Five Questions With… Marilyn Frank

Marilyn Frank has been sharing her story with wives at Fantasia Fair, IFGE and Tri-Ess seminars since 1982. She married her husband Len in 1954 and didn’t learn about the cross dressing until 1964, 10 years and 3 children later. At that time the only information available to her was Virginia Prince’s book The Transvestite and His Wife (now titled The Cross-dresser and His Wife) which she still finds to be one of the best books written.

1) First, Marilyn, I want to thank you on behalf of all the partners out there, for stepping up at a time when most of us weren’t even in high school yet. Without women like you & Peggy Rudd, the struggle to have partners’ issues recognized would be a lot more difficult. So what caused you to do the educating you did?

In the 1970’s I was a volunteer on a crisis intervention hot line in Morris County, NJ. When I became Director, I questioned some of the professionals in the group, who did not know much about cross dressing, but were able to assist me in finding people who did know. During this time we came upon Tri-Ess, and then in 1980 Len read the article in Playboy about Fantasia Fair and in 1981 we spent a few days at the Fair. I had many discussions with Ariadne Kane about the wives’ needs, and this brought Niela Miller to the Fair and that’s where my true education began. Since it had been a very lonely road not only for Len, but for me, I decided I would reach out to help others, so that’s when I started facilitating a wives group at our local Tri-Ess Chapter, which I did for for over 10 years. I also was instrumental in starting the wives’ program at the first IFGE Convention. My philosophy is that every time I help someone, I help myself. It’s true the marriage had its ups and downs where the cross dressing was concerned, but for us it was a small part of our overall marriage. We have always had good communication, enjoy many of the same things and do have a sense of humor (that helps).

(2) You mentioned when we met at IFGE again this past year that you were on TV back in 1980 – maybe it was The Phil Donahue Show? I know that was the one Ariadne Kane was on. What was that experience like?

I was not on The Phil Donahue Show, but on The Richard Bey Show and I can’t remember the year, in the early 80’s. I also appeared on a local WOR TV show and spoke from the audience at The Dr. Ruth Show (this was pre-arranged). When I did most TV shows I was in shadow, not ready to face “the world”. I also did a radio show. I usually was nervous, but if the talk show host was good, I was comfortable and even enjoyed it. After The Dr. Ruth Show she came over to me and said, “I love your husband.”

(3) In Lynda’s essay in Crossing Sexual Boundaries, two of your three kids comment on what a disciplinarian Lynda was, & how masculine. Do you see Lynda as having overcompensated for being a CD? Has she softened up any in her male presentation as a result of being more open about being a CD?

I don’t believe that Len’s discipline with the children was due to overcompensating for being a crossdresser. I was also a disciplinarian, but a little softer. We both came from families that were strict and I guess that’s what we learned. Lynda tries to give a softer presentation in her male role, but has not mastered that yet.

(4) I love the bit in Lynda’s essay about her giving you The Crossdresser & His Wife & you telling her you had other books to read if/when you had the time to read at all, but then you read it on the sly. I occasionally have CDs approach me who, in their enthusiasm, forget that almost no one responds well to that kind of pressure. Tell us a little bit about whether Lynda could have done anything “more right” in giving you room to find your own way, or alternately, what you find is the main way CDs screw up when telling their wives.

Remember that we are married 53 years and I don’t know if there was a “right” way to tell a wife then. Len honestly believed after marriage and having regular sex, the cross dressing drive would go away. He wasn’t even quite sure what a transvestite was. Today with the many books, movies, internet, etc. I think the crossdresser can find the right time and way to tell his loved one.

(5) It’s still occasionally said that wives like us are either proto-lesbians, or repressed, or alternately doormats. What’s your response to those kinds of assumptions?

I never felt repressed or like a doormat. We do “hang out” in lesbian bars and attend a gay Synagogue, but I haven’t met anyone I’d like to be with sexually, but could it happen? Who knows!

(6) We so rarely get to hear from partners you get an extra question – if you choose to answer it. When it comes down to it, do you think CDs are just like other heterosexual men sexually? So many wives have written to me that their CD husbands are less sexual, or auto-sexual, or less aggressive, or prefer cuddling over sex. What’s your impression, generally, after speaking with & supporting so many CD’s wives over the years?

I met Len when I was 11 and we got engaged when I was 19 and married at 20. A cousin of mine once told me how lucky I was to marry someone I loved all those years. She said it was a Cinderella Story and I thought ‘so how come I got Cinderella and not Prince Charming?’ All kidding aside, Len was the only sex partner I had. In 1953 not many couples were having pre marital sex (what a shame). I had other “dates” but never going all the way. I would have to say that Len was and still is the best sex partner for me. Of course as age and health comes into play there are changes, different but still satisfying. I do believe that my crossdresser is just like any other heterosexual man sexually.