A Failure to Communicate: What Just Happened?

| Oct 10, 2022
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I think we were all stunned. ‘What had just happened? Why?’ ‘WTF?’ Were probably the thoughts going through our heads.

Young Virginia Prince

We were some thirty individuals, almost all brought together by a common bond. We were crossdressers in the traditional ‘Virginia Prince sense of the word’. We were genetic males who liked the feeling of dressing and acting as feminine as we could. We were mostly into our fifties and resigned to the fact that while we loved being dressed en femme we were not ever going to be femmes. We were all wearing wigs and makeup, nice dresses or skirts and blouses, heels of varying heights and accentuated by some nice jewelry. There were also a few supportive wives and one or two individuals who identified as transsexual. I think we saw the transgender hierarchy as a sort of pecking order/totem pole/caste system—whatever you want to call it. The transsexuals, whether post-op, pre-op or non-op, were on top. Then came us crossdressers with the more passable you were making a difference in your standing. In our lexicon the lowest order was reserved for the fetishistic transvestites, those guys who get their thrills by putting on bits of lingerie and playing with themselves. Hey, many of us had started that way but we saw ourselves as having climbed out of that hole and moved on.

One lady, hosting the gathering identified herself as a counsellor. It turns out she may have been a good counsellor for individuals or couples but as you will see she had no skill at holding a group together.

This was the third meeting for the new group, each meeting larger than the one before and that was a good sign. We had outgrown the location of our first two meetings in someone’s home and the counsellor had graciously offered her offices. It was not ideal space but the price was right. We were there to form what seemed to be a much-needed support group for the TG community in that area.

I don’t remember everything about the first part of the meeting. I think we were talking about where and how often to hold meetings. I was all for very often as that would give me more chances to dress up and get out. They were going to talk about who could be members and then choose a name for the group. That’s where I planned to shine. I had a name I was borrowing from a group in Canada: Gender Mosaic. I thought we could call ourselves Gender Mosaic Florida. I had tested the idea with another t-girl there and she loved it. The name suggested inclusivity.

The where and when question was pretty well settled and the membership question seemed a slam-dunk. Surely, we were all for an open door for the trans community. Then would come the discussion on naming.

But not so fast. One of the group wanted more discussion about who should join. I’ll get to that but first. . . . Back something more than 40 years ago I had reason and opportunity to examine my life. I realized that I really enjoyed my opportunities to dress in women’s clothes. The opportunities usually ended in sexual satisfaction that was a good feeling followed by a bit of guilt which was not a good feeling.

During that period, I found books that told me about others with the same feelings and how they coped. Two things were paramount. I was not unique in my feelings and following the example of others there was a lot more I could do to carry forward my interest in dressing.

The first book I acquired was called The Transvestite and His Wife. Transvestite? I think that is a label that all who liked to dress in women’s clothes knew and were resigned to accepting. That went for everyone from the full-blown out-going-to-the-clubs to the ones who donned a bra and panties for a few minutes of sexual pleasure.

Everyone, that is, except the late Virginia Prince and her contemporaries. I guess Prince did not accept being labelled and identified with those lower order fetishistic transvestites. So, the term crossdresser was—some say coined; some say resurrected—applied to those transvestites who did the complete transformation for anything from a few hours to a weekend or a week at a special gathering of like-minded individuals. We crossdressers of the 1970s had some important distance between us and the fetish-inclined transvestites. It was understood that sexual pleasure was not the end goal of a crossdresser’s dressing.

Not long after reading The Transvestite and His Wife I picked up and read Understanding Crossdressing. Reading Understanding Crossdressing was like reading my life, my feelings. From that time in the late 1970s I, privately or in TG circles, referred to myself as a crossdresser. It was comforting to be separated from those fetishistic transvestites.

Back to the meeting. I assumed fetishistic transvestite behavior would not be welcome at our meetings. No one, not wives, not CD’s not transexuals would be comfortable sitting around with some hairy guy wearing a bra and fishnet stockings sitting or standing next to her. It seemed to go without saying that, for we crossdressers and the transsexuals, pass-ability or at least a good attempt at it, would be important for our group. I assumed we would all be on the same page about that.

That is, I assumed it until one of our younger attendees, a self-proclaimed transexual, got up to talk. Mind you she was going to be speaking to a room dominated by older gals who considered themselves crossdressers. The generational language divide was about to get huge.

I do not remember most of what our young TS friend said. It was something about her life and coming out yadda, yadda. Then she lit the firecracker, no, the dynamite that blew up the meeting. I thought she didn’t know what she was saying or who she was saying it to.

