If you are anything like me (and I am guessing you are since you are on this Learning Center) then I imagine you remember the first time you tried on a bra, a pair of heels, the first time you tasted cherry red lipstick on your lips. These are special moments that have forever made their mark on us. We can recall the thrill of hearing heels clicking on the floor, the swish of a skirt, the power of a dress. I feel these things still.
We remember the sadness and regret we felt when we put these beautiful clothes away. It's likely they were not ours, but quickly and quietly borrowed from our sister. These clothes made us feel beautiful. We loved them in a way that we never loved clothes before. It was an intense feeling that somehow, we knew we had to keep a secret from everyone else.
Boys didn't wear dresses. Boys didn't wear makeup. Boys played with trucks and played sports and we weren't supposed to be beautiful. There were rules, you see, but no one really knew why things were this way. They just were. We kept these moments of beauty to ourselves. We became really good at putting high heels back in a closet exactly how we found them. We could change out of a dress and back into boys’ clothes quicker than anything. Thus, began a life of keeping this side of us private. As we grew older these instincts stayed with us. We learned how to shop for lingerie and skirts in a store without drawing attention to ourselves. We hid our beautiful clothes in our closets. We knew we weren't going to change who we were, but we didn't understand why we are who we are.
But this side of us does not need a reason why we want to wear what we want to wear. This is who we are. We can't explain it to ourselves, and we certainly cannot explain it to someone else. Years of keeping this part of us a secret continues and few people, if any, know all of us. Some of us have come out to people in our lives, whether it is our families or our partners. Sometimes this can go well, other times....well, it's a disaster. We don't understand this side of us, so it's not really a surprise someone else doesn't understand either.
But understanding this side of us is one thing, accepting it is another.
I am out to my wife and my immediate family. Besides a very small number of others, this side of me is very much hidden. Like many of us, I have all come to the conclusion that it's just easier to stay in the closet. With my beautiful clothes.
Coming out to others does not really get easier for me. Every relationship is different so each time I have come out has been done in a different and delicate way. Sometimes it has gone exactly how I thought it would, other times have gone better, or worse, than I had dreamed. There have been times I regretted doing this. People don't understand and it's hard to explain who we are. I absolutely feel that being honest with this side of you is the most important gift you can give to yourself. I also feel that you need to be honest with your partner, especially before your relationship moves to the next level or commitment. I also understand, and can relate, when you don't want to. It's a risk to come to out. Coming out to our partners is the scariest thing in the world. No matter how well you know them, you really don't know how they will react to this.
So, what is life like if you make the choice to not share this side of you to your partner? From my experiences, and I am sure yours as well, I can tell you that it is a life of paranoia and guilt.... each and every day. When I was younger, I met a girl who I thought I would be with for the rest of my life. I was in love, the kind of deep, passionate forever love that only a twenty-year-old feels. Love makes us feel we can conquer anything and everything, even the part of us that wants to wear lingerie and dresses. I promised myself that I never would do 'this' ever again. Look at me now.
I had my own apartment and feeling very grown up and I gave her a key to my place. She and I liked the idea of her coming in and out whenever she wanted. I gave her my key because I didn't have anything to keep from her. Well, except, you know, THIS. But I wasn't doing THIS anymore so there was nothing to keep a secret.
This worked for about two weeks. It wasn't long before I went shopping for a new bra and panty set (with matching garter belt, naturally). I have always loved lingerie, it has always been my way of connecting with this side of me, even in boy mode. Only a crossdresser can feel relaxed and comfortable in stockings and heels after a long day at work, after all. I tucked my beautiful lingerie in the back of my dresser drawer. Just like always. But this time was different.
In the coming days, I felt paranoid every time I left my apartment. What if she came over while I was at work? Sure, it was unlikely she would go through my dresser, but.... she might. What would she think? If she thought they were mine, would she out me to our friends? Would she confront me? Would she think they belonged to another girl? Would she break up with me?
Every day until I threw away my new lingerie I was on edge. I was paranoid. I was afraid. Terrified. I lived in fear, but I also knew I was not being honest with myself. This is who I am. I can't change this side of me. I wasn't being honest with her. I did not want to be in a relationship with someone I couldn't be honest with, and it was unfair to her as well. I had a glimpse of what my life would be life had the relationship progressed. It felt like lying and, to be honest, terrifying. I could not live in fear of someone finding my panties, no matter how well I thought I had hidden them. Denying this side of me was not an option, I knew that, too.
Coming out is never easy. It's also not always required. You don't have to come out to everyone in your life. But coming out to your girlfriend, fiancé, boyfriend, significant other, partner, spouse.... I believe it's the right thing to do. I know it's hard, I know we are terrified of the response. We could lose it all, but that just underlines the importance of coming out as early in the relationship as possible. A first date is probably not the time to have this conversation, but once the relationship becomes, well, a relationship, then it's probably time to say "honey, we have to talk".