This is the title of one of the articles that I have collected here. When, and how, to tell! I suppose I am the last person on earth to offer advice, which is why I am relying on the advice of others.
Certainly you don't need to tell a casual lover. Honesty dictates that you should tell your prospective partner before she is committed. However, it is interesting that some wives are pleased that they didn't find out until long after the wedding. It takes a long time for two people to get to know each other fully, often this doesn't happen until a couple have been married for some time.
This booklet is mainly compiled using articles from the April 1988 edition of Our Sorority , published by the Outreach Institute in America.
However the first extract is by Martine Rose, a Beaumont Society member, who has long experience of the support of TV's and their partners, writing in the December 1988 issue of the Beaumont Bulletin
. . . . . . One of the perennial problems I keep coming up against are the transvestites who feel unable to tell their wives. So many of the TV's who contact me are horrified at the prospect, if I ask them if they have told their wives. Most automatically assume their partner will not accept their transvestism and fear that, if she found out, it would mean instant divorce!
Of course, there are women who will always regard transvestism as a perversion, and it is true that divorce is the outcome of discovery, but this is by no means as inevitable as most TV's imagine. I would say that in the majority of cases, wives who are told, or find out, tolerate but don't actively condone their husband's transvestism.
However, I believe that whether a wife will accept her husband as a TV, and the degree of acceptance, largely depends on the husband's own attitude to transvestism and how he presents it to her. If you don't fully accept it yourself, without lingering feelings of guilt, there is little hope of convincing your partner there is nothing to be uptight about.
When you tell your partner, don't make a big deal out of it. If you treat it in a light, almost casual way, there is much more chance she will treat it in the same way. OK, you wear a dress, sometimes, so what! Cross dressing harms no one, but gives you a great deal of pleasure. Treat it almost like a hobby, and not only are you more likely to enjoy it without any hangups, your partner will too. If you are very heavy about it; bringing up the subject as a terrible dark secret about yourself that you must tell her; she is bound to react with shock and horror because she will be made to feel that is the way you are expecting her to react. The worst way you can tell her is to suddenly appear 'dressed' before her, then expect her to accept you. You must at least try to explain why you like to wear women's clothes, and show some consideration and understanding of her feelings. Don't expect instant acceptance. Even some of the wives who attend meetings, were shocked when they first learned that their husbands wanted to literally get into their knickers. It may take time, sometimes years, of patient discussion to reassure her that your transvestism is not a threat to your relationship with her. Above all, you must talk about it in a gentle, sympathetic, non-demanding way. If you cannot talk at an intimate level about such things as sex with your partner then your relationship is probably on pretty dodgy ground anyway.
Our Sorority - Introduction.
by Betty Ann Lind. ,
In the movie "Oh Men! Oh Women!" there is a line which roughly goes: "The husband wants a woman, and the wife wants a man. They want something completely opposite, something they know nothing about. That is why marriage will never work."
When ever I see Grant Wood's American Gothic I think of this line from the movie and I wonder what the wife would say if her husband were to announce that he was a transvestite. What would she think with her thin lips and uncompromising eyes. What do the wives think? This extract from The Outreach Institute's Our Sorority presents a fair cross section of views. It is a bit one-sided, since the focus is upon the viewpoint of the wives. It is also biased by the fact that this viewpoint is offered by wives who acknowledge and tolerate their partner's crossdressing. Wives who have taken hours of their free time to sit down and state just how they feel about their husband's crossdressing in hopes that other wives might understand and accept this facet of their marriage. We enter a controversial subject filled with emotion and prone to misinterpretation and angry letters starting off with "my wife is not at all like . . . . ."
I think that you should read first and then share this booklet with your beloved.
He, She, We, They:
Partners of Crossdressers.
By The Partners at Fantasia Fair 1986.
This article became the dream of a small group of caring partners at Fantasia Fair Princetown, Massachusetts. A year later it became a reality with the help of others via a questionnaire. Each partner whether heterosexual or homosexual is in a relationship with a cross-dresser, some in marriages of 25 or more years. We are from different locations across the United States, come from varied backgrounds and religions, have been in various groups, including therapy with humanistic professionals, yet we all have something in common.
What is a Crossdresser?
An individual, usually heterosexual, who desires and needs to dress in the clothing of the opposite sex at different times throughout his or her life. This compulsive behaviour generally starts at a young age and the individual struggles alone for many years with this closeted need. Cross-Dressing is not a sickness, but represents a person who enjoys expressing another aspect of his personality and gains both emotional and physical pleasure from this transition. It is not a hobby, but a necessity and Cross-dressing is for life.
