Research on the wives of crossdressers: Questionnaire II. Report 3

| Oct 22, 2012

The Questionnaire II survey of crossdressers wives was developed in early 2012 and placed on the web site,, in mid-March. It will remain available for several more months, and if you are the wife or long-term partner of a crossdresser you are urged to respond (see Questionnaire II on the web site home page). By the end of September, 210 wives had responded. The most important characteristic of this sample is that nearly all of the wives have never been part of a crossdressers support group or attended a convention for this group. All prior published descriptions dealing with crossdressers wives relied upon samples of women who had either been involved with support groups or who were recruited at a crossdressers convention.

Most wives of crossdressers learn of their husband’s crossdressing long after their wedding day. Brown’s earlier study (1994) is by far these best of four data-based surveys concerning the wives of crossdressers. He found that 40% of his wives had been informed prior to marriage (Talamini, 1982; Peo, 1984; Docter, 1988). It is very important that all of these studies utilized wives recruited from support groups or who were attendees at a crossdressers convention.  Very possibly, these wives hold attitudes toward crossdressers that are somewhat more positive than the broader group of wives who have never been affiliated with crossdressing events. We shall refer to the samples used in the four studies mentioned above as “affiliated” wives.

A very different sample involves wives who were not affiliated with either a support group and who had never participated in a crossdressers convention. Levy and Docter (Questionnaire II results, in preparation) surveyed 200 wives of crossdressers, 92% of whom were entirely unaffiliated. The 8% who were affiliated were excluded from this report concerning unaffiliated wives. We shall refer to this sample as the “unaffiliated” group.

Thirty-two percent of these wives stated that they had been told of their husband’s predilection for crossdressing prior to marriage. It has been assumed in several reports that providing this information prior to marriage might be a factor in subsequence tolerance or acceptance of crossdressing. The present findings from Questionnaire II are consistent with this.

We may ask, how accepting or tolerant toward crossdressing are the wives who find themselves in relationships with crossdressers, regardless of when they learned about the crossdressing of their spouse? Let us first turn to data from “affiliated” wives who would be expected to be somewhat more accepting in view of their participation in support groups or conventions. Psychiatrist George Brown (1944) collected data from 106 wives at support group meetings and conventions over six years, and used two questions to assign each wife to one of three groups said to reflect acceptance of crossdressing. One question dealt with whether a wife had “seriously considered divorce or separation from your partner because of crossdressing” (p. 522). The second question was a “global self-rating” of tolerance/acceptance of the spouses crossdressing (p. 522).  Brown found that 41% were highly accepting, 26% were moderately accepting, and 20% were low in acceptance. Keep in mind that these wives were all participants in crossdressers support groups or conventions.

As would be predicted, the wives from the Levy and Docter “unaffiliated” group of wives show a similar but lower rate of acceptance. Eleven percent said they “…embrace it and enjoy some aspects of it (crossdressing).” Twenty-two percent said they were “…accepting of it, but with a few negative feelings.” Twenty-three percent reported feeling the crossdressing was to be “…tolerated…with both positive and negative feelings.” Twenty-nine percent said they “disliked it intensely” and wanted nothing to do with crossdressing. At present, the determinants of these attitudes, ranging from remarkably positive to decisively negative, are not fully understood. We shall attempt to find out through additional research with these unaffiliated wives.

For the wives surveyed by Levy and Docter, attitudes toward crossdressing change in both directions with the passage of time. Thirty-five percent reported becoming somewhat more “disgusted and angry,” while 25% said they had become “slightly” more accepting and tolerant. Brown did not report on changes in acceptance. He did, however, find that for his affiliated wives, 32% had “seriously considered” either divorce or separation from their husband. For the unaffiliated wives, 43% said their marriage had a “favorable outlook. No divorce expected.” The remaining 50% said their marital future was not clear, and seven percent reported their marriage was “very likely” to end in divorce.

Twenty-five percent of Brown’s affiliated group said they experienced sexual arousal with their cross dressed husband at least occasionally. For the Levy and Docter group, a surprising 42% reported they had participated in sexual relations with their cross dressed husband, at least now and then, during the previous year.

The following is a brief description of the present sample together with the results for a variety of questions. Most of the wives completed all of Questionnaire II, but 25% did not. A more complete report will be prepared when additional responses have been acquired.

