Cross-dressing and trans women

I see that some people in the trans community as well as outside it try to put up a fixed boundary between crossdressers and “real” transgender people. That is unfortunate, writes Jack Molay.

I agree. Some people who later identify as trans women, or who transition, start off identifying as cross-dressers. I am one. I thought I was a “transvestite”- not an objectionable word, then- as I slowly grew towards wanting to transition, deciding to transition, transitioning. As he says, “cross-dressing is an act, not a condition”. However, people show who we are by what we do, and someone who cross-dresses occasionally but has never seen a doctor about it has not shown to anyone that socially she is a trans woman. What we are entitled to depends on what we show we are, rather than what we claim we are, and fear and prejudice distort this.

Everyone is entitled to respect. Someone who cross-dresses occasionally is not respected, and this is a shame. My neighbour refused to speak to me after he saw me leaving home during the week for work dressed male but in the evenings and weekends for fun dressed female. He began speaking to me again after I transitioned. The cross-dresser may be disrespected by the cis person who thinks that is a man, a pervert, and it is unseemly for a man to do that, or by the trans woman who thinks that is a man and his flaunting may decrease respect for trans women.

Loos have cubicles. A cross-dresser using a woman’s loo for masturbation is disgusting, but then I disapprove of men using any public places for masturbation. That includes watching porn on the train. A cross-dresser using a woman’s loo to urinate does no harm at all, whether or not s/he wants to transition. Someone who cross-dresses occasionally (me again, twenty years ago) might want to use a woman’s loo as part of checking out whether transition was possible for her, before seeing a doctor or confessing she was considering transition to anyone else.

Trans women might object to any cross-dresser using a woman’s loo because they fear the cross-dresser makes it difficult for them, such as by increasing the fear of cis people. Some androphile trans women try to delegitimise gynephile or late-transitioning trans women, sometimes by conflating the two groups, or calling them ugly. That comes from misplaced fear, of being excluded and disrespected in turn. “I’m not like them, I’m a real transsexual” they wail. If you’re doing your best to appear to be a woman I don’t object to you.

What about going to work? I feel anyone should be able to wear what they like to work, if it is sufficiently formal. There are non-binary people, who go to work sometimes presenting female, sometimes presenting male. The more that happens, the more normal it becomes, the more unnecessary taboos are worn away.

Prisons and hospitals, though, women’s spaces are for trans women but not cross-dressers. That means having commenced transition. In prisons, you should need a diagnosis, because prisoners are dishonest, and may pretend to be trans for wicked purposes.

Trans women are mostly harmless. Judge us for what we do as individuals, not as a group for all wrong done by all trans women ever. Fear of trans women comes from irrational prejudice. Trans women seeking to exclude cross-dressers can come from fear of being a victim of that prejudice.

4 thoughts on “Cross-dressing and trans women

  1. Many of us move from one state to another which is why judging someone based on where one is now is not a good idea. Transgender people take time to figure themselves out and determine where their final resting point lies on the spectrum and this reflection process can take many years. This was especially true for those of us born during the dark ages before the internet allowed us a peak into understanding this topic. So yes, Jack is correct that crossdressing is an act and not an identity. One crossdresses or does not but it has no bearing on their internal identity…

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  2. Clare, I entirely agree with you. Last night I talked with another (transitioned) trans woman who said that so many CDs had said to her how much they wished they were like her. We both commented how many CDs are kind of caught between their needs to do more and their own realities and, of course, fears. As far as I’m concerned they’re all under the trans umbrella with us.

    I recently got into a bit of a storm with another trans woman on FB on this subject. She was adamant that unless one has transitioned that CDs aren’t valid transgender people. She then told me that she’s much younger, perhaps late teens or early 20s, and she’d transitioned as a teenager. She’s thus one of the new generation who are benefitting from so much that was unavailable to people of our age. As patiently and kindly as I could I explained how envious I am of her situation and asked her to be be aware that us older folks (I’m 62 now) would dearly have loved to be in her shoes but, wishes notwithstanding, it just wasn’t possible a half-century ago. The good news from all this, I hope, is that she and perhaps other of her cohorts have a new awareness and appreciation of CDs and their validity.

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    • At the club, some of us identifying as transvestite seemed like blokes down the pub who happened to be dressed a bit strange, and some to be feminine, and some very private and not letting on or having personal conversations about themselves. You can’t tell by looking at someone.

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