Ironing it out

     Having argued the power, and even necessity, of keeping a clear moral boundary up, I feel the need to be more specific about the nature of that morality.  What is it exactly about crossdressing that is wrong?  What is it that is unacceptable?  Come along with me as I process some things.

1.     Starting from the standpoint of the clothing itself, I continue to find myself unable to counter the defensive claims that the social norms for clothing are simply unfair and imbalanced gender-wise.  While women are not technically crossdressing when wearing men’s clothes (because they’re allowed to wear them, and therefore are not really crossing at all), nor even necessarily considering the male nature of the clothes at all (in fact most of what crossdressers raise here has to do with women’s clothes in “male” styles- pants for example- but they are specially made and cut as women’s pants so it’s certainly not the same thing as a man in tights, high heels, and a women’s skirt, and there is always the piece of the argument from women that men’s clothes are more functional anyway), they certainly are allowed to wear even men’s clothes from men’s departments/closets and men are by no means allowed to do the opposite.  I cannot see any way to call this fair.  Of course I think this will slowly change over the years and eventually much more will be allowed (already is),  but regardless I don’t think I really care that much about the social inequity of clothing rules other than due to the more culpable motivations to follow.  Before moving to those other motivations, however, I still think there’s a major piece of the morality puzzle living right here.  When I call the rules unfair, I’m not saying “women get to wear clothes that aren’t theirs and men don’t”.  I’m saying “there are no clothes that are not women’s, but there are clothing articles that are specifically not men’s”.  This being the case, one cannot escape the fact that a man in women’s clothes is breaking the rules (fair or unfair), violating the implicit social norms (not talking about “normal” here, just unspoken rules), the expectations that everyone has for acceptable behavior.  My take on violating such “rules” is as follows:

A.  It SHOULD be done if the norm is evil (like racial discrimination).  Let no one cower behind a “norm”, implicit or explicit, when human life is being destroyed.  By no means is that the case here.

B.    It COULD be done in many areas without a worry at all, depending on the connotations and situation.  Since crossdressing is so tied up with homosexuality and gender issues, one cannot expect to break the norm and still expect to be treated like any other man (or person for that matter).  This realization that, to others (and I think to ourselves as well), crossdressing inevitably blurs gender lines (wearing clothes of the other gender is expressing the other gender) is pivotal in what follows.

C.  It should NOT be done when it is simultaneously not the first two categories and is also significantly causing others suffering.  For instance, if one’s wife, who, because of the clothing rules, is quite upset by what she cannot but see as her husband’s blurring of gender (a valid concern for someone who’s whole relationship is based on that gender distinction at the foundation), and is “grossed out” by it, this carries certain moral demands on our behavior (as does any suffering or opinion on the part of our spouse for that matter).  Or, for a Christian, such a display can also cause great confusion and damage in the testimony and message of the Gospel of Jesus (you non-Christians can just ignore this line of thought) by, again, blurring the gender lines according to the understood rules of the culture.  [**Theology insert**  The Church’s message on gender is clear and without confusion- there are two separate genders meant for heterosexual union with each other, not homogenous with oneself and not homosexual with each other.]  In either case, something significant is at stake- one’s marriage and the Church (the clarity of truth itself in an already confused age and people’s spiritual growth in response to it).  These issues cannot be brushed aside while we radically (I’m not opposed to very slow change) “liberate” ourselves to wear silky and smooth and pretty things.  In addition to this, truth be told, there is more at work here than just the desire to wear what we want purely because those things are desirable and good in themselves.

2.     I harken back to what was expressed in part B and applied in part C.  There is an inescapable gender issue here.  For all the valiant mental and emotional attempts out there, one cannot in the end transcend this fact.  Gender exists, and norms exist for the expression of them.  Those having to do with clothing are by no means a thing of the past, though they are, I think, relatively rapidly approaching more balance (on a side note, I actually think that the radical “we’re here” crossdressing movement is slowing it down by demanding too much at once, creating a backlash and a hesitance toward anything like what they’re doing- patience people).  The result of this gender association is that, even for the crossdresser, breaking the rules is a sure sign of “breaking” the gender.  What I mean is, everyone, including the one dressing, must consider it to mean there is some way that the individual is actually “cross-gendered” (transgendered being the prefered nomenclature I think) and not just “cross-dressed”.  For whatever reason a person begins dressing (and I think there are a wide variety of them), once it is done, the person faces an identity crisis that says “I AM, at least in part, at least sometimes, despite the logical complications of it, female”.  This is vastly different from when one acts in a feminine way.  This can lead people (little kids mostly) to say someone is a sissy or woman-like, but, since society cannot and does not place as strict of criteria on general behavior (ex. a nurturing and gentle man does not by any stretch have the same issue that a crossdresser does in public opinion) as it does on the outward expression of clothing (the latter being far easier to dictate and differentiate), it does not have the same weight of identity that crossing the clothing rules does.

