Identity: Gender vs. Sex

"Are you gay?"

It's usually the first question we are asked when we come out to someone.  I mean, it makes sense in retrospect but the first time I was asked I was taken aback.  What was the connection between being attracted to a man and wearing panties and dresses and everything else?  What did wearing lingerie have to do with who I wanted to date? Someone once said gender identity is about what you want to WEAR to bed, sexual identity is about WHO you want to be in bed with.  I think that sums it up nicely.

But I suppose it makes sense that's one of the first things we are asked given how crossdressers are typically portrayed in movies and television.  When I was growing up any gay character in a movie was overtly flamboyant and feminine.  Drag queens are usually gay men.  Drag queens act feminine and some of that femininity is expressed through how they interact and flirt with men.   Because of this, when one hears of a guy that wears femme clothes it's not terribly surprising that they would wonder if they are gay.  Not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you.  

Few of us feel that who we are and what we do has anything to do with drag.  Many drag queens are absolutely beautiful and talented, and performing (in its many aspects) is a large part of many drag queens' lives..  When I am en femme I am not performing.  I am not playing a character.  I am who I am.  I am who I am when most people I know aren't looking.  

Movies and television have moved on (for the most part) from portraying gay men this way.  But the internet isn't doing us any favors..  When I came out to my girlfriend/now wife, she wanted to learn and possibly understand someone like us, so she turned to Google.  Of course she was flooded with a lot of images of men wearing lingerie.  Many of these photos were very sexual as they showed a crossdresser with a guy.  These images fueled her fears.  Not that she is homophobic, not at all.  But she was worried that the man she was in love with was secretly gay or repressing his sexuality or in denial.  

Crossdressing is a fetish for some of us and the nature of a fetish is that it turns someone on, either the crossdresser or the person who is attracted to a crossdresser.  Wearing a bra and stockings arouses some of us, and sometimes it can lead to sex.  If this turns you on, well, good.  You do you.  I'm not judging at all.  Wearing lingerie doesn't turn me on.  I might feel sexier but there's nothing fetishistic about this side of me.  A certain dress might make me feel amazing, but it's not making me amorous.  To put it crudely, being en femme does not make me horny.  

Probably more than you wanted to know about me, but we're all adults here.

Just as our wives and girlfriends and significant others might wonder if we are gay, many of us have wondered the same thing.  Again, this is a result of how peoplelike us have been portrayed in entertainment.  We ask ourselves what this all means and there's really no definitive answer that works for each of us.  Some of us wonder if wanting to wear stilettos means we are gay.  We might be, but I don't think it's because of what we want to wear.  

Some of us feel our sexuality or sexual preference... shift a bit when we are en femme.  Some of us identify as bi when we are dressed.  Again, I don't think a dress has any impact on our sexuality.  We don't magically become attracted to men when we wear eyeliner.  That's ridiculous.  There's nothing wrong with being gay, with being bisexual, with being omnisexual, or pansexual.  But (and I am probably going to get some pushback on this) I honestly believe if you are attracted to men when you are en femme you are probably attracted to men when you are presenting as a man.  

We just don't notice it.  

When I am en femme I am more vulnerable.  I am more honest.  I am more open.  I am braver.  My fears, desires, wishes, yearnings bubble up to the surface easier and quicker than when I am a boy.  Vulnerability does this to someone.  We confess, we spill our secrets.  Being en femme also... empowers me.  I am more fearless (though overly cautious and paranoid when I am out in the real world) and I feel more in touch with what I want.  I open up to my wife more when I am en femme.  I acknowledge the softer sides of myself.  I don't feel I need to BE A MAN (I mean, obviously I don't feel that I need to be a man when I am wearing makeup and a skirt), but men and women are mostly expected to fit within societal norms. With this openness and vulnerability often comes our heart desires, our fantasies, our dreams.

And yes, that can include our sexual side.   

