How to Stop Crossdressing

| Jul 15, 2013
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Every now and then during my involvement with the transgender community I have run into people who want to stop crossdressing — or even thinking about crossdressing. It’s not unreasonable to want to give up a behavior that most of the world thinks is at best odd and at worst immoral and perverted.

One of the first people I met who wanted to rid themselves of their desire to crossdress called while I was staffing the Renaissance peer support phone line. This guy was adamant that he needed to purge his crossdressing impulses and just be straight. I had to tell him it was highly unlikely that he could do that. He might be able to stop the practice of dressing up but he would always be a crossdresser. The desire doesn’t seem to just go away. He was so upset with his crossdressing that he ended the call by saying he’d have to kill himself if he didn’t stop wanting to wear women’s clothing.

Renaissance and TGForum have always been about getting comfortable with the desire to dress up and giving yourself permission to do so. Fighting it can lead to all sorts of problems like depression, anger, and — as with that caller — to thoughts of suicide. Suppressing your desire can also lead to an obsessive focus on dressing up or on people who do dress up.

Would those fit?

Would those fit?

When I was deep in the closet thoughts of crossdressing were always bubbling just under the surface of my mind. I’d be doing the things I needed to do, like work at my job, drive my car, shop for groceries, or whatever and seeing a woman in heels or a flouncy skirt (or a tight skirt) would set my brain on the path of what it would be like to wear that. My route to work took me through west Philadelphia and often times there would be a woman’s shoe lost along the street. I don’t know if it was a practice for people to toss their girlfriend’s shoe out the window while they drove, or what. All I know is that shoes would be there and then I would be thinking about what it would be like to wear two of those shoes.

That kind of preoccupation with dressing up may have hurt me in other areas. Who knows what opportunities I missed while I was dreaming of frolicking in lady’s clothing?

When I found Renaissance I learned on an emotional level that I was not alone. There were other people like me and we weren’t strange, immoral or perverted. (Well, no more than most human beings.) And now instead of dreaming about going places dressed as a woman I could follow JoAnn Roberts’ advice, “don’t dream it, be it.”

After I gave myself permission to dress I found that as the amount of time I spent wearing women’s clothing and interacting with others increased the obsessive nature of my crossdressing started to decrease. I began to view my crossdressing as just another aspect of my life. It became a thing I thought about and enjoyed but it was no longer the dominant thought in my brain. I realized that I had a need to dress up but that need had been bolstered and built up by my limited dress up time while I was hiding in my closet. (A closet with way less women’s clothing than my closet contains now.) When the chances to dress up went from once a month to whenever I felt like it the need backed off. It never went away but it stabilized at a lower level than it had been at when I was in the closet.

Other people who joined Renaissance at the same time I did have gone on to give up dressing. They did the things they wanted to do in women’s clothing and then decided to concentrate on other aspects of their lives. One of them went on to be a family man with a beard who acts and sings in choral groups in his spare time. He still shows up in drab at my Laptop Lounge parties every now and then but his need to have dressing up in his life is greatly diminished.

It is ironic but it seems that if you really, really want to give up crossdressing then you need to de-sensitize yourself to the powerful attraction to women’s clothing by wearing them as often as you can. When you reach for your pantyhose and say to yourself, “Wow, these things are really uncomfortable” you will be ready to give it up. Until you reach that point dress as often as you like and be sure to have fun.

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About the Author ()

Angela Gardner is a founding member of The Renaissance Transgender Assoc., Inc., former editor of its newsletter and magazine, Transgender Community News. She was the Diva of Dish for TGF in the late 1990s and Editor of LadyLike magazine until its untimely demise. She has appeared in film and television shows portraying TG characters, as well as representing Renaissance on numerous talk shows.