     Once I get thinking that I must actually be partly a woman, the desire to crossdress takes on a power and an urgency I think it wouldn’t otherwise have.  I now desire those clothes not just because they’re nice, but because they are a key part of me expressing my gender identity, which in turn is a key part of my personality, my very self.  Here lies a moral problem.  The solution is to truly recover a correctly ordered identity in the gender that we were born.  In fact, looking at my first point above about the clothing norms, one might even feel empowered to push the envelope a bit, but, for an established crossdresser, it is dangerous territory due to the association already established.  Those seeking healing should instead drive toward a total acceptance of what’s given, realizing the blessing and fullness of their gender as such.  

3.     I round this out by discussing the fact that, for me, notwithstanding all the other factors and issues, crossdressing is a certainly a sexual fetish.  I started through sexual arousal, and crossdressed into and through puberty.  I don’t immediately dismiss all sexual associations in life, since I think they are practically (though perhaps not theoretically) unavoidable.  But I do find that there is something wrong with feeding such a connection or allowing the type that I have.  For one thing, nothing must ever pull the focus and drive of all sexual activity overall away from loving my wife in her real-life subjective self (not a sex object, a mannequin, nor any “character” in any fantasy).  Crossdressing certainly can do this.  I can’t find a way to justify allowing such a derailed and vulnerable focus such as women’s clothing to taint the purity of loving relationship.  I will grant that, in very small ways, it is a great accent (like if she wears lingerie from time to time, or just allowing the natural fact of her clothing to accentuate her sexuality the way it was meant to), but I hasten to add that in such times I fight to be sure the clothing is not the focus of my arousal.  Morally speaking, only she can be that.  It also must be said that, since the sexual fetish is also tied over time to the gender confusion of crossdressing, it is not unfair to say that any allowance of this sexual arousal is morally dangerous if not perilous. 

Hey thanks for coming along on this longer post.  I welcome discussion about these points since I really do want my morality to hold water and not just fall apart down the road.

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13 Responses to Ironing it out

  1. Steve says:

    I think it is a bit difficult for me to agree with some of your viewpoints because I believe that for me, crossdressing is a form of gender expression rather than purely a fetish. I started crossdressing at the age of 7, and it was only later when I was around 10 or 11 that I started getting sexual pleasure out of it.

    I found that the more I started to accept myself and embrace the ‘gender expression’ aspect of it (which has only been in the last year), the sexual aspect started to fade. In fact, I now get very little if any sexual stimulation from crossdressing (ie no erection, no ejaculation) yet I enjoy it *more* than I used to. Where I used to get a rush of sexual pleasure followed by pangs of guilt and shame, I now get a much different sensation out of it more like an increased sense of happiness and well being with no shame.

    I am not a transsexual and have no desire to live full time as a woman, but I do present as female in public sometimes these days. My wife is still somewhat uncomfortable with this, she will not go out in public with me en femme, but she is growing to accept it as she can see how much happier and less depressed I am when I have an outlet to express my feminine side. She loves the fact that I am becoming more social and less withdrawn as I learn to accept that I am, if you must use a label, transgendered.

  2. ikthys says:

    Thanks so much for sharing on this! I don’t think I would have accepted these conclusions had I read them a year ago either. I would point out that I don’t think sharing the sexual fetish makes or breaks all that I said before that last point. I also started prepubescently, and your comments about gender expression are exactly what I’m getting at. I feel that a man must express his gender within the clothing boundaries (and I think this is totally possible and not a profound burden). He can express the full range of “feminine” character traits without taking on the external persona of a woman. But once he does take on this persona, I believe he is no longer simply expressing and seeking to express “feminine character” (ex. gentleness, beauty, etc.), but actual “femaleness”, which is in fact foreign to him, confusing (and very potentially harmful) to others, and ultimately imbalanced. I don’t presume to know your life, but I do presume to view mine in this way.

  3. ralphinadress says:

    Howdy, ikthys. I hope you’ll pardon me for jumping into this discussion three months late, but I just discovered your blog today when I got to wondering if anyone else blogs about crossdressing from a non-sexual standpoint (gaaaah, the things I have stumbled across in my search for others like me… I should burn my eyes out) Just to put my comments in perspective, I am a conservative Baptist (believe it or not!), married, and never dress outside the home.

