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Not Just A Crossdresser

| Jan 23, 2012
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I often have people say to me, “I’m not JUST a crossdresser.” This statement is fascinating to me because on one level I get the point. You’re trying to tell me that you are contemplating transition, in whatever form that takes for you. And you’re trying to tell me that, though clothes are important, it’s much more important that you innately feel like a woman inside. Got it. But, I would be remiss if I didn’t call your attention to the fact that using the “just” in that sentence (and believe me, there’s usually a great deal of emphasis on that small word) implies that there is something inherently wrong with being a crossdresser

Now, before you all start writing in and justifying yourselves, please hear me out. Regardless of your personal identity, most trans-people born male-bodied experimented with the concept of crossdressing at some point in their lives. And, many even found it erotic for a period of time (and some transsexuals have admitted to me that they still get a thrill each time they have the opportunity to go out presenting as female; this novelty usually fades quickly once the full-time living experience begins). My point is, if we all want people to consider each of our identities as valid and worthy of respect, then we all have to be willing to respond in kind. The trans-community is in the midst of a flame war of words—some folks take offense to being considered a part of the community, others feel the community is not inclusive enough. I love language and appreciate the nuances of feeling that a particular label fits or doesn’t fit each of our situations, but let’s be careful not to create a sense of hierarchy among the community that perpetuates “in-fighting” at the expense of other members.

At the risk of sounding like I’m ending on a virtual group hug, there’s nothing wrong with identifying as a crossdresser, transgender, bi-gender, gender-queer, gender-bender, transsexual or any other label that feels like it fits you the way a perfect outfit should!

Contact Dr. Angello through her website.

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Category: Transgender Body & Soul


About the Author ()

Michele Angello, Ph.D. is a clinical sexologist with offices in Wayne and Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Dr. Angello works with clients to help them reframe feelings of guilt, fear, shame, embarrassment, and even hatred around sexuality, and encourage feelings of acceptance, responsibility, joy, and sharing. She specializes in issues around gender and sexual orientation.

Comments (18)

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  1. says:

    It should be recognized that humans have an inate need to try to be able to predict the behavior of a stranger. We tend to expect a general class of behaviors based on gender for sure, but also nationality and culture. This is a survival necessity. Once we get a label or an identifcation we are put by others into a behavior class that is formed by people who are considered reprsentative of the label. This is not reasonable or objective but it is on of the brain bugs we all have.
    In my opinion-many disagree-we should be very careful about stepping too far out of what is expected of the company we are keeping. Also, our strong personal needs give us no excuse to offend others. To do so, I believe , is very selfish and egoistical. To be more specific, to cross dress, start reassignment or similar activity should not be done without the full and heart felt understanding of one’s loved ones.
    Also, outing someone who does not wish to be outed is terrible, really terrible.

  2. says:

    The Family Research Council has a right to have an opinion. It does not have a right to limit my harmless self expression or create and support laws which discriminate against me.

  3. says:

    My personal belief is that we all exist on a continuum. No point on that continuum is any more valid or better than any other. Many people seem to need to find a point on the continuum that they define as “normal.” Is this for perceived personal security? It is hard to move someone off of their self-selected point of normality.

    In times long past, this trait may have been valuable to societies to create security. Societies varied in their choice of “normal;” Native Americans, based on my small ounce of knowledge, treated their TG members much more positively than Europeans, for instance. In today’s world, though, where we are all thrown together into a different society where many different beliefs and attitudes are held. I think what we are seeing in a discussion within our community and in the society-at-large the exemplifies the struggle to change people’s concept of a point of normalcy.

    The process is slow but is one of implementing change. Some will cling to their point with single mindedness. Others will move a bit and cling some more. Others will open up their minds and step into a new world.

    Our message needs to be one of inclusiveness and understanding. Dr. Angello said, “My point is, if we all want people to consider each of our identities as valid and worthy of respect, then we all have to be willing to respond in kind.” Friends, acquaintances, and others no matter where they self-identify on the continuum are worthy of that respect.

    Though a struggle, the naysayers on the extremes, including the Family Research Council (shudder), have to be given respect for their beliefs though we fervently dislike them. Returning a lack of respect with the same will only result in shouting, screaming, defiance, and the cementing of positions on the continuum. Let’s use reason and positive behavior to break down the stereotypes and show others our self-respect is worthy of their respect. Then we can get many more to move to new points on the continuum.

  4. says:


    well, times have changed where I hang out. I have been hit on by numerous lesbians, asked out, invited to lesbian only events even though they know I am a biological male. I screwed the courage and asked a few point blank, and this is what I got. Most of us are super feminine, and if we are also attractive, well, that makes us attractive ‘women’. Well, I don’t look or act like a man in a dress, and I am friendly, which I think makes all the difference in the world. Does anyone know how powerful smiling can be? It sets the world alight, and I think if you are projecting confidence and happiness, you look radiant. Who isn’t attracted to that regardless? I think the stereotypes are breaking down, and I think even the lesbian community is beginning to realize there is much more to us than the ‘man in the dress’ concept. I think there is a recognition that the idea of gender and orientaion is fluid, and I think, at least in the clubs I am hanging out in, that a great mixed crowd helps crumble down the walls in everyone’s world….and darn it, some of us are downright fun to hang out with, right?