Comments (10)

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  1. janetcd janetcd says:

    Quoting part of your article:
    “When I was deep in the closet thoughts of crossdressing were always bubbling just under the surface of my mind. I’d be doing the things I needed to do, like work at my job, drive my car, shop for groceries, or whatever and seeing a woman in heels or a flouncy skirt (or a tight skirt) would set my brain on the path of what it would be like to wear that. My route to work took me through west Philadelphia and often times there would be a woman’s shoe lost along the street. I don’t know if it was a practice for people to toss their girlfriend’s shoe out the window while they drove, or what. All I know is that shoes would be there and then I would be thinking about what it would be like to wear two of those shoes.”

    At times felt the same way. Was deep in the closet for fear of discovery by someone I knew from work or apartment building I lived at the time. I didn’t want to quit crossdressing but to find a way to go out and not being afraid of who knew. I managed a few times to rent a motel room 20 miles away from where I lived and worked. Dressed up in fashionable female attire with make up and wig. There were no night clubs that would have been accepting of my attire that I knew of. It was early 1980’s and crossdressed males were not main stream then. So the only other activity I thought of was going to a movie theater and find out if they would question my appearance. The area I went was a middle upper class neighborhood western suburbs of Chicago, IL. Was not refused entry to the theater. Very few patrons were in the lobby when I went into watch the movie. One of the ushers kept coming in and checking me, maybe he thought I would cause a scene or ?? I behaved like a lady, enjoyed the movie. On the way out of the theater there were more patrons and yes I received stares and “the look” from them. No one made any derogatory remarks while walking to my car. I felt that I “passed” in the public eye. Every few months would return to the same movie theater with no incidents of rejection. Was more “brave” after a few times, dressed at my apartment and then went to the movie theater. Only once one other tenant at the apartment building seen me dressed and they didn’t say anything or report me to the management.

    My first large social event was going to my first Tri-Ess meeting in 1999. Living back in Minnesota and contacted a board member on the membership committee of Beta Gama chapter which was disbanded three meetings after I went for the first time. Going to that first meeting was a large step. After seeing others who were like myself and being accepted by a large group I felt relief and got out more in female attire besides going to support group meetings. Now I dress 99 per cent of the time in female clothes, do all my errands and shopping etc. The one per cent I don’t dress in female attire is going to see my mother, she does not want to accept me wearing female clothes or appearing female when I go to see her at her senior apartment building. She said she doesn’t want to be answering questions about why her son dresses in female attire from other tenants where she lives. I have grown my own hair out long, tie it back when I go see my mother. All she said was I look like a hippie with long hair.

    I have not had any issues at my senior apartment building appearing female. I went to have my yearly interview a few months ago with the housing manager and signing documents for rental agreement renewal. I wore a skirt, woman’s top, open toe one and one half inch heels, make up. I have grown my hair long down to the nape of my neck and have had it permed. The housing manager didn’t make any comments about my appearance. The manage was very professional and just wanted to witness my signing of rental agreement and other documents relating to section eight of HUD agency.

    • angela_g angela_g says:

      Great, Phobe! When you have the freedom to dress you find the level you are comfortable with. For some it is less often and for others it becomes full time. The hinderance to finding the real you is that early fear. Feeling like someone will “report” you to the “authorities” for doing something wrong is not healthy. It makes you feel like you’re under suspicion and something bad is going to happen if people “read” you as a male dressed in women’s clothing. If you act nervous because of your fear then people will look at you and wonder what is up. But as we are finding as we get further into this century more and more people just don’t care if you’re dressing up. (That’s not true everywhere so don’t run out in a miniskirt if you aren’t sure of the climate where you live.) Everyone should be free to be who they want to be.

  2. Graham Graham says:

    No, Licha. No. Sweats? No!

    Of course, I jest – to each their own. I have to admit, though, in the days when I went to support group meetings, any crossdresser NOT wearing heels, a short skirt, and stockings would be considered to be “letting the side down”. But when one’s only “permitted” (or gets the chance) to dress up once a month or less, one has to make the most of the opportunity, and going completely over-the-top was the way to do it. We used to have competitions to see who could wear the shortest skirt without actually showing their underwear. If I didn’t win outright, I was always in the top three :o)

    However, we did “allow” what we endearingly referred to as “real girls” to wear sweat-pants … which merely served to highlight the absurdity of the gender divide to a budding trans activist like myself. But you’re right – if a crossdresser is considering wearing such stereotypically unfeminine garb, then the chances are that they’ve got tired of shaving their legs, or fiddling with suspender clasps, etc..

