Most people who cross dress have periods when they dress more and periods when they dress less. Sometimes they have period when they don’t dress at all. More than a few people have memories of dressing in childhood and adolescence and then take a long hiatus only to rekindle their interest in later adulthood. I regard cross dressing as a life-long proclivity. It can be an identity, an obsession, a sexual activity, a private source of comfort, or just a joyful expression of femininity. Nancy’s question was clearly reaching for something that goes beyond the very varied usual experiences of cross dressers, beyond the binge-purge that happens when people decide they want to be finished with it – and then find that it inevitably returns. The question was about people who really stop dressing altogether. Forever.
I have seen people lose interest in cross dressing, but I never assume that it is a permanent state. As long as one is alive there is the possibility that the desire will return. A number of my clients have stopped dressing –either through deliberate effort or because the desire evaporated. In every case the interest returned. I expect that there are many people of whom I am not aware who simply stop and never regain an interest. I would like to know what they have done. How do they account for this? It would be wonderful for people to have a choice, to be in control of their desire to cross dress rather than to be ruled by it. Those who permanently lose interest may have something to teach us about how to diminish the desire.
We could look at this from a different perspective; as a transgender identity issue rather than a cross dressing issue. For most people gender is fairly consistent throughout their lives. Their gender aligns with their assigned sex at birth and does not vary significantly. But some people do not follow that pattern. They can be female at one time in their life and male at another time in their life. They can be fluid or androgynous or manly or womanly at different times. A person may be female-identified for several years and then male-identified for several years. Or they may feel female some days of the month and male other days of the month. It is possible that when cross dressing ceases it is because there has been a deep shift in gender identity. If the cross dressing expressed a female aspect of the self, it makes sense that the cross dressing will decrease if that aspect diminishes. The cross dressing does not feel right when the male aspect of the self is ascendant. This kind of natural shift could happen frequently or it could happen only once in a lifetime. The once-in-a-lifetime shift could, theoretically, be that “stopping forever”. I have seen many people shift gender, but I never regard a solution as final because there is always the possibility of another shift. If there is one quality common to all living things, it is change.
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