If you are the partner of a crossdresser you should know . . . . There are many Cross-Dressers in the world today. We, the partners of Cross-Dressers, felt the need to put together this booklet and share our thoughts and feelings. And we want you to know:
YOU ARE NOT ALONE!
After first finding out that our spouses were cross-dressing we experienced a multitude of emotions. We hope that this booklet will help you to understand and deal with the revelation that you are married to or involved with a cross-dresser.
Like most things in life that do not follow that straight and narrow way of thinking, when first informed of your spouse's Cross-dressing, you experience shock and disbelief. The fact that a huge secret has been kept from you, even though you may have known this person for many years, has a profound emotional impact on you. From the start you may deny it, not only to yourself but also to your spouse, but inside you know it is true. You may continue to deny the fact and then begin to feel a certain sense of guilt, asking yourself, "Where did I go wrong?" or "What could I have done differently?" But, remember you are not to blame! This is something your spouse has been dealing with for a long time.
At times, you may feel threatened by the fact that your spouse is now exposing a feminine side of himself and that he may not be the person you always thought he was. You also experience a great deal of fear and apprehension, the most fearful being the unknown and your naïveté about cross-dressing, The quest to know and learn is a long trek on which you travel many miles of rough road. And every once in a while,
We first want to deal with emotions, listing many of the feelings those partners expressed about their spouse's cross-dressing when answering our questionnaire: Stress, negativism, compulsion, love, fear, threatening, anger, acceptance, uncertainty, rejection, and understanding.
Marriages are affected in that you may feel alone. Cross-dressing puts stress on the marriage, but when we can find other couples in the same circumstance and can share feelings with them, we begin to see we are not the only ones, and with help we can strengthen our relationship. Some partners do not and will never accept cross-dressing, and in these cases the marriage is destroyed.
Feelings are fairly divided on the question of telling our children. Some children accept it and others do not, which is typical of society in general. Most couples who have told their children have waited until the children were of an age when they could make an attempt at understanding the phenomenon. There is concern, however regarding post-mortem discovery when children do not know. One couple stated, "We've informed a very close friend where, in the event of our demise, that friend will come into our home and dispose of that part of our life." Another suggestion might be to leave a letter including reference materials for your family, explaining this lifestyle. Each individual couple will have to come to it's own conclusion on this question; each family presents a unique situation.
Most partners felt that cross-dressing does have an affect upon their sex lives. It weakens it; their sex life has become more inactive. It is a turn off, especially the shaven body or the lingerie. The cross-dresser spends time, thought, energy and money on his need and less of himself goes into their sex life. Some partners were not disturbed and felt he was a husband first and a cross-dresser second, that a decrease in sexual activity is part of the ageing process and not a result of cross-dressing.
If you have confidence in yourself as a woman his cross-dressing may not be a threat to your femininity. You might be a role model for your spouse; not only with the clothes and the makeup but also with the gestures and mannerisms that help to create the image of the total woman. Usually you are not the role model he desires. "Threatened, no . . . But I sure would like to have some of his clothes!"
Discovery, exposure, becoming publicly known! Not an easy solution to handle. Very few, if any, partners when presented with this question could give a positive answer. The majority of partners experienced feelings ranging from simple reluctance to mortification. The thought of family and friends discovering the secret is absolutely frightening. The fear of ridicule and rejection could become reality. This is something that should be thoroughly discussed between the cross-dresser and his partner and it is not to be taken lightly.
When questioned about their feelings and reactions to their spouse's cross-dressing, many partners seemed to answer in the same way. The majority of partners said they accepted it and were comfortable with it. However, no matter how much they feel they accept or how comfortable they may be, there is always another shock or surprise somewhere down the road. Some partners stated that though it bothers them, they knew that their spouses were happy and content. This made it acceptable, although they would prefer he took up stamp collecting.
When partners were questioned if they felt their spouses would always want to do more, the general consensus was "yes." Whether your spouse is just out of the closet or has been out for a long time, this is quite unpredictable. Some partners felt that allowing their husbands to dress lessened the need, while others felt, given the opportunity, their spouses would dress more often.
Present feelings concerning their spouse's cross-dressing were quite varied. One partner stated that she feels more understanding, more fulfillment and is sharing his entire life, while another blocks out stress and must deal with negative feelings. A minority of the questioned partners said it was something that would always be a part of their lives and something that must be dealt with if they were to remain together. One partner is annoyed by it, tired of it and in constant fear of discovery.
