Baby Bear

Tonight it was brought to my attention that a CD in the online group A Crossdresser’s Secret Garden had warned another CD that my book was too heavy on the issues surrounding transition, and so recommended Peggy Rudd’s book My Husband Wears My Clothes, instead. I have to start off by explaining that I don’t have an issue with some people preferring Peggy Rudd’s book over my own; we both have our audiences, and as Dr. Rudd once said to me, ‘it’s not like there isn’t enough room for two of us.’ (She also told me I didn’t have to answer all the email I’d get, which was sound advice I’ve mostly failed to follow.)

It’s funny that this advice should come just now, but not just because my interview with Melanie and Peggy Rudd is the Five Questions With… blog post that precedes this one, but also because – well, transition issues come up in exactly one chapter of My Husband Betty. I told the story I did because it was part of my own experience. When I was trying to reach out to other couples, especially other girlfriends of CDs, I happened to meet Katie, and we had an instant rapport. At the time we became friends, every crosssdressing website emphasized the fact that *crossdressers don’t transition.* I found out otherwise when I watched my friend Katie go through a painful divorce that was caused by her crossdressing partner’s transition.

And while I’m happy to report that Katie and Elle have both gone on to live happy, separate lives, it was precisely because of that experience that I included their story – and how it affected our story – in my book. Because I didn’t want to see even one other Katie get blindsided like that, not ever again.

In the warnings about how “scary” my book is, the CD pointed out once again that CDs rarely transition. Or that a very small percentage do. And the ironic thing is that I know the group, and I know that quite a few of their members were CDs when they joined who later transitioned. Some of them – gasp! – were even married. So it makes me wonder why this information is re-iterated over and over again, when no-one has any idea how many CDs eventually transition.

I certainly don’t know the percentage. I just wonder at what point people think it’s okay to mislead spouses like that. I mean, if you had a 1 in 100 chance of finding out that your marriage was going to be dead in the water in a decade, would that be a high enough risk for you to maybe warn your future partner? 2 in 100? 5 in 100? 10 in 100?

And while I understand the need to help wives who are already married keep their wits about them and not freak out, I cannot abide the idea that anyone is telling a girlfriend or a fiancee of a CD not to worry about it – especially if they’re under the age of 30.

And while I also know there are no guarantees in this life, I also know that plenty of crossdressers said they’d never transition and did. Wives or no wives, children or no children. And I wonder why this urge to reassure wives comes so fast. I know after I found out that all those people who had told me that *crossdressers never transition* were full of it, I held them accountable for having bullshitted me. Because even if the chance is 1 in 1000, a woman deserves to know the truth, especially if she’s about to make a lifetime commitment. Or have children. Or buy a house with her husband. Or work more to put him through school. Or start saving for retirement.

A woman deserves to know – no matter what the situation – that there’s a chance her CD boyfriend may eventually become her ex-wife. I’m tired of no-one wanting to say it outloud. I’m tired of hearing how it’s a negligible percentage. I want to know who gave anyone the right to decide what “negligible” means when it comes to a person’s life. And I want to know too where they get the numbers that have convinced them it’s “negligible.”

Because I’d like to see them. And I know they don’t exist. My best guess why crossdressers think the number is so negligible is because transitioning women leave support groups intended for crossdressers when they transition, so crossdressers stop seeing them – a kind of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ phenomenon. Either that or they’re going by that whacked Tri-Ess logic, that says a CD who transitions was never a CD, anyway – even if they identified one for a couple of decades.

. . .

The even richer irony for me is that so many married transwomen and partners of transitioning women don’t read my book because the word “crossdresser” is in the title. Isn’t that rich? Sometimes I think I should find myself a small army of terrified CDs to go into the TS community and explain exactly how much My Husband Betty is about transitioning! Yet I had a partner in another group I’m in say – after having read my book – that there is nothing out there for spouses of transitioning people.

Papa Bear on one hand, Mama Bear on the other. Now both of them can’t be right.

It’s actually the partner of the transitioning person who’s right, in my opinion. My Husband Betty is not about transition; the story of Katie and Elle is a cautionary tale, only. It’s there so that others will understand it can happen. And it can happen even when the couple is deeply in love. I am hoping to write about what it’s like to live with someone who is considering transition in my next book, however, and I’ll certainly let you know if/when I do.

What I have always recommended is this: that any wife who is new to having a crossdressing partner read the first four chapters of My Husband Betty first, sit on them, mull over them, discuss them with her therapist and her partner. After a while, when she hits a certain comfort level, and she’s ready for more, she can read (the dreaded, terrifying, all-too-realistic) Chapter Five. She can read Peggy Rudd’s book(s) before or after mine – it’s not like there’s a whole slew of books by wives out there, is there? Some will prefer one over the other. Some will find them complementary in some ways. Others will hate and excoriate one and bless the heavens for the other. That’s not the issue for me; the issue is that sometimes CDs are so freaked out by the fact that I even talk about transition they remember the whole book being about it.