  5. says:

    It seems we were never particularly warmly welcomed by ggirl lesbians. Has that changed?

  6. says:


    As a very young, trying to figure who and what I was person in the early 90’s, I remember the protests by TVs and TSs quite well. Triess seemed to be rigorously screening out anyone TS because, and I hate to say this, it had a clearly defined membership–heterosexual crossdressers. The motives seemed obvious to me: protect the wives’ vision of the husband as straight, but who likes to mess around with gender via clothes. Fortunately, two of my dear friends opened my world to the truth about our community. One was TS, never married. The other was married, bi and was pretty open minded. I related to them because I was 19 and they were 24 and 26. Everyone else in that chapter, the one headed by Carol Beecroft, was far older. Regardless, I was fortunate to have Triess, as it was the only organization in 1990 I could join and feel welcome. Because of the tireless work of individuals like you, Carol Beecroft, Virginia Prince and Jane Ellen Fairfax, we have made a lot of progress. Thank you….Melissa.

  7. joann joann says:

    Great discussion! When I came out in the late 1980s we were referred to as “the TV/TS community”. Indeed, the leading publication of the time was the “TV/TS Tapestry”. Unfortunately the TVs and TSs really didn’t speak to one another and both groups did not feel any particular affiliation. They barely tolerated one another in the same room.

    Several of us who were more politically inclined sought to change that. We knew that we needed to create a better word for our community so that we could pursue political rights under one banner. So, in the early 90s, Phyllis Frye (ICTLEP), Kym Richards (CrossTalk) and myself (Renaissance News & LadyLike) all agreed to start referring to ourselves as the Transgender Community. The term “transgender” was a political identity.

    I think we were very successful. Recent public polling shows that a majority of the public recognizes and understands the term “transgender”. Call yourself what you want. Identify however you like. Don’t fight over a term that was not meant to pigeonhole or label anyone but to express solidarity for political goals.

  8. says:

    melisssam, all our behavior in social and family context must me modified. We can never willy nilly as children blurt out whatever comes to our head or actualize any desire if it is not appropriate to do so with the people we’re with. Maturity is knowing the boundries imposed upon us by common decency and consideration. Though I feel many overreact-place more importance on an act than it deserves- I still feel I should have the sensitivity to realize that is what this person feels and I’ll modify my self estimated innocent behavior to accomodate the offended person. However, I will still maintain the personal opinion-but silently.
    I don’t believe it is ever good to allow our thoughts and fantasy to move us to compulsion. Compulsion is a defect of human behavior and it can be very dangerous. It should never be entertained. One should never have to fight compusion because it should not be part of one’s actions to begin with.
    The best way to express femininity is to behave as a lady. If one can master that difficult task-it takes a great deal of effort and sensitivity- then one will accomplish the most important aspect of what it is to be a women.
    For my part, I’m a lady in training.
    This apart, the former magazine”Like a Lady” has a double meaning that may not have been intentional. Was it?

  9. says:

    I don’t care if you are a crossdresser or TG or TS, transgendered life presents a lot of challenges. If you are ‘just a crossdresser,’ the problem is how often, where, does your partner know, etc. If TG, like me, same issue but can’t envision transition. If TS, shedding all masculinity in social situations, SRS, etc. becomes a challenge. I love what Sophie Lynne says, and sometimes we forget this fact. We are all human with feelings, dreams and goals…sometimes we forget that….

  10. Sophie Lynne Sophie Lynne says:

    great piece, Dr!

    The “community” is indeed in a “war of words.” I always wondered the why of that. Is it because we were picked on and bullied, so we pick on the people we believe are beneath US?

    Some gurls are happy at the crossdressing stage, and that’s wonderful. Others need to transition yesterday. Thats their goal. Others, like me, somewhere in between. Does that make any of us less human? And as humans, we hurt when insulted. Now, true, many of us have developed thick skins (we’ve had to) but to hear it from folks in our own cohort just… stings a bit more.

  11. says:

    One is not saying that no one has the right to see oneself as different than the rest. what is objected to is when some one classifies another, regardless if that someone has a million degrees and is a self ordained mind reader. That’s exclusionary and arrogant. I recognize everyone’s right to self identify and have no special psychic abilities to disagree with that self identification. Certainly a transsexual women(I alternate between using one s and double ss because one is correct but I don’t know which one) sees herself as different than a cross dresser and that is proper, but she can’t define the cross dresser differently than the CD defines herself-or even himself.
    No standard work on science itself or any recognized science will state that science is a search for the truth. Truth is an interpretation. Science is an investigation and a search for increasing better interpretations of what we observe.

