Crossdresser or transsexual?
In trying to understand myself, I have been reading through the literature about transgenderism. One dichotomy which turns out be very important is that between cross-dressers and transsexuals. A cross-dresser is a man who derives pleasure (sexual or psychological) wearing women's clothes, and a transsexual can be described as a woman caught in the body of a man. These are diametrically opposite ideas. It should seem easy to recognize oneself as one or the other of these categories, and go on from there.
So am I a man who likes to wear dresses? Or am I a woman trapped in a man's body? Basically, I identify as a crossdresser, for various reasons. I do not have any illusions about "being a woman" in any real sense (although I feel that part of my identity is feminine). I do not have the right to claim to have suffered as a child, in the sense that many or most transsexuals have suffered, being utterly confused in their gender roles. I am generally quite comfortable with a male gender role, except that I have always felt that something important is missing. In my case, it is a clear first world problem, whereas for many true transsexuals, it is literally a matter of survival.
So I am a cross-dresser. Where does this come from? One explanation which I have considered is some kind of extreme heterosexuality. I love and admire women. I admire them to such an extent that when I am in love with a woman, I do not simply want to be with her. I want to identify with her in every possible way imaginable, to be her, to be a soul inside her body. To look like her, to sound like her, to give up everything just to be her instead of me. This sounds beautiful and romantic (and is a nice narrative to use when coming out to your girlfriend perhaps!). It is more or less the autogynephilic story, wanting to be that which we love. However, if this were the whole truth, would I have had the same feminine fantasies long before puberty? In fact, we could easily turn the directionality on its head. I could just as easily argue that as a transgendered person, I feel the need to find a suitable female role model for me, and I interpret my relation to this role model as some kind of romantic love (love, not for the woman, but for the feeling it would be like to be her). If this is true, then autogynephilia is a subtype of "being a woman trapped in a man's body".
Further, the desire to be feminine goes so far as to to desire to be attracted to men. Or rather to be curious about what a love affair with a man, as a woman, would be (regardless of whether I were actually attracted to him or not). If that is the case, can I really claim that it derives from my love for a woman, or for women? Is it only a way of wishing to share the ultimate feminine experience of making love to a man? Or is it something else entirely? Is there something deeper there?
An alternative explanation is much simpler. Does it simply come from a purely fetishistic fascination for women's underwear? Perhaps originally, but is that simply a coincidence? Was I simply conditioned, like a Pavlovian dog, by the fact that my first orgasm happened to coincide with trying on pantyhose? Could I just as easily have been conditioned to dendrophilia, or any of the countless other strange paraphilias circulating out there? The thought is staggering, indeed, really really frightening, and I am grateful that I am only a crossdresser! But again, why did I have feminine fantasies long before puberty?
And - here comes the important part: if it started out as a fetishistic relation to female underwear, why is sexual gratification no longer an issue? Why do I feel better when I do not have orgasm? Why is my major ambition now not getting dressed, but learning to speak with a feminine voice and adapting feminine mannerisms? Is the fact that I underdress with pantyhose enough to prove that the fetish is still there, and dominant? I am not sure. Of course, it would be a bit embarassing for me if that were all it is. But at the same time rather liberating. How easy to solve!
But I do not think it is only this. All of these explanations hold a grain of truth, even if they are mutually exclusive. But there is something else. When I am dressed, I am not only dressed. I literally and honestly wish I were a woman. I wish there were some way for me, without hurting my family, to transition into a woman. I believe I would do it. I regret that I did not take that step when I was young, but I would still do it. And I am not alone there. I have, via internet, followed so many crossdressers' stories about their desires and longing (and recognized them all as mine), only to see a few years later, how they one after another take the step and decide to transition. It is a recurring story, and one I recognize. I understand now, that from my earliest youth, I did have a longing to actually be a girl, but I did not know how to express it, and I did not know how to reconcile this with the storms of testosterone raging throughout my personality. I think fetishism was probably an outlet which helped me to find a way through. Not THE way, but A way, which at least kept me away from the danger of suicidal depression. And projecting these feelings as heterosexual romantic love for women is of course a natural path to follow. Again, maybe not THE path, but A path.
And if this is true (and I honestly do not know!), then I am every bit as transgendered as Caroline Cossey or Christine Jorgensen, only I have managed to reconcile my feelings to some kind of modus vivendi within a male body. More or less. Except that: do I dare to claim to be transgendered? Do I have the right to claim femininity? Am I worth it? Or could I only earn this right by having suffered the full throes of gender dysphoria as a child? I do not know.
This ended up in more questions than answers, but hopefully answers will come in due course.