Tuesday, 10 December 2013

All dressed up and somewhere to go

Going places: Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux

I write to understand. But shouldn’t this be a private act only? If my ‘diary’ becomes a ‘blog’, I feel exposed: I feel I’m giving away my secrets. Also, analysis is the enemy of desire. When I think about this too much, I risk damming up the channels of pleasure and losing what the poet Blake called the ‘lineaments of gratified desire’. Hitherto I’ve always written my way out of my obsessions. Something in me now baulks at such proceeding: this obsession is too bound up with self-definition. I’ve no wish to elaborate new theories of cross-gender arousal, to plough through a groaning pile of pseudo-scientific papers, to account for the variousness of other people’s experience (especially if it brings me into argument with vested interests). Nothing I write here will have universal application. My wish is just to describe my own experience and to make sense of it if I can, using as little theory as I can get away with.

It feels like having two souls in one breast, let’s call them M and F. (I’m slightly uneasy with this polarization, since it depends on essentializing gender distinctions, but that’s how I experience it and so, to be honest about my feelings, that’s how I describe it.) F is everything that M is not, which is why F is a refuge from everyday life as well as a source of erotic excitement. M is remote from his emotions, intellectual and aloof, impatient with his ugly body; F is in touch with her emotions, socially at ease, comfortable in her attractive body, and enjoying her sexuality and the power it confers over men.

I had always hoped that a ‘cure’ lay in forming adequate external relationships which would enable me to integrate the F into the M, or even suppress the internalized F. As I grew older, this hope seemed to recede and I developed a carapace of self-sufficiency. Recently, I turned a corner. I’ve learned to start celebrating my inner femme. Now she’s all dressed up with somewhere to go –somewhere in my head, somewhere in cyberspace.

Because for me, as for so many crossdreamers, it all began with the clothes…

I’ve no illusions that crossdressing is anything but sexual for me. I’ve no interest in slouching around the house in casual female attire doing ‘ordinary’ things. For me it’s more of an event, or a performance; something I do every couple of weeks, look forward to, prepare for. It’s like taking a vacation from myself for a day or two, passing through a door into another personality; going to meet someone who is an embodiment of my ‘anima’. And she has a distinct, youthful dress style, this other: ‘sexy’ but not ‘tarty’. ‘Dressing up’ is less important than it used to be, however; now I think of it more as ‘undressing-up’, a minimal style of dress (hosiery used to figure large – these days I prefer bare legs) which facilitates my inner crossdreaming while also arousing me sexually as I feel soft materials caressing bare skin and experiment with discarding them sensually as if in anticipation of sex with a faceless man. Like wrapping and unwrapping a precious gift. But I’m also fascinated by how the clothes connect me differently to a body from which I otherwise feel alienated: when you put on a dress and high heels, your posture, your gait, how you sit, automatically change.

I know some crossdreamers dislike the term ‘auto-eroticism’, but that pretty much sums it up for me. I’m not motivated to go out ‘dressed’, have no wish to meet other crossdressers, and suspect that the ridicule I might attract from the non-TV onlooker would undermine what has become an important source of emotional and sexual release for me as a single man living alone.

I shop generally in high street stores, because my female other wants to wear fashionable clothes. I’ve tried mail order but have had more misses than hits that way. Although I can’t try the clothes on, I need to see them and feel the texture before purchase. Browsing was embarrassing at first but I soon realised no one takes much notice; if they do, they probably assume I’m buying for a partner or daughter. One exception is shoes, where my big male feet prevent me from buying the lovely shoes I see in the shops. (A girl can never have too many pairs of shoes!) Fortunately, there are specialist suppliers online. I did once venture into a transvestite outfitter in England (to buy a wig) – then I really did feel embarrassed; there was an air of quiet desperation about the other customers which made me scuttle out as fast as possible. 


  1. Oh yes, I empathise with a lot of this.

    I think the ontology of online life and blogging in particular interacts with the ontology of crossdreaming in important and fascinating ways. A blog can reveal your most private feelings to people who don't know anything about your less private life: an extraordinary circumstance, with exciting potential. Blogging can become a performative truth ('I write, therefore I am'), giving an inner woman a fuller existence than if she merely lives inside an imagination.

    I agree about autoeroticism, and I'm glad you think crossdreaming can be taken seriously without being incorporated into the non-sexual.

    There is a feeling that one ought to be taking crossdreaming somewhere beyond the self. I think blogging can serve this function up to a point. Perhaps a distraction (though of worth in its own right) is engaging in intellectual debate about crossdreaming, in a rather masculine way that isn't really being the inner woman.

    It's easier for me if I think of it as a diary or inner dialogue, rather than a presentation of classy writing or important ideas to the world. Go for it, Dabrela; don't hesitate. Believe in your inner woman as a writer.

    Debs xx

  2. It’s difficult, isn’t it, Deborah, to find the right identity as a crossdreaming blogger? I was mindful of your example – how you closed one blog because you found awareness of an audience restraining and started another where you could engage in ‘free and honest self-expression’. I have a fancy to combine both approaches in one place. Who knows? It may not work for me either. I entirely understand what you mean about blogging your inner woman into existence. But as I said in the previous post, for the reasons I gave, she’s a little wary of entering the public arena under her own name and has asked Dabrela to speak for her, as she speaks for my male self.

    The problem I grapple with currently is how to address ‘theory’ without getting dragged into scrappy arguments with people who either know much more than I do or who think they know better. Maybe I should keep my (still-evolving) ideas to myself? As you say, ‘intellectual debate’ could prove a distraction, however naturally it comes to the systemizing brain. x

  3. I do recommend actually writing somewhere as your inner woman, even if you don't publish as her. You could write posts as her and store them without posting. You could set yourself a regular time slot to write, without a subject in mind, and see what comes out. Just suggestions of what has been helpful for me. When I put Deborah out online the result was completely good for me.

    I agree about addressing theory. When I see trans writers laying into Blanchard I think 'oh surely the old boy can't be quite that bad'. From the very little I've read of his he doesn't seem such a nasty man, but as I've read very little I'm not really qualified to comment. Reading more is just not how I choose to spend my time. xx

  4. Hi Dabrela,

    I too started my blog because I couldn't really find others who shared my point of view. It has proven to be a very effective way of starting conversations with a lot of very interesting people.

    I am sure yours will be as well. You write so beautifully, and you are so honest and articulate. It's a joy to read.

    When can we expect the next instalment??