COMMENTS AND QUESTIONS
Light in the Closet is a lay caregiving ministry designed for fellowship and support. It is not a replacement for professional therapy. Even so, the friendship and advice of those who have been where you are now can be immensely beneficial. Your questions may go beyond what is covered in this web site, so please use this space to ask away.
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Isn't transgender behavior a mental illness and isn't it related to other "deviant" sexual behaviors?
No to both. Transgenderism, by itself is a behavior and not an illness, mental or otherwise. Years ago it was believed that those identifying as transgender were suffering from multi-personality disorder or schizophrenia. Medical science has in large part recanted that interpretation. Most now hold that the behavior is an expression of gender identity and is akin to having blue eyes.
Some transgender do deal with Gender Identity Disorder (GID) but not all. This diagnosis is used when a person struggles with their gender and has not as of yet self-identified. This condition is considered a disorder, but treated as separate from sexual behavior or orientation. For many transgender, their gender is fluid and not limited to a single expression.
Transgendered people are not sexual deviants. Their gender condition is unconnected to child molestation or any other sexual behavior, coercive or non-coercive. All sexual behaviors statistically cut across all aspects of society, and transgender do not bend the curve one way or the other. Even so, many in American society wrongly view any gender expression that is not strictly mainstream to be "deviant."
Why do I indulge myself in cross-dressing and then purge (throw-out all my female belongs)?
This is a common practice among cross-dressers, especially Christian men. Our culture sees the genders as strictly polarized; male and female. The act of cross-dressing violates and calls into question that gender model. A person may purge their fem items out of a real desire to quit because they see it as culturally wrong or religiously sinful.
Although some freedom exists today to explore actions, dress and mannerisms outside of your gender (more so for females than males) these cross-gender actions are still viewed as outside of what is culturally proper.
Worry over imminent discovery can lead to purging as well. Actual discovery and confrontation will almost always lead to purging.
The cross dressing experience often is linked to sexual gratification and a desire to stop the sexual activity may lead to purging. Simply saying "no" however and purging rarely addresses the emotional and physical needs that are behind the cross-dressing.
The cross-dresser usually has a gender identity issue, or unresolved psychological or abuse issue that remains even after a commitment is made to cease the actions of cross-dressing. It is important to talk these feelings out. They are difficult to address on your own and you should consider the help of a therapist.
Why do I need to look for affirmation from others and why do I not trust it when I get it?
We are social beings, and have a strong need to belong. It is important to be affirmed in who you are inside, what you look like outside and what you do. This need is universal. Those who cross dress often have a low self-image, and are desperate to find affirmation to offset their negative feelings. Unfortunately, since those who are closeted hide so much of themselves from the world, they may never feel as if they are fully accepted. Since on one really knows them, the can never fully trust the positive affirmations of others. Compliments are often discarded because they feel if the person knew the "real me" they would not be so accepting. This is why it is so important to find at least a couple of people who are accepting and you can trust to disclose to.
What's the difference between acceptance and tolerance?
Some people may be able to tolerate your cross-dressing, while others will either accept or be offended by it. To tolerate someone is not the same as accepting them. Those who tolerate are simply keeping their opinions to themselves, but still disapprove of, or even hate the individual. Those who tolerate others are not living the Christian model of love. Those who look for the good in others and try to accept them are pursuing love.
Why do I feel like the "opposite gender"?
There are many reasons why a person will feel like the opposite gender. Many of theses are covered in this web site and its links. Our culture sends out hundreds of gender-based messages everyday regarding everything we do. This includes gender-based judgments and feedback on who we befriend, what job we pursue, what colors we like, what foods we eat and how much, what sports interest us, how we walk, the tone and volume of our voice, where we shop, what we wear, how we argue, what we think is important and almost everything else we do. Almost every aspect of our lives is defined or quantified by our gender.
It is extremely difficult if not impossible to think outside of this two-gender construct. As a result, if a person feels that they are more closely aligned to the gender opposite their birth-gender, that person is painfully aware that they do not fit in. Since the disapproval they feel from others, or the restrictions that are placed on them are associated with their birth gender, they will tend to dislike or reject their birth gender in favor of the other gender. This gender confusion can be both physical and psychological.
The gender dysphoria you may be experiencing comes from the incongruity between how you feel inside and what is expected of you based on your birth gender. A therapist may be able to help you sort this out.
No matter how much I try to explain how I feel, why do so few people understand?
No one fully understands what is in the mind of another person. We live our lives with a variety of cultural presuppositions. The way we function and relate to others always revolves around our gender. Much of this we are unaware of because it so complete saturates who we are and how we are treated. When you tell someone else what you are going through, and they do not share in your experience, they will have a difficult time understanding what you are trying to convey because they have no frame of reference. They best way to communicate is time look for common ground and find something that you both can relate to and build on that. For example, if you have a child who is into drama you can talk to them about how fun it is to be someone one else sometimes. You can talk about acting and dressing up like someone else. Try to relate to others based on their understanding and life experience.
Why am I so preoccupied with questioning my gender role? Is it unusual to be so aware of ones gender?