  • The average age of the wives is 48; husband, 49.
  • 69% live in the USA; England, 13%. Followed by Canada and Australia.
  • Average length of marriage: 19 years.
  • Years married prior to learning of crossdressing, 10 years.
  • Informed of crossdressing prior to marriage: 32%.
  • Wives divorced once, 27%, twice, 11%. Husbands once 27%, twice 6%.
  • Wives in counseling now: 19%. Husbands, 13%. Caucasian, 97%
  • At least 2 years of college, 65%. Some graduate study, 25%.
  • Did not graduate from high school: 5%. Very high educational level.
  • Income: 75% are at or above $75,000. Very high average income.
  • Never post messages on forum: 76%.
  • Never scan messages on forum: 46%.
  • Wives attitudes toward crossdressing:
  • Most positive (“embrace it”): 11%
  • Accept with some negative feelings: 23%
  • Tolerated with both positive and negative feelings: 22%
  • Not accept: 17%
  • Dislike intensely: 18%
  • Strongly dislike 9%
  • Putting aside crossdressing, 55% rated their husband as excellent or superior.
  • Most serious addiction: crossdressing, 65%.
  • Next most serious addictions, masturbation, 26%, smoking, 26%. porn, 25%
  • Expected to divorce: 6%. Considering divorce: 6%
  • Mostly a fetishistic husband; not complete dressing as a woman: 36%.
  • Husband dressed completely as woman (i.e., a crossdresser): 43%.
  • Don’t know or some other style of dressing: 19%.
  • Crossdressing greatly reduced intimacy: 47%, slightly reduced, 20%
  • Crossdressing improved intimacy: 22%.
  • Crossdressing had an unfavorable or harmful effect on sex life:  54%.
  • Sex has been “generally satisfactory,” 50%; both good and poor, 25%.
  • 62% of husbands seldom or never go out in public crossdressed.
  • 79% of wives never accompany crossdressed husband in public.
  • 55% of husbands have adopted a woman’s name.
  • 4% have started to use female hormones.
  • 42% have occasionally had sex with crossdressed husband.
  • Crossdressing is somewhat helpful to his health or well-being: Yes, 70%.

The survey was not designed to acquire information to account for why certain responses were reported; we shall explore these matters more fully with additional questionnaires.

Frequently asked questions from wives:

How is crossdressing defined?

It is helpful to make a distinction between fetishism and crossdressing. Fetishism involves the use of one or more objects to enhance sexual arousal. Women’s clothing are common fetishistic objects. Crossdressing involves three variables that are essential for assignment to the category of crossdresser:

a) Sexual arousal in response to wearing a complete outfit of women’s clothing, so as to simulate the appearance of a woman.

b) Some degree of feminine identity must be present. This refers to the experience of perceiving one’s self as having characteristics associated with females in a particular culture. crossdressers vary greatly in their experience of feminine identity.

c) The crossdressing behavior is periodic. (Transsexuals live continuously and permanently as women.)

Are the husbands “drag queens,” fetishists, or crossdressers?

The wives in the Levy and Docter survey reported the following: About 7% dressed as drag queens; 31% typically wore “a few items of women’s clothing (some or all of this group appears to fit the definition of fetishists); 43% dressed “entirely like a woman” and therefore appears to be crossdressers. The remaining 19% of these wives did not know how their husbands crossdressed.

How common is crossdressing?

Most experts believe this behavior is found in a fraction of 1% of the population. The same is true of transsexuals — that is, persons who live in the gender role opposite from their genetic sex. On the other hand, variations of fetishistic behavior are far more common.

How many wives have been told about crossdressing prior to marriage?

Levy and Docter found that 32% were informed prior to marriage; 68% were informed after marriage, with an average lapse of 11 years without knowing.

How many wives would have declined to marry a crossdresser had they known before marriage?

The surveyed wives are evenly divided: 50% did marry or would have gotten married even though they were not told prior to marriage, and 50% said they would not have married a crossdresser had they been informed.

Can crossdressing be cured?

Most experts believe crossdressing is not likely to be completely eliminated, although complete cessation has been reported, especially in crossdressers advanced in age. Efforts to eliminate crossdressing may result in depression, anger, and other negative emotions experienced by the crossdresser. Since crossdressing is in large part a sexual behavior, it is not more likely to be eliminated than other sexual behavior.

