Coping with Crossdressing
Essays & Strategies for dealing with crossdressing issues.
Will They Still Love Me After I Tell Them?
© 1994 JoAnn Roberts
This is a guide to coming out to a partner, family, siblings, or friends. It is adapted from a workshop that I do at events and group meetings. It is usually interactive, but I think it translates fairly well to the web. I hope you find some help here
Why Should I Tell?
If you have not achieved self-acceptance you may carry a great burden of guilt for a variety of reasons. You may feel badly about keeping a secret from your partner or family. It's lying by omission. So, you may decide to tell to alleviate feelings of guilt.
At the personal level, you may have very a poor self-image, low self-esteem. These feelings may come from "messages" sent by a partner or family members that you (as a TV) are "bad" or "unworthy" of love. So, you may decide to tell to help your self-esteem.
At one time or another, you probably thought you were the only person in the world who crossdressed. You may still have immense feelings of loneliness and desperation. So, you may tell because you want to end the isolation.
Let's say you've found a local support group, but since your family doesn't know about your activities, you are not free to explore your gender issues. So, you may want to tell so you can have more freedom to explore and express yourself. Or, believe it or not, many times a CD will come to the end of a business career and find he's faced with the prospect of being home with his partner all the time. No more business trips! No more freedom. So, you may decide to tell in order to retain your freedom to dress.
Perhaps your family has accidentally discovered your crossdressing and they're making all sort of wild assumptions. So, you may have to tell in order to do some damage control, correct misinformation, and calm many fears.
Some Things You Need to Understand
I've often heard it said that crossdressing doesn't hurt anyone. That's true only if you are single and have no family. Otherwise, because we co-exist with other family members, our behavior does have an effect on them, both perceived and real. You need to understand some of the family issues involved.
Guilt by Association
There are social repercussions to consider. How many families want to be associated with a person society considers mentally ill and a pervert? Friendships can be lost. Children can be teased unmercifully. The family becomes outcast. This can lead to feelings of isolation, loneliness and anger at the crossdresser. We like to think that our society is more enlightened than that today, but, sadly, it's just not true.
Loss of Income
Many families fear economic reprisals if the crossdressing is discovered. This is not an unreasonable fear. In many job situations, the discovery of crossdressing behavior may be cause, however unjustified, for dismissal.
Families that discover a crossdresser among them often question the person's sexual orientation. A lot of ignorance surrounds homosexuality still and questions of promiscuity are likely to come up and that brings up STDs. Some families will wonder if the crossdresser is really a transsexual who will want genital reconstruction.
Loss of Intimacy
Crossdressing can be a narcissistic, selfish behavior. Often a CD will become so engrossed in crossdressing that he begins to neglect the public and private social aspects of the family. Extraordinary amounts of time, energy, and, frequently, money are spent developing an alter-ego.
Partners can react to crossdressing from a sense of lowered self-esteem. They immediately ask, "What have I done wrong? What is wrong with me?" They immediately blame themselves for the behavior. It doesn't matter that the transvestism was set in motion years before they met, they "know" it's their fault. Partners who react this way usually feel negatively about themselves to begin with and they transfer the "guilt" of the behavior to themselves.
A partner or family member also may feel they have to "compete" with the crossdresser. They may be threatened if the CD looks convincingly like the opposite sex. Consider the damage done to a partner's ego if his/her spouse looks more like the opposite sex than he/she does.
What Reactions Can You Expect?
I don't know of any marriage that ended because crossdressing was the single issue. Usually there are many problems in a relationship and the crossdressing just pushes it over the edge. If you have a good, loving, respectful relationship with your partner and family, they will try to understand you and your needs.
Acceptance: Sometimes family will express complete and total acceptance of crossdressing behavior. This may be due to a knowledge gained from a past personal experience, or because of a sincere belief that all people should be entitled to express themselves in any non-destructive manner. A family of this type may realize that many of the good qualities about the crossdresser are due to their transgendered nature.
Some may families react mildly to the need to crossdress, recognizing that the behavior is unusual but generally harmless, if managed properly. Initial acceptance or at least a willingness to learn and understand is often misinterpreted by the transvestite as total acceptance.
At the opposite end of the response scale, the family unequivocally cannot accept the crossdressing behavior. Telling lies and keeping secrets from family and friends is too high a price to ask from some people.
In response to this burden, a family may try to coerce the crossdresser to give it up with a threat of separation or even public exposure. Despite their best intentions, transvestites cannot "Just Say No" to crossdressing. A complete rejection can and will eventually dissolve the relationship, unless both parties work toward a compromise.
Don't Ask, Don't Tell: Believe it or not, the Clinton Admin did not originate this approach to deal with serious issues. Many families have adopted this approach to dealing with crossdressing. It is not a stable state. Any stress in the relationship will bring it to the forefront. It is best to try dealing with the issue in the open.
When & How You Should Tell
As soon as possible. Research shows that the longer you wait, the more negative the reaction. Ideally, tell before you get married, after that there is no "best" time. When you tell, your goal should be understanding of your need to express this part of you, not force acceptance. The setting should be intimate & private. You are going to deliver information, so have it ready. Don't flood them with too much information. Stop and wait for questions. Be prepared to stop completely if the reaction is shock.
Use positive terms. Don't say you have a "problem." Rather say, "I have something to share with you." Tell dressed in your regular clothes. Don't show up crossdressed. If they want to see what you look like, have a photo handy. I don't know the TV that doesn't have a photo of themselves dressed. Have quality info available. Don't use a TV magazine with personals, not even Tapestry or older issues of LadyLike with Personals. The presence of Personal Ads is a definite negative. Use Chrysalis, Cross-Talk, Coping With Crossdressing, or My Husband Wears My Clothes. Suggest seeing a qualified counselor for impartial answers to difficult questions. Don't try to be an expert. Suggest talking to a partner or family member of another CD, if you have access to a support group. Discuss limits: where and when crossdressing is acceptable both privately and publicly; the role of crossdressing in the bedroom; and whether to tell others, including children, other family members and friends. Discuss the extent your partner is willing to participate in your crossdressing activities.