“I’m not transgender. I’m just a crossdresser.”
That is a lie that I repeated to myself on an almost nightly basis, despite, in practically the same breath, vocalizing my wish to be a girl. It’s something that I felt from a very early age. I remember nights after saying my prayers out loud in front of my mom, internally asking to wake up the next day as a girl. I would close my eyes and drift to sleep. Only to wake up the next day in the same body that I so despised.
It really became a fantasy of mine, and my vivid imagination ran away with it. I would create entire scenarios that allowed me to live as the gender to which I knew that I belonged, though I still did not admit it to myself. Some of my more creative ideas involved a machine which could break me down on the cellular level and rebuild me in my idea of the perfect female body. I sometimes wished that I would develop a disease in which the only cure was to become a woman (turns out that I was actually experiencing something similar in the form of gender dysphoria, though, it’s definitely NOT a disease). I fantasized about hiding out in a department store until they closed and wearing all of the lady’s clothes on the racks or being the sole survivor of an apocalypse and being able to dress and act however I pleased.
I remember when I first discovered TV shows and movies in which a gender swap occurred. I must have watched “Switch”, starring Ellen Barkin and Jimmy Smits, fifty times, dreaming of something similar happening to me. There was the episode of the “Weird Science” TV show when Wyatt and Gary were transformed into beautiful teenage girls. I used to watch USA Up All Night with Rhonda Shear, and one night I was amazed to find a B movie called Vegas In Space in which some space rangers (but not Buzz Lightyear) had to travel to a planet populated entirely by women. Of course, the all-male crew had to undergo gender transformation to do this. My 13-year-old gender confusion really was in for a roller coaster ride that night. Of course, there was always Quantum Leap, which may have been the favorite show of most transwomen due to the somewhat few times in which Sam leaped into the body of a woman.
All of my fantasies and how much I loved watching male to female transformations in the media still didn’t convince me that my confusion was little more than a fetish. They also weren’t quite enough to satisfy my buried femininity. I rarely had the opportunity to dress, quickly jumping into and out of my mom’s clothes every single chance I had, even if it was for just a couple of minutes. I loved how I felt, but not how I looked, because all I was, was a teenage boy in a skirt.
Upon entering college, the opportunities to dress came to an end. However, it was my first opportunity to explore the internet. I discovered transgender fiction, cross-dressing services, and real-life stories about women who had been assigned male at birth. I spent as much spare time as I could in computer labs, pouring over it all, living vicariously through others. It was during my freshman year that I discovered a chat room available on the ancient terminals in all of the dorms called ISCA. On ISCA, I could be whomever I wanted and no one would know. Naturally, I created a female name for myself (Lace Panties, because apparently, I wanted all of the horny, lonely, college guys to fantasize about me. I created an entire past life for myself and spent many nights virtually living as her (my actual name then was Brandi). Despite all of this, I was convinced that I was nothing more that a cross-dresser. That, I could accept. Though, I still hid it from the world.
After graduating college, and living on my own (or actually with this one really weird male roommate who lasted about 3 months as a teacher and then with this awesome female roommate whom I am still friends with today) I finally had the opportunity to purchase and wear my own female clothing. Still, just cross-dressing, I would wear things in the privacy of my room and them take it all off, with feelings of shame, and bury it all in my closet. This continued until the inevitable shame-filled purge and dumping of everything into the dumpster.
When my soon-to-be wife found out about me, I was still just a cross-dresser. I know she feared that I was transgender, and probably knew it deep down inside, but I refused to even consider it. I just crossdressed for fun and could easily give it all up. That’s what I told her, and I’m sure that I had myself convinced as well.
And during my marriage, I did give it up, at least the dressing. Instead, I found myself reading transgender fiction, watching transition videos of others, following the stories of other transgender women whom I aspired to be. Still, I had myself convinced that I was simply attracted to them. That part was probably true, but I would have given up anything to be one of them rather than be with one of them.
I spent about 35 years of my life lying to myself. Pretending to be what I was not, a straight, male cross-dresser. I denied myself true happiness all of that time, out of shame and fear, and then later out of obligation to my (now ex) wife and kids. Why did it take me so long to accept myself? What would it have taken to hurry me along. Transitioning in my teen years sure would have saved me a lot of dysphoria. I can now be honest with myself, with the world. I am a pansexual transgender woman. I’m not ashamed about that anymore; in fact, I’m proud of it. I wouldn’t change it if I could. I’m glad that I’m transgender. If I had been assigned female at birth, I would probably be a wife and mother to a couple kids, but living a boring life and leaving no mark on the world. Being trans allowed me to become a father, and it allowed me to identify my myriad of flaws so I could change and re-make myself for the better. I’m not religious, but if I were, I would think that I’m not a mistake, that I was made this way on purpose, to give me meaning in my life, and a greater goal. It took years of telling myself what I was not in order for me to figure out who I am.