"Helps knowing you're not the only tin can in the dump." At first many partners are fearful of speaking with anyone other than their spouse, however ninety nine per cent of the partners, in our survey, gave similar answers when questioned about communicating with other partners, cross-dressers, or couples, whether at group meetings, weekends away, trips, or in the privacy of one another's homes. Socialising is enlightening and very helpful, problems seem smaller and less stressful. A plus is the friendship and the common bond formed with others. The release of tension from keeping the secret provides great relief.
Facing any new situation in life is always a learning and growing experience. We all have a built-in maturing feature, and the more we learn and the more we know the less we fear.
Cross-Dressing is no different!
It is significant to note that a survey of the answers to questions concerning the conflicts that arise between cross-dressers and their partners indicates one solution. This theme repeats itself:
"Talk it out."
"Talk, Talk, listen, listen."
"Get priorities agreed upon."
"Respect each others feelings."
"Keep a communication line open."
"We talk, we argue, sometimes we yell, but we listen."
"Try to work out a compromise we can be reasonably happy with.
And they conclude: "We need to keep working on it."
All agree that they do not tell their spouses of the negative reactions to aspects of his cross-dressing, but they try to balance these with positive input. Much of the negativity occurred due to the partner's fear of the spouse losing control. The overwhelming fear is of careless self betrayal (perhaps deliberate with some), through loose talk or forgetting to remove the femme paraphernalia. This could be compounded with the increased desire to dress or participate in cross-dressing activities. A need to expand horizons worries some. Others attributed their negative reactions to not wanting either of them to experience the possible ridicule and rejection that might follow discovery. Also touched upon was the hovering shadow of transexual yearnings. There were indications that these fears lessen with time and understanding, yet some of the partners deny ever having such concerns at all.
Most partners interviewed encouraged socialising with other cross-dressers, although a few did not. Some invite cross-dressers to their homes, while others encourage spouses to attend meetings and go to weekend or week long events. One fear expressed was that the cross-dresser might want to become more public in their activities, thereby flirting with discovery, but almost all partners recognise the need of a cross-dresser to share and gain the support of others.
Many cross-dressers are considerate, sensitive people who realise that limits must exist. Most are very supportive and understanding of their partner's limits. Some become more sympathetic after meeting with other couples and will give up their wishes to accommodate their partner's requests, but are resentful in their disappointment. A few have not learned to manage their fantasies, but stock up on "500 pairs of high heeled shoes" and "leave their nighties behind the bathroom door." One wife says. "It varies . . . sometimes I am more tolerant and sometimes he is less demanding."
When questioned as to how partners tactfully influence their spouse's wardrobe, many replied that they are consulted about wardrobe and ensemble choices and that the cross-dresser seems to be very receptive to suggestion. A tactful way to effect a change of tastes is offered by one partner who suggests "pointing out fashion trends and complimenting him on his appearance."
Although many cross-dressers have good taste, some lean towards the "vulgar and sexy", but will eventually learn by experiment or experience and are pleased with their partner's interest. A few report they have complete control over their spouse's wardrobe, while most say they have some input.
When asked if the partner shopped for their cross-dressing spouse or with him, we got an array of responses. "Shopping can be a great deal of fun for both of you." In some instances partners contribute by sewing, "thus insuring a good fit and keeping the cost of the compulsion down." Sometimes the cross-dresser becomes an excellent 'seamstress' and can make his partner's clothes.
All partners who responded to the questionnaire agreed that who to tell, whether it be no one, the family, or a few friends, is on ongoing process of evaluation, and it is a couple decision. Is the girl within us the other woman?
A Survey of Wives.
by Betty Ann Lind
During Dream '78 I wondered about the wives and girl friends who had agreed to attend the week long retreat by the Pacific with their beloved, who were enjoying a vacation 'en femme' attending a real fashion and modelling school. Were these the fabulous 'A' GG's I had read about in Transvestia Magazine? What was it that set them aside from other women?
As on officer of both local and national TV/TS support organisations, and as a bachelor I thought that I should interview these women to determine if there was anything I could do to build a stronger tie between the TV and his GG as well as strengthen our organisations.
Before I report my findings, I wish to explain that Betty Ann is a matronly person, who has since age six been a bi-genderist in that, for at least twenty years she has lived as a woman from time to time. Her male counterpart is a very successful executive and enjoys the best of both worlds. However her lifestyle has given her a mature womanly outlook which, quite frankly, served to help in understanding the undercurrents of sensitivities existing during the interviews. The fact that Betty Ann shares in an advanced degree in social psychology and counselling also helped.