  12. dr_angello dr_angello says:

    Wow, it’s great to be back at TG Forum and feel the energy in your comments! It’s been a few years since I’ve contributed, but intend to keep posting as long as the submissions are of value to you! The reason I felt pulled to this topic is that I’ve actually seen an increase in the “divide” among community members recently. On some level, this is a good thing. What?? Well, a good thing in the sense that perhaps it means the community is so solid that there’s not as much of a need to all sing the same tune. But, I still believe that exclusion of anyone hurts everyone, so I remain hopeful that the community-at-large will stay united! I love this thread…please keep it going.

  13. says:

    I think the entire entire tg family is slowly getting more inclusive and not expecting every member to wear some kind of a badge of some kind of self ID. I may be wrong but I blame a lot of this slicing and dicing of the tg community on those minority of psychologists who believe they have the capacity to read minds or call tgwomen deniers if they say they don’t fit into some fabricated theory. There have been those transistioned women who have had the trannier than thou attitude but, once again, a minority.
    However, I think I know of one thing that binds us. Tell me if I’m wrong. We’ll all seen some gorgeous dress we’d love to be able to wear or have in our closet. I bet you can even tell me the color.

  14. debglam debglam says:

    Great post doc! I’m a relatively new girl and have been lucky to fall in with a pretty good local TG group. We have everyone from classic crossdressers to transitioned women and everyone seems to get along pretty well.

    I just don’t get these girls that feel they have to rank things. A load of BS.

  15. says:

    The very concept of male and female is not a sharply defined binary one. for example women with CAIS who are outwardly female and from childhood on develope all female secundary sexual characteristics are in fact males by biological definition.
    As a child I wanted to be a boy and grow up to marry a women and have children. I wanted to be a man’s man. I lifted wieghts to develope muscles and challenged other boys to fights. I was a little devil. But during this time I was liking things that I felt boys should not like and fearing things like pregnancy(????). In my boyish superhero fantasy I could not imagine myself as a man. Instead the mental image was replaced by a women. I lived with this conflict and kept it hidden-or tried to. One girl friend detected it but only laughed about it. I think others did too. About 35 years ago I began to admit I was what we call tg-actually admit that I self identified as a women though my orientation is for females. Males do not attract me at all and never have, so the gay issue thing is not a role in this drama. I have no fetishes about clothes or anything else. I do love to shop for clothes and I often do so in the women’s section. I would never wear anything that did not fit properly or was not my style. When my clothes wear I pitch them so the fetish thin plays no role. Would I want to be born female? My common sense side says hell no. Women have it tough, really tough. I can’t believe they don’t protest more. They are abused by men, they have to withstand the pain of childbirth, They have to withstand insult after insult. I don’t know. But still…maybe yes.

  16. says:

    Twenty years ago, when I joined Triess, some of these similar issues were raised then. There won’t be any resolution on this matter. Look at Virginia Prince. She never went for SRS yet was pretty much living full time en femme. So who was Virginia Prince–a transgenderist. Great. Another label. So what was the difference between her and the crossdresser who goes out once/month? Nothing, really, besides frequency. Like Alice Novic, MD has said in her blog, some of us live most of our lives as men and occasionally as women. Some of us do the opposite, and some of us are very interested in transition and others less so. And some of us do partially transition in that we shave our bodies or get piercings or take low level hormones. The variety of gender expression here is almost endless.

    When Triess was first formed, it was labeled as exclusively heterosexual crossdressers. That was yesterday’s Triess. I think it has evolved, yet who gets labeled what, who ‘passes’ the best, who is ‘trannier’ than thou (whatever the hell that means) etc. who cares? Ultimately, this whole thing is about what works for you….

  17. says:

    First let me say I love vallin’s “Trannier then thou”. Oh how often I have had to deal with that. I’m going to steal that phrase.
    No one authorized me to be the general administrator for the english language but I’m going to use the term transgender in the broadest possible sense as it pertains to gender self identification-including the super male dude who cross dresses. I might defend this because this forum accepts this approach.
    Yes, many transgenders do wear the traditional clothing of their opposite genetic gender because they simply feel it is appropriate to their gender identifcation. To others, it is simply a hobby. They do it for whatever reason and they don’t give a hoot about the reason because they enjoy cross dressing. “I wear that beautiful dress because it’s there” to paraphase Edmund Hillary.
    Well, gender self identication is also something that is, just as time/space is. Playing Freud by making up really meaningless explanations only muddles things and causes self guilt where none is deserved. It is simply counter productive.
    Enough for now. This is an excellent thread.

  18. vallin vallin says:

    I was chatting with my good friend and Blogger Cyrsti Hart, and I coined the term “Trannier Than Thou” in reference to the attitude espoused and expressed by the “upper” extreme of the Trans-community. She was quite amused, and she plans to use it in a future blog ( That sector that also hurls the term “admirer” down from Parnassus as a judgement of moral unwortyhiness. We are the only community that uses “admirer” as an insult. As a (semi-) professional entertainer, I’d never disparage a potential fan simply for liking me or my show!

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