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Gianna Israel Gender Library

Closeted Crossdresser Dilemmas

Have you noticed how many people have come out of the closet these days? Has someone attempted to make you feel bad because you only have an online existence? As a gender specializing therapist, I regularly hear complaints from closeted crossdressers who have been told they are flawed because they haven't come out. Comments such as these can cut very deeply, sometimes so bad that they can push a person even deeper into the closet. This article is designed to help people who are closeted and know they simply cannot come out.

What is it that keeps a person in the closet? Are a person's reasons for not coming out simply some nebulous excuse to prevent others from having a good time? Or, are the reasons for remaining closeted so valid that they make those who come out looked foolish? In all likelihood a person's reasons for coming out can be just as valid as those reasons a person may have for staying in the closet. Closeted or not, it is important to recognize that each individual has placed particular importance on getting their needs fulfilled, and typically one's choice is not better than another.

The most commonly written about reasons for staying closeted include social, family, and financial factors. A person who is closeted frequently sees that coming out would substantially interrupt life as they know it. What therapists, authors and the transgender community less frequently explore is the fact that in many situations there exists deep emotionally needs for an individual to remain closeted. The one need people dislike talking about most is that of the crossdresser's need to maintain a strong sense of masculine identity when not crossdressed. It is possible that in some subconscious manner coming out may interrupt the preceding dynamic.

People need to be very careful with their judgments when discussing and exploring gender boundaries and roles. Just as there is nothing wrong with having a healthy en femme persona for a crossdressing male, there is also nothing wrong with having a healthy sense of masculinity. The preceding theme is true primarily for transgenderists and crossdressers, although even transsexuals need to maintain some sense of masculinity in order to be a whole person. All humans need to find a successful balance between their feminine and masculine identity and needs. This is particular so for transgender persons, because we are always mindful of how our gender appears to others. However, it is also true that non-transgender individuals explore similar themes. This may explain why gender studies are so popular at universities and gender role play games are enjoyed by a wide variety of people.

In the pursuit of coming to terms with having a need to crossdress it is very important to feel good about yourself. Having people discount your needs doesn't feel very good. I suggest if someone criticizes your choices, take some time to think about what the person has said. Decide if their criticism offers any useful suggestions on how to improve your situation. The very best advise typically comes from a person talking about their own experiences. If you hear about positive coping strategies that other people used successfully, try to consider how such strategies might work for you. However, always remember that free advise is just that, free to take or leave at your discretion.

As I mentioned earlier, crossdressers frequently are interested in hearing about how others deal with the fear of being exposed or discovered as a crossdresser. During counseling we make a point of discussing how the person might feel if they should be found out. Most feel as if being so would utterly destroy their entire world. Fortunately, most crossdressers simply pick up the pieces and continue on with their lives after being discovered. I like to encourage crossdressers to overcome the fear of being found out, even if they do not come out of the closet. This helps reduce stigmatization of what they are doing in private. After all, private is nobody's business except your own, particularly if no one is getting hurt.

Another issue common to closeted crossdressers is purging. As a result of guilt, after crossdressing some individuals throw away their wardrobes and stuff their feelings deep inside. I encourage people to stop using such unhealthy coping mechanisms. Instead, find storage places to keep your clothing until you are ready to use them again, and learn to feel positive about having a transgender identity. People have been crossdressing for a long, long time. You have nothing to feel guilty about. After safeguarding your responsibilities, try to keep in mind that the most important issue for all transgender persons, is having some reasonable quality of life.

When you crossdress does doing so increase your quality of life? Would living with less guilt and fear of being found out help your overall state of mind? Is it possible to feel satisfied with crossdressing privately? If you can answer "yes" to the preceding questions, then in all likelihood it may be possible to come out when you feel ready. Until then, be kind to yourself and enjoy crossdressing for what you get out of it. Do not allow others to dictate how you should feel about yourself or your needs.


GENDER ARTICLES. This educational column authored by Gianna E. Israel is regularly featured on the 3rd Monday of each month in Tg-Forum, the Internet's most up-to-date, weekly Transgender Magazine <http://www.tgforum.com/>. Several weeks later each article is forwarded to Usenet and AOL <Keyword TCF>. Each column has been written to inspire contemplation and dialogue. Columns may be reprinted in any medium insofar as each article, its introduction, and the author's contact information remains unaltered.

GIANNA E. ISRAEL provides nationwide telephone consultation, individual & relationship counseling, evaluations and referrals. She is principal author of the Transgender Care (Temple University / in press 1997). She also writes Transgender Tapestry's "Ask Gianna" column; is an AEGIS board member and HBIGDA member.She can be contacted at (415) 558-8058, at P.O. Box 424447 San Francisco, CA 94142, or via e-mail at Gianna@counselsuite.com.


Copyright © 2001 by Diane Wilson. All rights reserved.