So, starting at Dream, and for two and a half years afterwards, Betty Ann has interviewed in private, forty three women using a simple unstructured interview approach to encourage open observations. Once confidentiality was assured and the purpose of the interview was established, the wives were extremely frank and open about their life with that 'other woman' within their husband. Yes, they recognise 'her' as the other woman; in fact, none of the women viewed their partner as androgynous.
Of the forty three women, thirty eight were married to heterosexual TV's, two to borderline TS's, two to bi-genderists and one to a bi-sexual TV. They were primarily middle to upper class, with a bias toward the established social role of the working home maker rather than militancy concerning feminism. Of the group three were considering divorce for reasons other than TVism. (All have since divorced.) Otherwise the group ranged from new brides to mature matrons with at least thirty years of marriage. All of them had seen their husband dressed as a woman.
It was my impression at first that this survey would lead to a wide range of differences in opinion between these women. The surprising result was their general uniformity on the subject of their husband's 'hobby'. I thought that such variables as years of marriage, income, education, or social status might influence their answers, yet I could detect no real polarisation due to such influences. Where there was a spread of opinion I have noted it.
I shall try to relate the results of my poll in the hope that it will serve to help others. However I must observe that many of my findings may upset my dear readers, especially those who have allowed their fantasies to obscure the realities of their marriages. Also, I urge a great deal of careful thought on the part of both partners before they take to heart any of my findings. Remember that generalisations are just that. It is your marriage that counts.
And as one who has sought to understand, Betty Ann wishes to thank the forty three who have one wondrous gift in common, a delightful curiosity about that other woman that exists in the man that they love.
When did you first learn?
a) After the marriage: 30
b) Before the marriage: 13
The clear majority did not know about their husband's crossdressing, and of these twenty did not find out about it until several years after their marriage; usually during the male mid-life crisis period of the late forties.
Would you have married him if you had known?
"I don't know." (Almost to a woman this was the honest reply.)
"I was pretty young and pretty naive about such matters."
Given what you now know about him, would you have married him?
Even the three who intended to divorce their husbands said yes, and then added later that their divorce plans had little or nothing to do with the crossdressing, IN FACT IF THEIR HUSBANDS HAD REALLY TRIED TO UNDERSTAND THEM AS A WOMAN MIGHT, THE DIVORCE WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN NECESSARY.
Would you advise a transvestite to tell his bride about himself?
"I'm not certain that would be wise considering the social risks involved, but if he is sure of her general understanding I think it would be the most honest thing to do even if she might say 'no'."
Despite their words, my own feminine intuition told me that they were satisfied with having found out about his crossdressing after their marriage. Thirty percent found out about their husband's crossdressing before their marriage. Their general viewpoint was that they were fascinated by this revelation from a rather macho male. They held an uneasy combination of curiosity and amusement. Since they loved their husband to be, they tended to accept him for better or worse, and his secret could have been something worse.
Did you see him dressed before your marriage?
"No. And I had no real desire to."
Four noted that they had, with one taking some delight in describing a counter-wedding in which the husband dressed as a bride.
One wife said that she almost didn't marry.
The other three were candidly a bit concerned, but took it in their stride, admitting that it was certainly an interesting experience.
Before the marriage did you see pictures of him dressed as a woman?
"That was his desire."
But only seven actually elected to see the pictures with the remaining six accepting his story as proof enough.
Setting aside first impressions for later discussion, I think that there was a rather serious undercurrent during this discussion with this particular grouping. Of the thirteen women involved, ten freely admitted that they thought this peculiar behaviour would cease after marriage and six of them believed this for ten or more years. Three wives from this group totally accepted their husband's activity before and after the marriage, with one admitting that she liked the 'other woman' as a companion better than she did her husband.
How far will he go?
This was not my question. It was in fact the question asked by every woman shortly after the discussion above. Usually they would look at Betty Ann as if to add, "I hope not as far as you." This backhanded compliment reflected their general opinion that Betty Ann, with her natural hair, matronly image, and general decorum was an extreme that they did not desire for their husband; and understandably I might add.
At this point they would confess that they understood people like Betty Ann who most believed to be a TS. It was a natural expression of a desired sex role, i.e.: have an operation to marry a man and settle down to be a housewife, etc. But TV's were something else. Although most of them listened politely to my discourse on the basic differences between TV's, TS's, bi-genderists, and so forth, I soon realised intuitively that their direct assumption was that there was a clean line between the simple stereotype of the TS (or drag queen for that matter) seeking to be accepted in a 'normal' female sexual role, and the TV as a man caught somewhere in between. I am not stating what they understood logically about the classifications used to define components of our paraculture, but rather what they projected emotionally woman to woman. This 'rationalisation' of sex role to gender role and vice versa is clearly a dangerous basis for trying to relate to their husband, since it reinforces the very image they desire not to accept in him. Thus, "their husband and the other woman."
