It was hard to believe only two weeks before I had been on the stage at Mons Venus strip club. Whipping my shirt off, I had violated numerous variations of the infamous 6-foot law in the name of freedom of speech and Budweiser. My exotic buxom form was a lush show, even in that doublewide trailer of exposed flesh.Now at Viva La Frida Cafe y Galeria, waiting for my turn to read poetry for an Irritable Tribe of Poets event honoring artist Frida Kahlo, I had my hand on my beef bayonet. My knob. My Johnson. My oafish oboe. Or in this case, my pants were filled out with a female condom stuffed with the daily horoscope. Mine said to try something different.
And so, I did.
Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin to do it. Boldness has a genius, power and magic to it. —GoetheI met Carol on Matchmaker.com on one of my periodic forays into online singles dating. I didn't know what I was looking for — biker, business man or cabana boy — but Carol knew precisely what she was seeking. Girlfriends. Carol wanted to meet girlfriends.
Matchmaker has a bold environment. Unlike some of the women who had written me, she did not want to sleep with me. She did not have a cheesy line about the beauty of girl-girl love. She did not want to share me with her man.
Primarily because Carol was a man. Or rather a "gender-enhanced male."
At the age of 7, she had tried on her mom's garter belt and stockings and found it the most natural thing to her. Carol has been a cross dresser for 24 years, married 16 years and venturing into the public as a woman for only the past five years. Carol is 45.
As a man, he is Dave. A married, home-owning professional who has a good life in a nice town where no one knows about Carol. Not his family. Not his parents. And definitely, not his coworkers.
The Web site of Tri-Ess, an educational, social and support group for heterosexual cross dressers, estimates that 5 percent of all adult men are cross dressers, although it gives no details about how this estimate was derived. It is unlikely they will ever be "cured."
While they come from all walks of life, they share some essential traits. Many consider themselves male lesbians.
Transvestites do not seek sexual reassignment surgery though they frequently consider women the superior sex. Predominantly they are over 40, married, Republican and Christian. Judges, engineers, truck drivers, computer programmers and ex-military men crowd their ranks. These men open themselves up to their feminine leanings, veiling themselves in anonymity from the public at large.
And for good reason. Primarily heterosexual, they are quiet behind the more visible transgender community of transsexuals, drag queens, female impersonators and a number of things that fall under the Gender Dysphoria, a term used to describe people who experience discomfort or confusion about the gender they were born with. Cross dressers are not accepted by the heterosexual community because they are often perceived as insufficiently masculine or perverted. Neither does the homosexual community embrace them warmly, sometimes regarding them as fence sitters scared to admit their homosexuality, or treating them with vague amusement. They just don't fit.
Cross dressers are a highly individualistic group, dressing as women for many reasons, from the erotic to the emotional to even the spiritual. One definition for cross dresser or transvestite does not fit all any more than the term female describes all women. Their one common desire is acceptance.
The cross dresser remains an outsider in a rapidly changing world that has allowed many walls to fall, but in which the definition of the heterosexual man remains confining.
I decided to take a walk in Carol's high heels to attempt a glimpse at crossing gender lines, passing and feeling the fear of discovery.
True guilt is guilt at the obligation one owes oneself, to actualize oneself. False guilt is that guilt felt when we are not being what other people feel we ought to be or assume we are.
I didn't follow Carol's instructions. She told me I couldn't ask for help changing from the hyper-feminine RhondaK to male Max Fly.
'I had to do it alone," she said with uncharacteristic sadness. 'You should do it alone."
Women learn from other women — mothers, sisters, family and girlfriends. A cross dresser operates in secret in fear of discovery or shame. Catalogs become an instruction manual on everything from how to size and measure to appropriate undergarments and accessories. They are tiny case studies in how to present as a woman.