by Dan Savage
on Wed, Oct 24, 2012 at 11:44 AM
I saw your characterization of straight male crossdressers as fetishists the other day, and it made my heart sink.
Transgenderism, broadly defined as willingly engaging in anything that trangresses gender, is, well, not so much a spectrum of things, but a grab-bag. Most psychotherapy experts cut out drag queens as performers rather than TG; professional actors, if you will. Transsexualism is a well-defined thing, of which there is growing public understanding, if not always acceptance. Fetishism is also a well-defined thing, which has the negative consequence of creeping into all thoughts and discussions of males crossdressing.
Transvestism and crossdressing, which mean exactly the same thing in two different languages, are often parsed to differentiate them, one being "transsexual light" and the other, fetishism. Unfortunately, not everyone agrees on which is which. My personal preference is the English word for those who engage in dressing as the opposite sex in public, for non-libidinous purposes.
Which, is me. I'm a straight, male, married crossdresser, and no threat to anyone.
I don't get out as much as I'd like, as it's a huge deal getting prepped and ready, but when I do, I can't even explain how important it is for me—it recharges part of my soul. And I have a limited number of venues where I feel safe, even though I probably live in one of the safer cities with the most rights (including the right to use a restroom of whichever gender I'm presenting as). I dress nicely, but relatively conservatively, to fit in with women my own age, and I do a reasonably decent job with cosmetics, and I take it seriously—it's not a lark. So far, I've been to lesbian bars (after visiting first "en drab," discussing my situation with the bartender, and asking permission) and I always wear my wedding ring and make it as clear as possible that I'm not looking to hook up, only hang out. I've been to my church, where I was warmly accepted, and I've been to events at friends' homes and some other places.
But there's this problem, which your comment the other day reflects. People don't have too many points of reference. If you're trying to fit in, and doing a somewhat decent job of it, people cross "Drag Queen" and "Fetishist" off their mental list of possibilities, and are left with "Transsexual." I find it... whatever the opposite of affirming is in this situation. I don't get pissy about it, and I try to explain with a smile, that I'm just me, and yeah, I know I'm a little weird, but this is also a thing. I'm a male. I'm straight. It makes me happy to dress and behave as a woman occasionally. But, I don't need to do it all the time, thank heavens, because it's a lot of work, and finding clothes that make me look semi-passable is a big deal.