someone to be happy simply cross-living, woman at home, man elsewhere. Someone else may choose to take feminising hormones and live full-time as a woman, but not wish to undergo surgery. Someone else may not be happy until everything is put right: surgery, name and birth certificate corrected and so on.
The short answer: no.
What can happen, though, is that if you do have transsexual tendencies, the freedom you experience when you come to terms with your desire to crossdress may unmask those tendencies and free you to explore them.
The current belief is that transsexuals, like leaders, are born, not made. In other words, if you're a transsexual now, you probably always have been, even if you're just discovering or admitting that. Conversely, people very rarely "turn transsexual".
Note that being a transsexual is different from having a sex change. See the next question.
This depends so much on your own situation. If you're a transsexual who cannot live a peaceful, normal life as long as your body and mind are at odds with each other, the answer is probably yes, you will want to have "corrective surgery" to bring your physical appearance into harmony with the person you know yourself to be.
You may want to investigate hormones and surgery even if you're not a transsexual, but here we think the path is a real minefield. For example, beginning hormone therapy is usually reversible, but further along the changes become permanent. Surgery is irreversible. You may fantasize about having beautiful breasts, but remember you'll still have them the next morning when you go to work. What then?
Ask yourself honestly what you wish to achieve. Do you want a body that fits the clothes or a body that fits your self? Think long and hard and honestly about the effect on your family, your friends, your work, your professional status, your church and yourself. Find some support or counselling; that way you'll have someone on side if you do pursue this path.
Hormones, as most transgendered folk use the term, are substances that feminise or masculinise your physical appearance. The effects range from mild and reversible to obvious and permanent.
Hormones are essentially medication. They are (or should be) available by prescription only. They affect many parts of your life - including your sex life. For these reasons, it's essential to discuss all this with your spouse and with your doctor.
For the male-to-female: There are a number of feminising hormones that over time will alter a man's hair growth, breast development, weight distribution, skin texture and even temperament. The overall effect is to replace male hormones with female ones. In order to achieve this, two things have to happen: the overpowering effect of the male hormones (chiefly testosterone) must be removed or inhibited; and female hormones (mostly estrogen) must be supplied, since the male body produces at best only minimal quantities of them.
Spironolactone is one of the commonest of the testosterone blockers. It's available by prescription only. It's well-tolerated and has few side-effects. In small doses it's used to treat high blood pressure. In higher doses it blocks the action of testosterone. You can usually expect reduced body hair growth, some slight breast development and a nosediving libido. In the short term these effects are reversible if you stop taking spiro. In much higher doses, spiro can completely shut down your sex drive. Your family doctor can usually prescribe spiro without referring you to an endocrinologist.
Estrogen is available in several different forms and dosages. In conjunction with spiro, it alters the hormone balance to be closer to a genetic female's - with the consequent effects on body shape, skin texture and so on. Embark on estrogen only with the help of your doctor and a good endocrinologist.
For the female-to-male: one of the most powerful masculinising hormones is testosterone. It can affect body mass, hair growth patterns, temperament and libido. All females produce some naturally; in most, the effects are variations on the above. In higher doses it can easily produce masculinising effects. As with other hormone therapies, proceed with caution, after a lot of thought and with the help of a good doctor and an endocrinologist.
Only you know the answer to this one.
Once you start down the path, it's very easy to get so caught up in it that you end up rushing headlong into something you may well regret for the rest of your life. The best advice we can give is:
Talk. Talk with your friends, your spouse, your family, your employer, your doctor; all of them will enter the picture at some point. Keep them in the loop so you can keep them onside. Talk to other transsexuals. Join a support group.
Listen. Listen to your friends, your spouse, your family, your employer, your doctor. There will be questions, insghts, knowledge from all of them.
Learn. Read all you can about what's involved. Find out what will happen to you as you take various steps. Make sure you're always able to make informed decisions.
Be patient. You have your whole life in front of you; don't screw it up. Take the time to do it right.
Love yourself. Whatever you do, don't go into transition because you hate who you are; all that will have changed is the body. Approach it with the attitude that you are worth working on, that you are worth all the time, money, pain and disruption it takes to bring your whole self into harmony.
Act. Finally, when you absolutely know what you must do, do it.
These are questions that non-transgender people often seem to ask about trans folk.
My favourite answer used to be simply "Yes." Lately it's "No" (think about it).
However, you may find that many T folk will answer with something like "tonight I am a woman," reflecting how they choose to present themselves and how they wish to be addressed and treated.
A simple rule of thumb is to begin by addressing the person as the gender they are presenting. If he's wearing a dress and attempting to appear feminine, address him as "she", "ma'am", "her" etc. If she's wearing obvious male garb and making an effort to appear male, address her as "sir", "he" etc. If it's really unclear or ambiguous, a polite "I'm unsure how I should address you; what would you prefer?" will usually clear things up.
Like everyone, it depends on our budget and our taste. Boutiques for some, thrift stores for others, large-size stores for still others.
Unless I've borrowed or rented a wig, the answer is always "yes". Occasionally it's "yup, bought and paid for."
Either "Are yours?" or "Is yours?".
If the conversation, company and situation is appropriate for discussing breasts, then a polite question usually gets an honest answer. Remember, some of us are in transition and on hormones and may very well have real breasts. Others may have had implants or may be wearing breast forms.
If we're presenting as female, it's hazardous to our health to go in the men's! Like anyone else, we're just in the washroom to do what we need to do. Again, some of us may be in transition or even had surgery and it is the appropriate facility for us to use. Please don't judge us by how convincing our appearance is.