    I’m not sure I can agree about the obvious sexual connection. I, too, started dressing well before puberty. Yes, the feel of something silky brushing across me is a bit arousing, but so is the feel of my wife’s fingertips. When I was in my teens and still very confused about my sexual identity (I figured out that I was a transvestite, but there was no Internet to help me understand what that meant), *anything* would get me aroused — so it wasn’t the dressing per se, it was just that as a young man I was easily aroused. Today, sex is the last thing on my mind when I’m dressed; most of the time I do it while I’m working from home or doing household chores or yardwork or even working on my car (behind our house in a rural setting, where I have plenty of privacy).

    Nor can I completely agree about the transitory need to feel female. Yes, absolutely, most crossdressers go all the way — wigs, makeup, breast forms, painted nails, bras, and a girly name; many work hard at passing for female (and are extremely delusional if they think they are really succeeding, but that’s another rant) and some even get a kick out of getting picked up by men, all the while insisting “but I’m not gay… it’s straight when I’m a woman and I pick up a man”. But not all of us do. I’ll admit we are few in number, but I know several others like me who don’t make any effort to appear female or think of themselves as female or get treated as female — we just like the clothes. I don’t even shave most days. I like being a man, and I never want to give it up.

    Now having said all that, I totally agree about the divisive nature of engaging in any controversial activity, and that’s exactly why I never brought it up with my genetic family (outside of my wife and children, since it would be impossible to hide without lying to them and I would never lie to them) or with my church family. Like Paul and his meat sacrificed to idols, I don’t have a problem with what I do and I don’t believe God does — provided I never let my dressing interfere with my love for the Lord or the love for my neighbor. But also like Paul, I do not want to throw my freedom in the face of those who think that it is nothing short of the most perverse fornication. It would be difficult enough just to convince my dear brothers and sisters that crossdressing and homosexuality are unrelated. Even if I managed to convince a half dozen of my most understanding friends, it would ruin my relationship with the rest of the church and probably make it next to impossible for me to get involved with another church elsewhere. No, I would rather be thrown into the sea with a millstone around my neck than allow that to happen.

    I also agree that it should never be a problem for your wife. I am thankful that my wife is, while not particularly enthusiastic, understanding and accepting of what I do (her exact words, when I bared my soul before proposing to her, was “is that all? I thought you were going to tell me you’re gay!”) otherwise the last 25 years would have been very miserable indeed. If she had ever expressed any concerns or placed any limits, I would have put her wishes first no matter how unhappy it made me. Actually, she does request that I not dress in front of the (now grown) children, and I have always abided by that. They know, because I told them about it years ago, but again I’m not going to flaunt it in their faces if it makes anyone I love uncomfortable.

    So I just sit happily in the privacy of my home wearing clothes that flow smoothly over me, and try to fit in with what the world expects of me the rest of the time.

    I write all this not to seek absolution (“Well, Ralph, now that you put it that way none of the things I feel strongly about apply to you!”) but to play devil’s advocate, as it were, and add a different perspective to the dialog. For your sake and your wife’s I pray that you will remain strong and she will forgive your occasional stumbles (I also agree that the frilly apron was just as much women’s clothing as if you had put on a dress and heels).

    Shalom,
    Ralph

  4. ikthys says:

    Hey Ralph,
    So glad you did jump in! You are most welcome regardless of time 🙂 It is really nice to have another believer connect with my side remarks about causing others to stumble. I do want to clarfy that I am defnitely not making the case that crossdressing leads to wanting to BECOME a women all the way (or that this therefore makes it wrong). No, I also deeply desire to always remain a man (of course I do confess that I’m not sure what I would eventually feel if I were allowed to live this all out how I wanted at any given moment). I have been quite fascinated with the weird world of mixed expression when dressed and wondering what it would be like if people would just let me be a man in a shirt, tie, and cute heels. But this does not take away from the idea that, according to current clothing norms, those heels are an expression of the “womanly” PART of me- an idea which I feel is logically inevitable for all parties and also evidences profound consusion and unhealthy thinking.
    I can’t presume to judge what you wear as you sit around the house (partly because I don’t even know what it is). Like I said in the post, I think tons of men would wear “frilly” or “silky” or “flowy” things if they were men’s clothes and if people would not look down on them for it (that era, though I think it’s coming, is a long way off). It would be quite complicated for my wife to allow me to wear something that is for women and try to imagine that it’s neutral, though I suppose I will not say impossible. One day the items may be made for men and acceptable fashion for men, and then it may not matter much, but that is certainly a different situation than is my desire for specifically women’s clothing. Either way, I am so glad to hear from you. Your input would make for great dialogue in the future!

  5. ikthys says:

    These are some helpful cautions and distinctions. I love the idea of enjoying differences, though I still quibble over the fact that there is an “unfairness” to our current differences in that one side maintains the image and idea of “beauty” (and several other important perks) whle the other is mostly relegated to something like “function”, maybe cleanliness at best… In other words, I would firmly posit that the line should change (and think it has changed a lot in the last decade or two), though I couldn’t agree more about the risks of a crossdresser being the one focused on doing that.

