By Dr. Kit Rachlin.
Once a partner finds out that you crossdress…. there will be inevitable negotiation over if, how, and when you can do it. If you entered into a heterosexual relationship as a man, then it is highly likely she will want to continue to see you that same way. There can be a number of reasons why she does not want you to crossdress. Here are three biggies.
- Most female partners in heterosexual relationships need to see their partner as a man in order to respond to them sexually. Femininity may be a turn-off.
- Depending upon how she learned about the crossdressing, she may feel betrayed by the fact that her partner was keeping secrets from her. If the activity involved other people – whether in life or on-line- she may feel that you have been unfaithful and reckless.
- Gender non-conformity carries a social stigma and she may be afraid of how that will affect you, her, and the family.
- She may fear that you really want to live as a woman and that she will lose you to gender transition.
There are women who love the female aspect of their male partners; but they are the exception. Let us explore the more common situation in which a wife or girlfriend asks their partner to stop dressing, dress less, dress in private, or promise never to take hormones, transition gender etc. (Dressing means different things to different people. It can mean one item of clothing or an entire makeover.)
You have to stop this! – If you are reading this you probably already know that people who crossdress rarely, if ever, stop completely. You may stop for periods in your life. The desire goes through cycles and some days or months it will be more intense or less intense. But no one can make it go away. For many people crossdressing is a compulsion, meaning that they are compelled to dress or think about dressing and it feels out of their control. A better description of the situation is that the effort to control it takes such a high toll on the person that for all practical purposes, it is something they must do in order to be reasonably content and functional. Most people don’t exist in that state for years at a time; it comes and goes. The problem is that no one knows how to control it or make it recede. Therefore, you cannot promise that you will never again be compelled to crossdress.
Promise to keep it to yourself! – This request comes from a sense of shame of social stigma. Some people are fine just dressing alone in a room once in a while. But for many an essential aspect of dressing is being seen and interacting with others. Interaction with others is also the primary way that people come to feel good about themselves as crossdressers. I am not, in this column, going to talk about identity, which is very relevant here. Even if we just stay on the surface we can say that many people will eventually feel compelled to interact with other people. It may be reasonable to promise to isolate yourself for some limited period of time. Do not promise to only cross dress in isolation forever.
“Promise me that you will never change your sex and live as a woman!” – Most crossdressers will never take hormones or go through a gender transition. However, people who do transition often spend much of their lives crossdressing part-time or in secret. People who came of age in earlier decades may have reasonably decided that gender transition was not an option. Today those options are visible in the popular culture. Wives and girlfriends may worry that their crossdressing partner will one day want to live as a woman. Even though it is unlikely for the vast majority of people, it is a promise that should not be made by anyone. Times change and people change. I know many people who are surprised to find themselves with the desire to transition when gender dysphoria arises or intensifies in mid-life. The answer to this question is, “Right now, I have no plans to take hormones or transition. That’s all I can tell you.” Perhaps you can honestly say more, but don’t make promises that your future self may break. Do not promise never to take hormones or transition.
Promises like these are made under duress. That is, they are made at stressful times under pressure, often to avoid conflict, calm or comfort an angry or upset partner, or in response to an ultimatum when a partner threatens to leave or withhold love and affection. You may even believe the promises yourself. If, one day, you break a promise, the broken promise becomes its own offence. The partner who enacted the promise may see the broken promise as another reason not to trust. ” In fact, the only thing I can promise you is that promises to limit and control crossdressing will be broken.”
Dr. Katherine Rachlin is a clinical psychologist, gender specialist, and sex therapist in private practice in New York City. Her website is www. katherinerachlin.com. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 212-206-3636