Being en femme does not make you attracted to men.  Instead being en femme brings out a side of you we hide from much of the world.  The side that can strut confidently in stilettos.  The side that can apply eyeliner expertly.  The side that can coordinate an outfit.  The side that makes us gentler.  The side that might be more in tune with what, or who we want sexually.  It's true, some crossdressers and those who are bi-gender/trans feel more feminine when they are with a guy.  I mean, I feel more feminine when I am called "ma'am" or when a gentleman holds the door open for me.   I'm sure it's a similar feeling to going on a date with a guy that treats a girl like us as a lady.  Yes, we might think he's cute, but there's something so affirmining about being treated in a way that aligns with our gender identity.  For some of us it's less about being with a guy than it is about being with someone who thinks of us as their GIRLfriend.  

I long for a world without as many labels as we have now.  I wish clothes weren't boy clothes or girl clothes.  It's pretty silly and arbitrary for us to think of a shirt and whether it is for a boy or a girl.  Same thing with sexuality.  I have a hard time thinking of myself as "straight".  Not that I am attracted to men but I just think it's pretty weird to classify such a significant part of myself in such a definitive way.  I'm liberal and I vote democratic but I wouldn't call myself a Democrat.  I have only dated girls but thinking of myself as straight seems pretty pointless.  I mean, I'm straight... I guess.  But this has nothing to do with my gender identity.  Not directly, anyway.  I do feel more enlightened now that I have embraced the complexities and self-awareness that gender identity can bring.  Just as I feel it is silly to think of a pair of jeans as "for boys" or "for girls" I think it's weird when people say they are 100000% straight.  Heck, even some vegetarians like to sneak in a piece of bacon once in a while.  

Love, Hannah


  • Gerri Leis

    Love this so much sweet Hannah

  • Madison

    I absolutely love your article. And for what it’s worth I don’t get turned on either when I am fully en femme. It just feels good to be dressed as I should be. Much love and thank you

  • Karl Schroder

    I don’t care much for xdressing. For I don’t need to feel feminine when I wear my cloth. They’re mine. Be it lace stockings, heels or any other of my attire. I’m a male. And that’s just how I feel. Is just me. Just like a woman in a boilersuit is not pretending to be a male. I’m a male in lace. Not pretending to be anything but.

  • Dana

    An excellent article. I recently discovered my desire to cross dress. "Am I Gay?" was the first thought in my head. It was a frightening thought, not for the "being gay" part, but because I had been married for over 20 years. The frightening thought was more towards if I had been lying to myself and, more importantly, my wife about being gay. I did as your wife did, Google, Bing, etc. The only answer I ever found was that there seems to be as many reasons people cross dress as there are people that do it. That actually made me feel better. I still get the same feelings when an attractive woman walks by. I didn't get the same feeling when an attractive man walks by. I shrugged my shoulders and said "okay", and that was that. When I dress, it almost feels more therapeutic than anything else. At this point, I have no desire to go out in public. When I get to be Dana, I find it very relaxing and centering to my spirit. I am content to lounge around the house or a hotel room dressed, just enjoying the time, never involving anyone else. My wife has no idea that I do this, as it would probably end the marriage. Ironically, she is the one that noticed I seem more relaxed lately. The only label I have assigned to me is "me". Where that ends up is anyone's guess.

  • Jamie Kane

    Thank you Hannah, the of your articles I read the more I learn about myself and why I'm a Crossdresser. You've puzzled me with that observation and statements that for you there is no Sexual arousal in wearing women's clothing. I'm discovering that more and more dressing brings me a sense of peace and calm that I don't understand. The Sexual component I fully understand. I find that I'm aroused by feminity, shocking I know. It seems that women like you seem to present a more feminine presence than most. I find that when I dress that I too tend to much more feminine than most women. I even had a bit of a disagreement with my wife's best friend (the only person that knows) because I was wearing stockings with a dress and she was adamant that the was no reason to wear them. I told that to be lady like you had to wear them. Ohh myyy I did ramble on there. Thank you again Hannah you're a real inspiration and really an attractive lady.

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