YOU MAY HAVE seen me at a night club in a miniskirt dancing the night away. But that’s not the whole story – I also don’t wear a miniskirt, hate night clubs and prefer to dress down and mingle unnoticed (hopefully) in public. I also lock myself in a room where no one ever sees me.
You see, each “me” is different. Who am I? I’m a transvestite or cross-dresser.
Why do I cross-dress? I do it because it’s part of me, it’s who I am, and it’s my gender identity. I’m transgender but don’t need to transition. However, if I don’t live some of my life in my alter ego, I can’t function properly. It is not a fetish, a whim or a lifestyle choice, it is a need.
Laughed at and bullied
My life can be difficult. My wife or family probably don’t know about me. Oh yes, I forgot to say, I’m more than likely heterosexual and married or in a relationship. Living with a secret is not easy, it’s very stressful and affects my health. When I’m found out it is likely to cause my relationship to fall apart. Even when my wife and family are supportive I still have to sneak around because the neighbours don’t know.
I suffer from self-loathing because I have been taught from childhood that people like me are freaks. There is a good reason why I am likely to be seen in night clubs rather than, for instance, the supermarket. Darkness is my friend, it’s harder to see me at night.
Of course I have more sinister problems. I am the butt of jokes, laughed at and bullied – and while society usually abhors bullying, I appear to be an exception. I suffer from verbal and physical violence. Newspapers misrepresent me, they present me as a freak, a pervert or anything sensational that they think will sell papers. On television and film I’m most likely portrayed as a sex worker or a criminal. Sadly, even journalists who support the transgender community seem to have a blind spot when it comes to me.
My silence is not an excuse to dehumanise me
I suppose I would not have written this article but for a comment contained in an article highlighting the scourge of transphobia. It was a very good article and very supportive of the transgender community, however, it was let down by the following line: “Much of their suffering stems from the caricatures that have developed of trans people as nothing more than cross-dressers”. It dawned on me that this journalist is not alone in her ignorance. Indeed this view is even shared by some transgender people.
While gay people are winning their battle for rights and transgender recognition will soon be a reality, I am at best standing still or more likely I am drifting backwards. I suppose I’m partly to blame because my paranoia about being outed prevents me from sticking my head above the parapet. However, my silence is not an excuse to dehumanise me. I resent being thought of as “nothing more than (a) cross-dresser” and it’s ridiculous to suggest that I should disappear in case someone is mistaken for me.
I’m not a freak
All I ask is that you, the reader, take a fresh look at me.
To the trans* person who thinks I’m not trans* enough and thinks that I am an impediment to their hopes of being taken seriously, I say: I am different to you but not inferior. I actively support your absolute right to be yourself, please respect mine. Instead of fighting with me we should work together to fight against the ignorance, prejudice and violence which affects us all.
To the journalists, I say: when you write about me do so honestly, don’t continue with the same tired obscene drivel which many in your profession continue to write.
And to the rest of society, I say: don’t judge me but let me get on with my life. I’ve never done anyone harm by being who I am.
I’m not asking for much, just right to live as I need to. Then maybe I won’t need to hide in a room or go out in the dark or live in fear of being caught.
I’m not a freak. I’m just an ordinary, decent transvestite.
Daniela is a transvestite who lives in Dublin with her supportive wife and family.
If you would like additional information on transgender and transvestite issues, contact TENI.