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.