Dr. Kit Rachlin is a gender therapist based in Manhattan
Do you know of anyone that has really been able to stop crossdressing permanently, and if so, was there a specific trait that they had, or did not have that made it possible for them to stop. I have a friend that used to be a part of this group, who has stopped for a year, and indicates that they have no interest in it at all. In their case, they did not start until late in life. In my case I have been doing it on and off since I was nine years old. I have purged once, attempted to give it up a few times, and actually gave it up for 10 years, before recently starting it up again. However, I will say that my giving it up has always been tied to the status of my relationship at the time, and my spouses reaction to it. In addition, during the 10 years that I had stopped, I did think about, did dream about it when I was sleeping, and mostly have to say that I was choosing to suppress my desires, to avoid having it impact my personal life. I also find that sometimes just buying something for myself is enough to satisfy my needs for a while. I have accepted myself for who I am, but would be interested to see how she responds. My thought is that the earlier that a person feels the need to do so, the stronger that need is in them, and the less likely that they would be able to stop. Hugs. Michelle.
You pose a good question. Do people permanently lose the desire to crossdress? And if so, do personality factors or the age at which you begin crossdressing make a difference?
Quite a few people I’ve known have stopped crossdressing for a year or several years, but when I followed up with them they all told me that the need to crossdress had returned. I am not aware of anyone who has gone from being deeply invested to completely disinterested in crossdressing. I imagine that there must be such people, but they do not stay in touch with me or with CD community. Also, we do not know whether a person has permanently lost interest until that person has died. As long as one is breathing, the desire may return.
Some of the people I have worked with had a deep determination to stop crossdressing. Often therapy helped them to reduce some of the internal pressure and obsession, and they stopped for some period of time before it returned again. For most people the intensity of desire ebbs and flows naturally over time, so if they enter therapy when desire is very high it is likely that it will diminish as part of that natural fluxuation Most crossdressers report periods during which the desire or the behavior was less intense or even completely absent. These periods often correlate with environmental factors such as a hostile or dangerous environment (e.g., a foreign job assignment in a country in which crossdressing is a crime or a love relationship that would be threatened by crossdressing), intense distraction (e.g., medical residency in which one is sleep deprived and overworked), a living situation which provides little time or no privacy (e.g., the army, college dorm, first years of marriage and parenting). Crossdressing desire and behavior increase when there is increased privacy, access to clothing, related internet activity, or any interpersonal or community support. Anything which reduces guilt and shame, which is empowering, and which helps one to feel good about one’s self as a crossdresser may make it more unlikely that a person will suppress desires which they perceive as harmless. This is where personality comes in. Let’s look at two people; Sarah, who has a wife and children, values conformity, is uncomfortable with risk, is inhibited, self-disciplined, active in a conservative religious community, and dependent upon others for approval. The other person is Samantha, who is single, is thrilled by high-risk activities, is independent, nonconforming, unconcerned about what others think, and follows her impulses. How will these two people approach their desire to crossdress? Who is more likely to be in the closet? More likely to go to a support group? More likely to feel shame and guilt and fear? Personality factors may not determine crossdressing desires, but certainly will affect how one expresses their desires.
Now, to address the question of whether age makes a difference. Some people begin dressing in childhood, others in adolescence, and others in late adulthood. For a person who crossdresses in childhood this awareness is very deeply woven into his/her self-perception, the way s/he approaches relationships and the development of his/her sexuality. While this experience is far different from that of someone who develops an interest in crossdressing late in life, the new obsession and identity may become just as intractable, overwhelming, and important to that person. Two people who come to crossdressing through very different pathways may arrive at the same place.
To sum it all up, it is my observation that it is extremely unlikely that crossdressing desires will permanently cease. The age of onset is not as influential as certain lifestyle and personality variables, which impact expression, more than desire.
Thanks for the question, Michelle.
Happy holidays to everyone!
Dr. Katherine Rachlin is a clinical psychologist, gender specialist, and sex therapist in private practice in New York City. Her website is http://katherinerachlin.com. You can also reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (212) 206-3636.