Their questions centreing on "How far will it go?" moved toward the basic definition of crossdressing as compulsive behaviour.
"Why must he go out dressed?"
"Why must he tell others? (Doesn't he know the risks?)"
"Why does he try to force the issue after so many years without a word?"
"Why is he so extreme between the two?"
"Is he becoming a TS?"
"What must I do?"
This myriad of questions, which I tried to answer objectively, reflected a consuming interest and desire to express concern to another kindred soul, a need to probe for an answer from an experienced person, or simply served to state her own position relevant to her acceptance of the terms of her condition in marriage.
At this point another insight emerged. These women were accommodating to make their marriage successful, often at extreme emotional cost and often as not it was a one way street. Would they admit this to their husband? I doubt it. By and large they were not oriented by their own role model standards to openly seek to confront their husband's compulsive behaviour. Much as I hate to say it, I caught fleeting glimpses of a mother baby-sitting a cranky child with the patient understanding that it was just a phase he was going through. This was a very difficult phase in the interview.
Do you know about the system used to rate Wives?
Almost every wife had heard of the system to rate wives on a scale from 'A', (perfect) to 'F' (terrible). They described it as being degrading (pardon the pun). When I pressed this issue further, most wives would thoughtfully counter by saying, "Perhaps an 'F' wife who absolutely frustrated all efforts of her husband to dress as the 'other woman' was really an 'A' wife for that particular man. She knows in her heart that if she encourages his behaviour he will go off the deep end and will ruin their marriage and their lives."
They would then shift from this position by suggesting that there might well need to be a rating scale for husbands (and the 'other woman'). Not a system oriented toward how well he 'passed', but one based on how well he understood the consequences of his actions with respect to the reality of his life as a husband and father with real responsibilities (and, for that matter, how well the 'other woman' accepted her responsibilities as a mature woman).
At this point the interview opened out into open hostility focusing on the unfairness of the situation. But when I suggested that they assist in making up a counter rating system, none responded. So I have merely stated what happened at this point in the interview and hope that my reader will understand their desire for a balance.
The Nest Concept.
From the rating question sprang a series of comments by the wives which caused me to realise that these women were focusing on what might be called a 'nest' oriented lifestyle. Except for four wives who skirted this topic altogether by simply stating that they preferred a sister/lesbian relationship with their husband and therefore they totally accepted their husband's behaviour the other women delineated their relationship with the 'other woman' in terms of the bedroom, the house, the neighbour-hood, and elsewhere. Thus, the wives described their lifestyle in terms of distance from the 'nest' or bedroom. The 'nest' focused on the bedroom to start. The bottom line repeated again and again was "I married a man, not a woman." Suddenly the girl within their husband become the 'other woman in her bedroom.' (Whoever called it the master bedroom?)
Tones of ultimatum came into their voices insisting upon the fairness that 'she' belonged elsewhere in the house, 'her' clothes should not be kept in the bedroom, but in some other secure storage place. The majority were clearly opposed to body shaving and the husband wearing 'her' clothes to bed. (Again, "I married a man, not a woman"
Further probing revealed that this was an emotional response, but did not in fact represent how over half of them co-existed with the other woman in their 'nest'. ("With children, where else can we put her clothes?") Whatever can be said about this Betty Ann must confess that time and time again she has observed an amazing insensitivity on the part of the husband involved. (Look up the word 'compulsive') This does not mean that the wives who accepted the invasion of the bedroom did not occasionally enjoy their 'game'. It is just a straightforward statement that the husband is playing a very dangerous game indeed by imposing upon his wife a steady diet of the 'other woman' in this setting. A desire to please does not mean that one is in fact pleased. This is very true, my dears, between women.
Interestingly enough, the husband's cross dressing in his own house, out of sight of the neighbour and family was not considered by most of the women to be too bad. There was an almost amusing byplay here, "At least it keeps him off the streets!" However most wives expressed a certain amount of resentment concerning the 'other woman' not doing her fair share of housework.
The house as a giant closet, excluding the nest, was a standard dynamic. Yet, there was an undertone of acceptance of the other woman as a companion or sister which I found most interesting in terms of the affection often spoken with deep understanding on the wife's part. The change between the 'nest' focus and the house focus upon the husband as the other woman versus the husband as a sisterly companion was quite dramatic. This was very strongly expressed by the wives of the transexual and bi-gender oriented husbands and only to a lesser extent by the other wives. Interestingly enough, the 'lesbian' relationships did not express this in the context of the house.