“Crossdressers aren’t really transgender,” our TS friend let out.

“Is she nuts?” I thought. Others must have thought the same. We crossdressers were the majority in the room and she was talking as if we weren’t even there.

Now my training and inclination is to let people have their say, respect their right to say it and then debate her hypothesis with alternate points. Respect.

As you know my inclination is not shared by everybody. It seems sometimes it is not shared by many. “I will not sit here and be insulted like that!” one screamed as she jumped to her feet.

“Where do you get off saying that?” called out another. I think most of us stayed silent in the shock of being insulted like that. It seemed the young TS was shocked that her comment had raised such ire. But she was not backing down.

The original reactor stormed out of the meeting, taking a couple of others with her.

The rest of us sat in silence trying to fathom what happened and expecting the group leader to pull the meeting back to order. She did not.

Shortly after that the meeting broke up. The group never assembled again and the area, to the best of my knowledge, still does not have its own TG support group.

I have never forgotten that incident and with time I think I have come to understand why it happened. I think the young TS meant no offense to those present. What we had, if I can borrow a line from a classic movie, was ‘a failure to communicate’.

As I have written, going back to the 1960s, even ’70s it seems all males who took on any attempt to dress in feminine attire were known as transvestites. That included those going for the full look—passing—and those who would slip on perhaps a bra and panties and ‘slap the monkey’ for a bit. It seemed our community leaders did not like the large ‘umbrella’ we were lumped under.

In the many years from the 1970s until that incident a few years ago I had never heard or read of anyone questioning the legitimacy of crossdressing. How were we to know things were changing? We didn’t get the memo. At least I didn’t. It wasn’t until some years after that group-killing incident, just recently that I had the ‘Aha moment’ and realized what was driving that young TS to be so insulting to the rest of us. She wasn’t talking about us. She had another group of ‘crossdressers’ in mind. Being perhaps in her 20s her definition of crossdresser was not our definition of crossdresser.

While researching another article I happened to Google the word ‘crossdresser’ or perhaps it was ‘crossdressing’. From Wikipedia to the end of the world there is now lots of information about our ‘hobby’. Remember back in the old days how hard it was to find that information. Check out these two gems from my recent search:

  • “Some people cross-dress as a matter of comfort or style, a personal preference for clothing associated with the opposite sex. Some people cross-dress to shock others or challenge social norms; others will limit their cross-dressing to underwear, so that it is not apparent……” Limit their crossdressing to underwear. That sounds like a transvestite to me.
  • “Today, the term transvestite is commonly considered outdated and derogatory, with the term cross-dresser used as a more appropriate replacement”. No kidding. The fetishistic transvestites of the world and the social scientists who support them have opted to move themselves under the crossdresser umbrella.

Well then, are we still allowed to use the ‘T word’? So where does that leave us, Virginia Prince’s crossdressers? If our young TS friend had only said, “fetishistic transvestites are not really transgender” we all would have nodded in agreement and moved on. But being in her 20’s instead of her 50s or 60s her definitions were aligned differently than the rest of the crowds’.

That’s the situation. We are back lumped in with a group and practices we left a long time ago. Just as in the age spectrum some say ‘60 is the new 40’ perhaps in the transgender spectrum crossdresser is the new transvestite.

So, what do we traditional crossdressers do? I say we take the example of Virginia Prince and her contemporaries and coin a new phrase to differentiate us from what are now the ‘fetishistic crossdressers’. How about ‘Virginia princesses? Nope, that’s an in-joke no one would get. Why not para-female? The practitioners would be para-feminine and the verb, para-feminizing. ‘Para’ is a prefix with many meanings, including alongside of, beside, near, and resembling.


There are probably better ideas. How about splitting crossdressing between partial and complete crossdressers? How about the idea that we are transsexual but have not been able to carry out the change. Instead of pre-op or post-op TS could we traditional crossdressers become the non-op TS group?

Just ideas. What are your thoughts?

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Category: Transgender Politics

Linda Jensen

About the Author ()

Canadian writer Linda Jensen is a long time contributor to TGForum. Before the days of the Internet Linda started her writing with the Transvestian newspaper. Her writing ranges from factual accounts of her adventures to fiction although frankly sometimes her real life adventures are stranger than the fiction. Linda is married to a loving partner who upon learning about Linda said, "she was part of you before I met you. Although I didn't know it she was part of the package I fell in love with. I don't want to mess up that package." "Does it get any better than that?" asks Linda.

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