When we are born, the doctor declares either, "It's a boy" or "It's a girl" It is rare to hear, "It's a ?????" The fact that we do not readily allow for alternatives to girl and boy is very telling. Our western society demonstrates a lack of acceptance of those outside the gender norms. Most people live their whole lives secure in the knowledge they are either a boy or a girl. It defines all that they do. Because it is so ingrained in us, we never question it. It is like breathing the air. We can stop and think about taking a breath but then we go back to being unaware of every breath. A person only becomes aware of their breathing when it becomes difficult or labored. For those who question their gender identity, each moment is labored. The person who is constantly aware of their gender quantifies even the smallest action as either male or female. They are aware of how they sit, hold their hands, how long their nails are, how big their feet are, what sort of sports interest them, how they cross their legs, and almost everything else. Those who are comfortable with their gender have aligned themselves culturally with what is expected and so rarely think about gender.
If you find yourself aware constantly of your gender, there is a good chance you have a gender identity issue.
What is this fascination with woman's clothing?
You have heard it said that "clothes make the man," in this case clothes also make the woman. Males and females have different roles in our society. We relate to males and females differently. These gender-based roles are very rigid. Men especially are asked to "be men." If we show a preference or an inclination to enjoy things or activities outside of our assigned gender role we are told emphatically to cease.
Young boys, who in any way act like a girl, are bullied and harassed until they recant. We learn from an early age to hide this part of ourselves or repress these feminine desires, actions and needs. Since we have been brainwashed into thinking only girls are allowed to act and feel the way we do. So if we desire to express ourselves as female, the best way to give ourselves permission to act female is to look female.
One of the biggest thrills for those who cross-dress due to gender idenetity, is to be treated as female when out in public. The physical pleasure of the clothing is second to that..
For those who cross-dress as a way to work out past abuse or other issues, the clothing itself could be the primary reason. For example, those who have a foot fetish might be into woman's shoes to help them work out some issue in their past. In any case the experience is both physical and psychological and the two together make the desire to cross-dress very compelling.
People who cross-dress do so to allow themselves the freedom to explore more of their inherent personality, interests and issues.
Do I really want to be the opposite gender or is this just some perverted fantasy I am having?
This is a question best answered individually. If you ask this question, more than likely the answer is a bit of both. Each person needs to ascertain what part of the expression is natural and healthy and which part is harmful. If by perverted you mean, lots of casual, or sexual torture, then those could be symptoms of other issues you need to take care of. If you are calling cross-dressing itself perverted simply because you are ashamed of it, then you need to find away to deal with the shame. Ask yourself what part of cross-dressing are you ashamed of? Why are you ashamed of it? You may have other issues that need to be addressed. Those who cross-dress often do have gender issues they need to workout.
Am I just being selfishness? Why do I put my obsession with cross-dressing over my family and those I love?
The act of cross-dressing is by its nature a selfish act in that it is something you do for yourself. Exercise could be a selfish act. Any hobby or past time that benefits only you could be a selfish act. The question, "Is it selfish," begs the question, "Do you think you are worth spending personal time on?" If you were suffering from cancer, would spending time receiving radiation treatments be considered selfish? I firmly believe that you need to take care of ourselves so that we can be a better person for your family and/or relations.
If you do not take care of your needs and desires (at least to some extent) you more than likely will be difficult to live with and eventually get very depressed. How is that being a good husband, father, employee or caregiver? When the oxygen mask drops from the top of the airplane the instructions say to put yours on first and then help the person next to you. If you are depleted and depressed and just staying afloat, you need to take care of yourself, and put yourself in a good frame of mind to be able to be there for others.
So many intelligent people that I respect say I am sinning. Are they right?
Maybe they are, and maybe they aren't. The Bible says that even our righteousness is like filthy rags compared to the grace of God. Do you think that cross-dressing is exempt from this? Everything we do has an element of sin attached to it. We never have purely godly motives; it is not in our nature. Those who think they are close to being sin-free understand neither grace nor the glory that is God. God tells us to use sober judgment when we think of ourselves. In the light of God's glory, we are the lost sheep, we are the missing coin, we are the prodigal son.
If someone tries to "help" you, do they bring a life preserver or a heavy stone? Are they hiding rocks in their hands while they talk to you, or are their hands open ready to give you a hug? Those who focus in on the sins of others often do so to avoid their own. Those people you respect may be knowledgeable about many things; however cross-dressing may not be one of them.
The best course of action is not to try and justify your actions, but to be honest about them, at least with yourself. God already knows your heart, better then you do, and for those who (even in a small way) want to be his child, he has a gold ring, a fine garment, and an everlasting hug.
If being transgender is so prevalent then why is the medical community so ignorant of the condition? What research is being done?
Because of the cultural resistance to the idea that there could be a third, fourth or fifth gender, much of the information and validity for these gender models has not been pursued. The medical community for the most part deals with illnesses and the treatment of illnesses. For better or worse, the condition of gender identity disorder was pronounced as a disorder so that the medical community could bring it under its umbrella of care. If the condition of gender identity disorder were not a disorder, they would not be able to treat it. Basically, unless you are sick or broken, they do not address your health issues. Gender Identity Disorder is considered an undesirable condition because the medical community promotes the idea that there are two and only two genders. The research currently is geared towards cause and cure. Very little research is being done by the medical community that calls into question the validity of the two-gender model.