Can crossdressing be controlled?

Most experts believe crossdressing can be controlled, especially when the crossdresser and his wife collaborate in the negotiation of boundaries and limits. To accomplish this, the partners will need to approach their discussions with a strong commitment to find compromises that are acceptable to each, and with strong commitments to their marriage. When the partners agree that their marriage is more important than anything else, workable compromises can usually be found. Another example of the temporary cessation of crossdressing would be when a crossdresser is required to live in a situation where crossdressing is not possible, such as in a military combat zone or in a prison.

Is crossdressing an addiction?

Most crossdressers report an intense periodic motivation to crossdress, and to masturbate during such a session. One may quibble about the technical definition of the term addiction, but crossdressing motivation, rewards, and persistence are similar to many examples of addiction. Many sex and gender authorities believe crossdressing taps into the same “pleasure center” of the brain as do many other addictions (smoking, use of drugs and alcohol, gambling, etc.). Levy and Docter found that 66% of their surveyed wives rated crossdressing as an addiction; smoking and masturbation tied for second.

Will crossdressing escalate in frequency, cost, time required, or into transsexuality?

There is nothing inevitable about escalation, but as with most sexual behavior, there is often motivation to create novelty and variation in crossdressing routines. The management of time, place, being in public, sex when crossdressed, cost, whether to involve the children, and all other considerations should become topics for negotiation. Crossdressing tends to increase with age, assuming there is greater opportunity for privacy as age increases.

Will your husband insist upon going out in public?

Surveys of crossdressers have shown that going out in public is not a common activity of crossdressing, although some crossdressers are strongly motivated to do this even in their early years as a crossdresser. A minority of crossdressers join support groups and attend conventions; very few wives do so. It is also very rare for the wives of crossdressers to accompany their crossdressed husbands in public places.

Does crossdressing involve homosexual behavior?

Some homosexual men crossdress, and often their over-the-top, flamboyant style of dressing fits the description of a “drag queen.” This style of dressing was reported by 7% of the surveyed wives. Most experts believe that, with few exceptions, crossdressers report a heterosexual history including most of those who choose to dress as “drag queens.” This topic becomes more complicated when a crossdresser reports having fantasies of participating in sexual behavior with an imaginary male, or actually seeking such an experience. Reports of both fantasies and experiences involving males in sexual relationships are common, especially in younger crossdressers. What makes this behavior so confusing to define is that seeking sexual attention from a man is invariably seen as gay behavior. In contrast, the crossdressers imagines himself to be a woman when crossdressed, and therefore perceives such sexual fantasies or experiences to be heterosexual. Almost without exception, crossdressers say these fantasies and experiences occur only when they are crossdressed. The question of using the term, homosexual behavior, seems to depend upon individual preferences in word usage.

Are wives who have sex with crossdressers lesbians?

A surprising percentage of the wives of crossdressers (about 40%) report having sex with a crossdressed husband, although the frequency of such activity varies considerably. For the most part, wives prefer to keep crossdressing out of the bedroom. The usual definition for being a lesbian requires a history of same sex preference, not simply sexual relations with a crossdressed husband.

Why are a high percentage of crossdressers’ wives very displeased?

The discovery of a crossdressing husband is almost always perceived by his wife as a very serious threat to the marriage. Very often these wives view crossdressing as akin to betrayal, abandonment, having a competitive sex partner, or infidelity. In addition, the wives of crossdressers often have feelings about this behavior that reflect the strong stigmatization evidenced by our society. All but about 11% of wives say they would be happier if crossdressing would disappear.

Why is it difficult to find a counselor or therapist who is knowledgeable about sex and gender issues?

Crossdressing is very rare. It is not surprising, therefore, that many counselors and marriage therapists have not received much training or experience with this topic. Very often, however, a trained counselor or therapist can be of assistance without being a sex or gender specialist. Many wives are so ashamed of the behavior of their husband that they elect to avoid any form of counseling.

Why crossdressers secretive about their behavior?

Most crossdressers are highly secretive about their crossdressing, preferring to maintain total silence with relatives, close friends, or co-workers. Feelings of shame are also a major reason why most crossdressers do not reveal this socially stigmatized behavior to a prospective wife prior to marriage, or hide it from the wife for decades after marriage. Wives often report that they also feel a need to maintain secrecy, and that this is a result of the husband’s having more or less forced them to become closeted with him. At the core of the problem is the fact that society strongly regards crossdressing as behavior that should be stigmatized.