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  10. Ben Freeman says:

    Totally agree with your assessment here. In my study of crossdressing, it is a fundamental deviation from the intended (by nature and biology) maturation of the sexual impulse. In it’s natural form, the man internalises his masculinity, and this is what provides the attraction to femininity (the woman) and attractiveness in the ‘eyes’ of females.

    When a man fails to internalise positive masculinity, or for some reason internalises femininity (the biological polarity to his sexuality), he becomes autoerotic, and feminised, and thus confused in his internal gender. This puts his natural attractiveness to women out of alignment, which leads to frustration on his part, and frustration of his partner due to her being forced into a more masculine role, or not receiving the masculine energy that her biology is calling out to be satisfied by. There will always be an underlying guilt in the behaviour, even if all socially conditioned guilt is removed, because it is wrong for your biology as a man, in the same way that excessive alcohol is wrong for your biology as a human. It’s not a moralistic ‘wrong’ but an energetic, biological wrong – and this doesn’t have to do with social norms, it has to do with raw masculinity and femininity – and how that is psychologically symbolised by the brain.

    I believe it also leads to inevitable isolation for the reasons above, and the way out of it is not so much about time spent resisting femininity, but more and more time spent embracing masculinity, natural male confidence, assertiveness, and freedom. It demands facing the challenges of masculinity, rather than retreating into the “safe” (but ultimately poisonous) nature of internalised femininity. To be clear, this is not poisonous for biological females, as it is in in harmony with their natural brain and biologically. What is medicine for one, is poison for another.

    I believe this is somehow all related to a larger cultural movement of feminisation in men, and as a result, frustration and anger in women that there are not positive, mature males around. The answer to feminism is not about female leadership (which leads to their frustration), it is a refinement and purifying of the natural masculine.

  11. Samuelg says:

    El mayor problema de esta conducta; es no identificar;y reconocer la DIGNIDAD; que Dios me da cuando el me asigno unas características especificas para manifestar su grandeza, y su MAGESTAD, al permitirme el privilegio de la vida con un propósito magestuoso. La carencia de la presencia de Dios en mi Alma y cuerpo me lleva dando tumbos de manera erratica; cual borracho de 3 dias. La LUJURIA; el deseo sexual fuera del orden del Señor destruye la vida de cualquier persona y la de su familia; y su circulo amigos mas cercano. El travestismo es la manera mas sutil de evadir la confrontacion consigo mismo; y ACEPTARSE tal como Dios lo creo; muchas veces le damos mas credibilidad a los que nos han DISCRIMINADO; abusado o maltratado de alguna manera que a lo que dice Dios de mi; y nos enfrascamos en diferentes luchas: drogas licor sexo desordenado; CODICIA; o cualquier otro pecado. Lo más importante;y lo más urgente que tenemos que hacer los seres humanos es:ARREPENTIRNOS; PONERNOS A CUENTAS CON DIOS ; invitar al Señor Jesucristo a vivir en nuestro corazón;y asi no nos tomara por sorpresa ni el sueño; ni un infarto; ni el Corona Virus; y ASI; tendremos la mejor ayuda para erradicar la inmoralidad sexual; y muchas otras malas costumbres que padecemos los humanos.

    • ikthys says:

      Here’s a google translate: The biggest problem with this behavior; it is not to identify, and to recognize DIGNITY; that God gives me when he assigned me some specific characteristics to manifest his greatness, and his MAGESTAD, by allowing me the privilege of life with a majestic purpose. The lack of the presence of God in my soul and body leads me erratically stumbling; like a 3-day drunk. Lust; sexual desire outside the order of the Lord destroys the life of any person and that of his family; and your closest circle of friends. Cross-dressing is the most subtle way to avoid confrontation with yourself; and ACCEPT as God created it; many times we give more credibility to those who have DISCRIMINATED us; abused or mistreated in any way other than what God says about me; and we engage in different struggles: drugs, liquor, disordered sex; GREED; or any other sin. The most important thing, and the most urgent thing that we human beings have to do is: REPENT; GET ACCOUNTED WITH GOD; invite the Lord Jesus Christ to live in our hearts, and thus not take us by surprise or sleep; not a heart attack; nor the Corona Virus; and so; we will have the best help to eradicate sexual immorality; and many other bad habits that we humans suffer.

    • ikthys says:

      Thanks Samuel. Good words- good reminders. Good inspiration. Facing up to ourselves and to reality is definitely hard up front. But surely it promises TRUE fulfillment rather than temporary pleasures that in the end are draining and destructive.

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