Transvestism, A Positive Aspect.

Jean Pepper.

Beaumont Society Regional Organiser South East and Helpliner
Gendys Conference, 1998

I must point out that what I talk about this afternoon is entirely my own opinion, and does not reflect the views of any organisation.

(introductory slide) Of the 'typical' group of people shown here, one will probably be a Transvestite.

My talk today centres on some of the broad aspects a successful TV needs to address - rather than the insurmountable difficulties that some TV's feel stand in their way.

Estimates of the number of TV's vary wildly. But the most commonly mentioned figure is one in 100. It is suggested that as many in 1 in 10 have tried cross dressing at it's most basic level. i.e. borrowing wife, girlfriend, or sisters underwear.

If we were able to collect together all the images that you have in your minds when you think of the word Transvestite each one would probably be different. Amongst them could be individuals such as Danny Le Rue, Eddy Izzard, Elton John, Richard Branson, Ru Paul, Lilly Savage or Hinge and Bracket - maybe stereotypes such as DRAG queens, Stage personalities, pantomime characters, cabaret artists, or female impersonators. None of which is the sort of transvestite I am thinking of - I'm thinking about the guy next door!

Usually information about Transvestites only comes to light when they are in trouble and the press take great delight in making the most of the situation What I want to talk about this afternoon is not that kind of TV but the ones that have successfully come to terms with the issues involved, learnt how to look and behave in a female way and subsequently pass freely amongst society in their 'alternative role'. They make the choice of 'where' and 'when' and are quite happy to have two different lifestyles, two images, two personalities, two credit cards, two wardrobes, and two sets of friends. There is no profound dissatisfaction with their body and they are quite happy to be male when the occasion calls for it. It is unfair to say that trannies are afraid to loose their parts because it takes a lot of ball to wear a frock! To achieve this means much more than just 'wearing the clothes'. It means studying carefully actions, movements, and expressions so that the whole thing gels together.

The media seems to set great store with 'T' issues in general at the moment. But there are many examples in history. Possibly the most glamorous transvestite in the past was the Chevalier D'Eon de Beaumont who, having caught the eye of Louis V at court, was sent disguised as a woman to Russia as a spy, meeting the future Queen of England in Germany on the way. He was quickly involved in diplomatic intrigue and high living which characterised the rest of his life. On his return circumstances forced him to continue to dress as a woman despite his protests, both here and in France. Upon his death in 1810 considerable sums of money changed hands in the form of bets after a group of five distinguished people - including Admiral Sidney Smith, testified that the body was exclusively male. There are other cases in history, one of the most notable being the case of Lord Cornby who was sent to America to represent Queen Anne. When guests at the opening of the New York Assembly in 1702 complained of the ambassador appearing dressed in a blue silk gown, headdress studded with diamonds, and satin shoes his reply was "You are all very stupid people not to see the propriety of it all. In this place and on this occasion I represent a woman, and in all respects I ought to represent her as faithfully as I can."

There are a lot of people who think they are Transvestites but in fact they are not. The case has been related to me by a fellow helpliner of the type of call that occurs from time to time:-

Caller:- (Slowly) "Hello I have a problem . . . I think I am a TV . . . I . . . dress in women's clothes and it gives me a big turn on."

Helpliner:- "OK - do you have any women's outer clothes at all . . . skirts, blouses dresses etc? Do you wear any make up? Do you have a female name ?"

Caller:- (Shyly) "No only underwear - I've only got tights and knickers"

Helpliner:- "Well then I have some news for you. You are not a Transvestite, just a plain old ordinary fetishist."

Caller:-"Thank God for that! I thought I was a Transvestite!"


Then there are those who are fine with just the clothes, never meeting others, staying behind firmly behind the bedroom door and maybe building up a huge library of pictures of different outfits, all taken in the same room in the same poses which no one else will ever see.

Nature is very clever at sending out signals to enable humans of the opposite sex to identify and be attracted to one another to mate. And what do we do? Cover them up with clothes because it is too cold not to! So in order for nature's signals to still be recognised, different styles of dress have been adopted to enable the attraction to continue. This and several other factors have to be studied to enable a Transvestite to be successful.

So what are the sort of things that a successful TV has had to address?