Outside the house, the wife panics. Here she see the cross dresser through the worst eyes, those of her intolerant neighbour. She envisions a telephone call, the police, social and economic ruin all in one brief totally destructive moment. No man who does not totally depend on another can understand the emotional depth of the wife predicting this disaster onto her children and all she holds dear. This projects out into the neighbourhood shopping centre and wherever 'she' is known. "Why does he want to destroy us?"
When I shifted to group meetings and weeks like Dream and Fantasia Fair I received the same fears as they related to his going and coming to such activities dressed as a woman. But there was general approval of the activities themselves. From there the opinions varied from the wife enjoying the chance to go to such activities to meet other wives and learning about their husband through others - through to an attitude that she goes to 'baby-sit' (Note the comment on the 'cranky child!'). Most wives were anxious to be involved in a group, as long as there were other wives. None were interested in joining a male-feminist group.
It became clear that the average wife interviewed did not want her husband to associate with either transexuals or gays while he was at such meetings. Nor did she particularly desire to associate with such people when her husband was dressed as a woman. It was far too easy to draw comparisons. Also, "How can they go on about hormones and such? It is all so uninteresting," or "Perhaps I am afraid that he will be attracted to them. Who knows?" A curious point was that although many of them appreciated a female impersonator show, their husband was best dressed as a man when they attended.
Which brings us to the interesting curiosity of distance. The further away the wife is from home with her husband dressed as a woman, the more relaxed she is. The vacationing 'sisters' approach came out as a recurring theme. The motel room was not a 'nest'. Only a few admitted going out in public on such 'vacations'.
Tell me more about your view of the 'other woman'.
"She is a pre-teen playing dress-up."
Somewhat spoiled and self centred, immature, narcissist, with a compulsive desire to be the centre of attention even at the risk of exposure.
"If I sought compliments like he does, my husband would think I was nuts! Yet he doesn't make an effort to compliment me."
"She tends to over dress or dress up rather than down to suit the occasion."
Her image of a woman is female, not womanly, a mirror image of a satin doll, not a real person. Her image is generally not feminist, in fact she sees herself as a sex object. Often this is expressed by his dressing and using make-up in the fashion of women when he was in puberty, not now. This was an underlying theme expressed again and again as if they all knew the same other woman.
What did you think when you first saw 'her'?
"I was absolutely stunned, she was actually prettier than I was. In fact I felt compelled to return to make-up and get myself back into shape."
This was the response of about one third of the wives, a somewhat plaintive complaint mixed with a sincerity and personal uncertainty which caused Betty Ann to consider the real impact of such TV's on their wives.
"It is not really that bad, it's just that I was born a woman and 'she' is so damned pretty, How can I compete with her?"
"Well, I really felt sorry for 'her'. She is so big! I mean it is so hard for her to find clothes and such, and she is so very hurt by the unfairness of it all. God knows what would happen if she were to try and pass. Yet, she is so sweet and considerate and tries so hard. It is sad in a way."
About one third of the wives followed this theme reflecting their concern.
"But perhaps she will stay out of trouble because she really couldn't pass, you know?"
"It was a kind of a mixed bag, really. She really wasn't together. I suppose she could pass if she put some effort into it. It was a bit funny, but she couldn't smile and I wouldn't laugh, very difficult but we managed."
An interesting point is that the viewpoints were more often than not held only by the wife herself about her husband when he dressed. In many cases I found that there was very little correlation between what the wife saw and that seen by others.
What have you done to help 'her' since then?
This question did not fall on deaf ears. In fact the wives all suddenly took a rather dramatic turn from their earlier evaluation of the 'A' wife as a possible negative, to casting themselves in that role. i.e.; serving to help their husbands by buying them dresses and so forth.
Do you help your husband so that he can 'pass'?
The problem that their husband's compulsion might drive him to try to 'pass' was recognised by all the wives. However they were almost equally divided on the question as to if they should help him to do so. The basic argument against helping beyond token efforts started from the basic issue that, as women, they had been trained to present themselves as women in public and it was natural for them. Furthermore, such efforts to help their husbands might encourage them to take risks. The other side recognised the issues but also took the position that if they helped their husband it might reduce the risks involved.
In our conversations you draw a distinction between female and woman. What does that have to do with the image of the 'other woman'? Most of the wives tackled this question by stating that the 'other woman' had in her mind's eye an image of themselves as a female, or a kind of satin doll reflection. Few of the wives saw in the other woman's self image the completeness of a mature woman willing to accept womanly responsibilities.
Have you made any efforts toward consciousness raising?