After my experience with Katie, and after doing all the research for My Husband Betty, I became convinced that if there’s anything a crossdresser’s wife needs to know, it’s exactly what crossdressers don’t tell her. You see, I didn’t write the book to scare anyone. I wrote it because I’m a wife, and I wish someone had told me everything I had to find out for myself. I wanted to spare any other wife the pain that Katie went through, and the fear I experienced. I wrote it once in the book, and I’ll write it again here: crossdressers do transition. Not all of them, not most of them, but some of them. And their potential spouses need to know.

7 Replies to “Baby Bear”

  1. Thank you for a very coherent treatise. I am involved in an organization in the Syracuse area (EON) that was once simply a couples club for crossdressers back in the late 1980’s. Then we allowed a MTF transexual to attend meetings and amazingly enough the world did not end. The club changed its policies in early 1990’s and now is a functioning group that proudly attempts to support any and all ‘flavors’ of transgenderism. At least four of the members who originally presented as crossdresser only have since gone on to transition and some still retain their ties to the group to help others that need to do the same.
    Your book was remarkable and I thank you for not being afraid to tell the stories you have heard from others in the community.

  2. Thank you so much for saying that.
    It is implied so much that we are horrible people if we are not supportive enough. Sometimes even when we are, it still means losing everything for us while they gain happiness. I lost my best friend, my lover, am losing my home, and trying not to lose my own self-awareness and confidence. No matter how many times someone may tell you it’s not your fault. You still feel rejected and gross.

    Good for you, my husband that you gained your new life at the expense of mine.

  3. I think people (including many cross-dressers themselves) fail to consider – or to understand – the reasons why they cross-dress. If someone is cross-dressing because of gender identity issues (i.e. they haven’t quite figured out what gender they think they are), then this is a transgender or transsexual issue with the potential that the “cross-dresser” may one day transition. But if a man cross-dresses because there are so many wonderful, soft, pretty – whatever – outfits available “for women” and it just feels good to be able to express one’s self through the simple joy of wearing fun clothes, then there really isn’t a risk there of transitioning. It would be like saying that I worry that my wife might transition because she likes to wear pants all the time.
    People still have so many hang-ups about what cross-dressing is or might mean, that they create problems for themselves. Cross-dressing is STILL misunderstood, and I think in large part because so many people (cross-dressers included) are convinced that the desire to cross-dress must mean something more complex or elusive than what it really is, and also because of the insistence that this separation is maintained regarding how people dress. Women once were not “allowed” to wear pants, but now they can. A lot of problems surrounding cross-dressing could be solved if people would just let go of their preconceived notions and hang-ups about how one’s manner of dress must mean something more than “I like these clothes.”
    When my wife first met me, the first thing she asked me was, “are you gay?” 11 years later (and happily married), it is clear now that, no, I’m simply a man in a dress today. The interesting thing is, I don’t cross-dress as much as I used to, because now I am in such a supportive environment that my manner of dress simply isn’t even an issue or a topic of discussion. We carry on our days as usual, and I feel free and content knowing that if I feel like putting on something pretty, I can and won’t feel guilty or wrong about it doing so, since my wife won’t so much as bat an eye. I’m simply the person she has always known, and that simply is not going to change. But that is because I know who – and what – I am, without all that intervening confusion that is imposed on the issue at large.

  4. As the person who said your book might be too much for a “first book” for an SO who’s just found out, I’d like to clarify my intent.

    As I said in the Garden, I think you’ve written an excellent and sensitive book, although there are a few things where I don’t think it quite captures my reality. (Such as the extend of the escapism factor in CDing and the implications of that in our portrayals of women — but understanding the CD psyche is admittedly difficult for one who isn’t one. Just as I don’t expect to ever fully understand the psyche of a genetic woman. We might feel we have a feminine side, but we weren’t raised as women, so there’s a whole lot socialization effects we missed.)

    Nor do I think the issue of transitioning should be off-limits and I think you’ve done a good job of putting it in context. But it’s one thing to read the chapter when you’re centered and another to read it when you’re in a highly emotional state. Given your recommendation about reading just the first four chapters initially, I think we’re actually pretty much on the same page, and I’ll be sure to mention it the next time the issue comes up.

  5. Incidentally, as far as percentages, the most aggressive calculation of incidence of MTF SRS I’m aware of is Lynn Conway’s assertion that about 1 in 500 to 1 in 2,500 males in the U.S. have had it done. Obviously there are far more males who opt to be full-time as women without doing SRS, which Conway estimates this could be as large as 1 in 200 to 1 in 1,000. Given that crossdressing is popularly estimated at between 1 in 10 to 1 in 20 males (sorry don’t know the origin of that statistic), the number of CDs who end up living full-time or doing SRS is a definite minority. I agree it’s wrong to mislead partners that it never happens, but it’s also important to keep the actual possibilities (as squishy as the estimates are) in perspective.

    But obviously, the statistics are irrelevant when a life-changing event (whether CD/TG-related or anything else) occurs to you and your SO. So I don’t disagree that some CDs dislike the subject being raised precisely because their own inner fears. From what I’ve seen and from those TSs I personally know, the “late” transitioners usually were in heavy denial for years and often did go through a phase where they thought of themselves as “just a crossdresser.” So while they may not have been honest with their SOs, often it was because they weren’t being honest with themselves either. Even those of us who ponder the matter and conclude that’s not our path, do wonder about it at some point and frankly it’s very scary thought because we’re all too aware of the potential consequence.

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