First the look.

To do that first an understanding of the differences between male and female body shape is needed. Such things as waist position, arm lengths etc., need to be looked at in conjunction with ones own shape.

Of course males and females are not bi polar - as I am sure you all know there is a continuum between autotypical states. In addition to looking at the things I have mentioned a TV needs to give extra attention to the areas where they display the more male features, and I have not even mentioned the beard! TV's follow the developments in beard removal techniques just as closely as the rest of the community. You would be surprised at the number of TV's who have had electrolysis.

So a look is needed which makes the most of the features that identify as being female at the same time disguising the more male aspects. Two examples are wearing a neck scarf, or choker to hide a large Adam's Apple and using rings and nail varnish to disguise large hands. A lot of study is needed in the areas that are learnt intuitively by women as they grow up. The use of colour, patterns, styling and makeup being a few examples.

Secondly the movement.

There are differences in movement that result from the body shape differences. The main one is the hip/leg connection which gives a very different walk which I can only describe as a sort of 'follow through' at the hips at the end of each stride. Have a look next time you are in the High Street! Watch the pockets at the back of a pair of jeans or look for someone wearing a tighter fitting skirt and you will see what I mean! In the olden days it used to be describes as two small boys in a sack! Fashion designers latched onto this a long time ago and introduced heels in women's fashions which alter the angle of the legs - tensioning the muscles and accentuating this feature. For me a pair of heels, no matter how small is an essential part of me when dressed. The other major factor is how women sit, primarily because of what is between a man's legs he tends to sit with the legs apart, whereas a woman is the opposite. Often crossing her legs and in so doing protecting herself.

Thirdly the mannerisms.

And I mean this in the nicest possible way! I am talking about speech styles, interests, conversation subjects etc. Women just do not do the male calling cry:- I expect you've heard it - called across the street to one another "all wright mate?" "a all wright". Conversation has more gestures and is more about feelings, attitudes, and observation, rather than ownership, possessions, achievements, and activities.

There three categories are extremely broad and I have only touched on a very small amount of detail. Work on the 'look' is a huge task in itself combining a style of clothes, with a certain hair style as well as a look for makeup. The look does not come at once it is something that is developed over a considerable period of time.

The above three broad categories are only part of the overall picture. I touched earlier on the personality side. To bring the three areas together, to hone and improve them, social interaction needs to take place, to put some life-skills into the overall picture. One example is how many men have been whistled at? Or indeed had their bottom pinched? This reminds me of the occasion when I had taken a 'new girl' on her first big outing up to Ron Storme's where we met up with the rest of the group. We managed to get a table and later the new girl took advantage of sitting there for a bit. There was a space at the end of a seat and a man approached to sit down. Turning to the wife of a TV in our party they said "Oh my gawd a man is going to sit next to me - what'll I do if he touches me?" Which brings me to the other major issue that of orientation. A matter of people mixing Sex and Gender together. The TV will invariable address the question "Am I gay?" Because the logic runs like this - A woman wearing a skirt attracts men - if a man wears a skirt he will attract other men, therefore he is gay. My definitions of Sex and Gender look like this:- Gender, Visual identity and social role constructed by society for males and females. Sex, (n) Biological attributes of male and female. (v) Act of intimacy. Just because a TV wants to adopt the female gender does not automatically mean that they want to adopt the sexual side too.

In conclusion the successful TV today has the means to socialise with others in a wide range of activities from meetings held in private houses to spending a complete weekend in a hotel with several hundred others. These occasions are the times when techniques can be improved and tricks and tips learnt from others. When confident the successful TV enjoys trips out to the cinema, visits to a restaurant and many other activities. In fact the social scene can be quite hectic at times.

Finally a lot is said about the differences between TV's and TS's. But to me we are all share the gift of being able to identify in ourselves things that others never question and therefore take for granted. We are all in the same glasshouse and we cannot afford to throw stones. If any differences need to be described possibly it could be put like this:-

A TV needs to be seen for the woman that they are not and a TS wants to be recognised for the woman, or man, that they are.

Pepper, J., (1998), Transvestism, A Positive Aspect GENDYS '98, The Fifth International Gender Dysphoria Conference, Manchester England.
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