This crossover to the feminine dialectic caused some amusement and only a few had considered the effort worth the candle. "If she were a woman she would prefer Total Woman to Sisterhood as reading material."
They would then add, "Although there is plenty for her to read around the house concerning women, she really isn't interested."
Then there would be a pause, "And perhaps that is for the best. "Have you ever required 'her' to be womanly, to accept household duties and so forth?
The response was evenly distributed between "She helps around the house." to "Neither of them lift a finger." The idea of using permission to dress up as leverage to get 'her' to help wasn't really of much direct interest but most of the wives recognised that their husbands did cooperate a bit more if the other woman was asked to help. (It is clear that the male half of most TV's is fairly chauvinistic.)
I suppose that before I offer any conclusions concerning my survey of wives who accepted their husband's girl within, I should pause and observe what seems to be the basic difference between these women and the dozen or so wives that I have met who have absolutely no desire to accept their husband's 'hobby'. I found a common thread of reasoning in these women, not unlike the positions expressed by the wives who accepted their husband's fantasy, but with a single difference. The wives who rejected the other woman did so in the solid belief that in doing so they solved the problem, and the problem was "How can I preserve what is mine?" This self centred focus exists in all of us, but only mature people know that by giving of ourselves to those we love are we complete. The desire to preserve the status quo in the face of family crises is natural, but these women tend to think in absolutes. By refusing to recognise their husband's needs, these women accomplish the very thing which they do not want, destruction of the status quo. Their approach is that of the small child, "If I close my eyes, it will all go away." I found that the accepting wives recognised that life is a changing stream and that if they wished to preserve anything they would have to adapt even if their husband was not capable of doing so. In short as one wife said, "I have the best of both. A husband who is a man in every way and at the same time he is capable of being the sister I have always wanted as a dearest friend and companion. I love them both as one."
Perhaps that's the best conclusion to my survey.
Suggestions for partners of crossdressers.
Betty Ann Lind.
These notes originated during the programme held for partners of crossdressers at Fantasia Fair 1987. The suggestions are by no means exhaustive, but they are a start and cover what a group of wives felt would be most immediately helpful for the crossdresser to know when she/he decides to face the issue of cross dressing with her/his partner.
What and how to tell her.
The partners agreed that this information might not be shared all at once, but over a period of time, according to the individuals involved. Some partners might want to know as much as possible as soon as possible; others might need to have time to absorb information. If you are not sure, proceed gradually as you start to share.
The crossdresser speaks. . .
". . . I have a secret which I need to share with you because I love you and I want to be closer to you."
". . . I am a crossdresser. I like to wear women's clothes."
". . . It has been very stressful to me to keep this to myself. I thought it would go away when we married but it didn't. That's why I didn't tell you until I was sure it wasn't going to disappear, I didn't want it to get in the way of our intimacy."
". . . I didn't want you to suddenly discover the clothes and makeup and think I'd been unfaithful to you. I'm not interested in any other woman. I love you. I want our marriage to work."
". . . I am not homosexual; I am sexually attracted to you. This is not your fault. No one knows exactly why it happens but I started when I was very young."
". . . I don't ask for you to like or accept this, just to try to understand and support me. I recognise that it will mean stress for you as well and I am prepared to accept your feelings about it without turning away. I want this marriage to work and I acknowledge your right to be angry and sad about this."
". . . I'd like to share all the information and feelings I have about this with you. Also, there are wives' support groups and individual wives who will be glad to talk with you as soon as you are ready."
". . . Just as I am asking you to acknowledge my need to dress periodically (It will not go away), I acknowledge your need to set some conditions on when, where, how and with whom I dress. We will need to negotiate until we can find a compromise we can live with. Over time our agreements may change."
Give her books and articles to read.
Tell her you welcome questions, but give her space to set her own rhythm of wanting to know. Do not nag or force it on her.
If possible start dropping hints before you actually tell her. It might ease the shock. For example, show interest in a mail order catalogue of women's clothes and ask her opinion.
BE SEXUALLY ATTENTIVE.
MAKE ROMANTIC GESTURES SUCH AS BRINGING FLOWERS.
KEEP LETTING HER KNOW YOU LOVE HER AND THAT SHE IS YOUR PARTNER OF CHOICE.
Dealing with Reactions.
DENIAL - She doesn't want to see it, hear about it, discuss it or read about it. This may very well be the first reaction.
Don't harass, just state this truth . . . "I'm in pain. So are you. We need to talk."
Eventually, unless she decides to leave, she will realise that if you are going to be together you must communicate.?