    My closest approach to unfeminine attire is footless tights with heeled sandals or wedges. I can’t bring myself to wear leggings, far less sweat-pants. So I guess – despite my apparent freedom to dress 24/7/365 – I’m still a victim of my crossdressing … just not in the traditional sense. My wardrobe contains only dresses and skirts, but surely a truly emancipated crossdresser would also own trousers (both female and male cut), and would be happy to choose ANY style that’s available to women … or indeed, to men? In other words, is limiting oneself to traditional women’s clothes as bad as limiting oneself to traditional men’s clothes?

    Maybe that’s a topic for a separate discussion …

  3. paula2 paula2 says:

    I had a bad experience with one of your members and I have not returned to Renaisance. I love to dress and would like to return but I am in retail and Saturdays are really impossible. I work with one of the psychologists that used to be there as an intern to Michele.
    Do you meet any other times and how often do you have vendor nights.
    What are your suggestions?

    Paula 2

  4. licha licha says:

    Good counsel.

    You know your cross dressing is stabilized and under control when you are getting ready to go to a support group meeting and you wonder “Gee! Couldn’t I just wear sweats this time?”


  5. Graham Graham says:

    Exactly, Pat and Angela … exactly! Almost anything you can think of has a “forbidden fruit” aspect about it if the activity is artificially restricted; getting access to it then becomes an obsession. I can see how this led to crossdressing becoming a mental disorder, but as obsessive behaviours go, crossdressing is actually relatively harmless in the grand scale of things.

    Which makes it all the more urgent that crossdressing is not only de-pathologised in the eyes of the psychiatric profession, but also debunked and re-branded in the public domain as a valid part of men’s freedom of expression which is neither shameful, nor embarrassing, nor perverted.

    In my somewhat “privileged” position (for want of a better phrase), I find that if I think too deeply about crossdressing, I start to realise that the closet is not only damaging and unnecessary, but that the need for it is an abberation in terms of male equality … in other words, it’s discriminatory against men. And the worst part about it is that the public at large don’t understand this, and consequently, most crossdressers think they need “permission” to dress up … and so the activity has developed a damaging self-loathing and secretive aspect. But why should any man hate themselves for wanting a varied wardrobe – something which women enjoy on a daily basis? It’s completely absurd.

    So while this is an interesting article, Angela, I’m kind-of ambivolent about the title, if not the subject matter. Why SHOULD anyone have to give up something which is part of their nature? Are we going to suggest that black people should once again only be allowed to sit at the back of the bus? Or that women shouldn’t be allowed to vote? I realise that the article is a little tongue-in-cheek (yes, I “get” it) – and I’ve written lots of stuff myself that’s designed to grab the reader by the balls and get them incensed enough to respond – but for those who may have missed the point, how about a follow-up piece entitled “How to enjoy your crossdressing”?

    • angela_g angela_g says:

      Good suggestion, Graham. I’m glad you saw what I did there and I hope other readers get it. Instead of a curse that needs to be countered or cured we should embrace our crossdressing as an additional pleasure that the majority of men don’t have to enjoy.

  6. scalesman scalesman says:

    I have seen others put forth this theory and I believe it has some merit. The ability to dress as you please, when you please and go where you please to associate with others goes far towards removing the ‘forbidden fruit’ component that is a part of the motivation of many CDs. The dynamics are different for dressing if you can dress only once a year, or once a month or weekly or daily and they change again if you can dress to go out or if you are confined to your home.
    Excellent article.

    • angela_g angela_g says:

      Thanks Pat. Yes, if you don’t allow yourself to dress or can’t because of other factors then dressing becomes an obsession. We should all seek balance.

  7. regina-nj regina-nj says:

    LOL! An other way of giving up Cross Dressing is to lean that your a T-Girl and should be dressed/live as a female 24/7! Of course you can still be Bisexual if you wish! LOL