Are crossdressers aware of how intensely they offend their wives?

There is great variation among crossdressers concerning their awareness, commitment, and desire to accommodate the needs of the wife. Obviously, the ability of the partners to collaborate in resolving differences about crossdressing is the key to finding workable compromises within a marriage.

How many wives of crossdressers divorce due to crossdressing?

As best one can estimate from survey data, at least 30% of wives give serious consideration to divorce, but from currently available data (Levy and Docter) only about 8% actually divorce. The matter is complicated by the likelihood that some divorces may not be entirely attributable to any single marital dissatisfaction. About two-thirds of the wives in the Docter and Levy survey continue to share the same bedroom with their crossdresser husband.

Does counseling or psychotherapy help the partners in a marriage troubled by crossdressing?

Help from a counselor or psychotherapist certainly can be an important part of learning more about sex and gender, and also, working out compromises that prove helpful to the partners in a marriage. A key step is to find a source of assistance wherein you feel trust and confidence. At the least, counseling or psychotherapy can help a couple learn new procedures for communication and problem solving. It is important not to expect any counselor or psychotherapist to have all the answers concerning what causes crossdressing, or why the husband began this behavior, or how to make it go away.

Discounting crossdressing, how do the wives rate their husbands?

In the Levy and Docter sample, all but 14% said their husbands were at least “satisfactory” when the crossdressing behavior put aside. Thirty-five percent said they were “excellent,” and 21% said they were “superior” when the crossdressing issue was not considered.

Are crossdressers who are sexually aroused while thinking of themselves as a woman committing adultery?

Adultery is defined as having sexual intercourse with a person other than one’s husband or wife. Only 2% of the surveyed wives regarded sex outside the marriage as problem for them. Many wives, however, look upon crossdressing as an example of being sexually involved with another “person,” while recognizing that this is a fantasy “person.” In any case, adultery would not be involved.

Is the fantasy “girl friend” an example of dual personality?

Most crossdressers adopt a feminine name for their fantasy “girl friend.” Very commonly, they say they feel an intense need to express their feminine side by appearing to be a woman, and walking, talking, and behaving as a woman. None of this, however, even comes close to meeting the criteria for a “dual personality,” or more technically, a dissociative disorder.

Can aversion therapies modify or eliminate crossdressing?

Most experts believe aversion therapies or religiously based corrective therapy are ineffective, and that in rare cases they can be very harmful to the well-being of the crossdresser. Most of these approaches have been directed toward changing homosexual behavior although they are not effective as well.

Do the attitudes of wives change much after crossdressing is openly revealed?

  • About one-third become more disgusted and negative.
  • About one-third change little or not at all.
  • About one-third changes somewhat in a positive direction.

Does crossdressing reduce marital sex satisfaction?

Wives strongly report that with the onset of crossdressing they feel less attractive in the eyes of their husband, and that the husband becomes less attractive as viewed by the wife. In the Levy and Docter survey, nearly 70% of the wives said there had been a loss of intimacy due to crossdressing. One-third reported that crossdressing had caused “a very harmful impact” on their marital sexual relationship.

Please note that this entire research data will be available at all times as a new link on the site — Survey Results!

Thank you so much Professor Docter for having extraordinary compassion for crossdressers’ wives. Your ongoing hard work and dedication to this research is well worth noting. You are a trailblazer, who thank God is starting to pave a smoother way for crossdressers’ wives. You have changed my life, and so many other world wide crossdressers’ wives for the better.

I am eternally grateful to have had the honor to work with Professor Docter! It was a pure pleasure and I look forward to our continued partnership in further research projects.
Blessings to all,
Dee A Levy

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Category: Body & Soul

About the Author ()

Dee A. Levy is the former spouse of a crossdresser. She has a BA in Women Studies and MA in Social Sciences and Comparative Education. She is the author of The Cross Dresser's Wife -- Our Secret Lives, available at, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, &

Comments (2)

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  1. Tasi Zuriack says:

    First I’ve seen this kind of research. Excellent. Keep it up, Dee

  2. deni says:

    I wonder how many people have some degree of dysphoria. I’ve read that 1 in 250 to 1 in 500 people feel they were born with the wrong gender. Any research in this area?