Keep acknowledging her feelings:
". . . I know this is hard for you; you didn't ask for it; you have a right to be angry, etc. "
Make gentle, helpful suggestions:
". . . You need to talk to someone besides me. Here is a wife (or a group) you can call."
"Here is a booklet written by wives of TV's you can read,"
Depending on the person. Sometimes it takes a while for her to be ready to face it with you. Just let her know you intend to hang in there. If the marriage has been basically good and supportive there is a good chance of becoming allies. If not, it will expose all the weaknesses of the relationship. It will take time, perhaps years, to resolve.Both partners are responsible:
Help her to see that each of you have choices, stress and coping mechanisms. That you must be allies in working out the issues. It takes negotiation and compromise on both sides.
OVER-SUPPORTIVE - She totally identifies with you, wants to do everything for you, takes over, competes for attention in social situations. You feel jealous, crowded etc.
Encourage her to differentiate her feelings from yours. It's all right to disagree, have different tastes in clothes, not do everything together.
Ask her to understand what need this is filling for her: She may need to be doing something for herself which she is doing vice through you.
ANGRY/HOSTILE - She makes critical comments about your
appearance in public. She withholds sex. She tells people about you without discussing that action with you first.
Share your vulnerable feelings of hurt and pain with her. Acknowledge her right to be angry, but ask her to be more direct with it and do it in private.
Thank her for being willing to come out with you, despite her angry feelings.
Ask that both of you agree on actions you will take that will affect the other, prior to taking the action. For example, you will not secretly take hormones or go in public places where you'd be likely to meet people who know you. She will not tell friends or relatives or criticise you in public.
Don't force her to do things she's not ready for: Such as seeing you dressed. Know your goal and what's motivating you to ask. Then work jointly on that, (i.e. ". . . . I 'd like to dress more at home.")
Compiled by Niela Miller, facilitator for Partners Programme, Fantasia Fair.
A Positive Approach.
On the face of it, Martine seems to be encouraging a light-hearted approach, while Our Sorority seems to have a 'doom and gloom' approach. But in fact, the reality is that you are simply facing a fact of life. You cannot expect your partner to accept until you have accepted yourself. In the end, you are the same person, even if it doesn't quite seem to be the same as your outward image.
A positive approach will turn it into a useful part of your joint lives, and help you in your approach to the other ninety per cent of daily living.
So I finish with more from Martine Rose . . . .
". . . . What's most encouraging is the increasing number of wives and girlfriends who genuinely enjoy the parties as much as their TV partners.
Yes, there are women who do actually enjoy fully participating in the TV social scene . . . ."
". . . .. There was a case recently where a TV left his wife because her initial reaction on discovering his transvestism wasn't exactly positive. When he left her, she was distraught, the kids pined after their daddy, and she did everything she could to find her missing husband.
She knew he'd gone to pursue his TV fantasies and followed all possible leads into the TV world. She came into contact with TV groups all over the country and I had a most heart-rending phone call from her myself."
"In talking to so many TV's she developed a much greater understanding about transvestism generally. All she wanted was to find her husband, to let him know she accepted him and still loved him. Fortunately her efforts paid off. Her husband was found and reunited with his family."
"The point of relating all this is that you must not assume others, especially those close to you, will not accept your transvestism, or that hostility will never give way to tolerance or even understanding in time."
"I've met some wives who have told me that their reaction on discovering their husband was a TV was "Oh! Is that all". They had had a feeling there was something their husband was hiding from them and had suspected there might have been another woman. It came as quite a relief to find that 'the other woman' was actually her husband."
"Some women actually prefer TV's to 'normal' guys. They recognise the positive side to transvestism; that TV's on the whole tend to be kind and considerate towards women, have a sensitive, loving nature, and can be a lot more fun than boring 'straight' men. There are also practical advantages in being able to share wardrobes, makeup etc., and TV's positively enjoy shopping with their partner for feminine things! I've met several such women; though unfortunately so far not one unattached who wished to pursue a relationship with me!"
"There are even some women who actually find transvestism a sexual turn-on. One young man I know was actually introduced to transvestism by his wife! He'd never had any thoughts of crossdressing until his wife slipped a pair of knickers onto him whilst he slept one night. She gradually encouraged him to put on more items of female attire. Now he has his own female wardrobe and has recently become a full member of the Beaumont Society."
"This may sound like a TV fantasy story, but I swear it is true . . . . . so transvestism should not be treated too seriously. It is something to be enjoyed. Try sharing it with your partner and enter into the TV social scene. The Beaumont Bulletin lists plenty of events in all parts of the country. Have Fun!"
He, She, We, They.
Edited by J.Bland