The Alternate Woman
What is an alternate woman? Answer: a person (usually male) who dresses or lives as a woman, but who did not start out as a woman. This simple statement can be like a cultural slash for anyone who does not understand the nature of gender, or who clings to a religiously dogmatic belief that gender is determined at birth and can’t be optionally changed.
We still live in a culture where it is taboo for men, but not for women (who openly appropriate men’s styles,) to cross gender lines. The stigma is only a shadow of what it was a few decades ago, but it is still there, and there are people and organizations, called oppositional detractors, hell-bent to prevent the liberalization of gender standards and dress codes, so they don’t take kindly to concepts that gender can be explored separately from sexuality. They argue that gender equals sex, that it is sinful to mess with God’s plan, and gender-variance is just a way to sneak in same-sex marriages.
While only a small percent of the population will currently switch gender, the number crosses all racial, ethnic, political, and religious boundaries. Liberals often deal with the situation better than conservatives. Due to privacy issues, people who switch gender often keep a low profile. It is interesting that the Obama Administration has recently appointed Amanda Simpson, a transgender woman, to be a Senior Technical Advisor to the Commerce Department.
People who switch gender are often very capable and smart. The Most famous is probably Lynn Conway, who provided major engineering skills toward the creation of the microchip. Sadly, Lynn only got credit for her expertise years after the fact.
There are many paths to becoming a woman. The easiest way to be born female, and all the trappings will be there for the taking, and permission will automatically be granted; however, some of the lucky recipients might question the true value of all the benefits. The next best way is to be intersexed and visually female or converted to female shortly after birth. Again, the recipients might not all be enthusiastic about such a deal.
For the rest of us, who were born male, the road to being a woman is fraught with obstacles. Permission in our current culture is nearly impossible to get, and forgiveness for crossing gender lines is only unofficially available.
Long ago, in the gender dark ages, people would go to dimly lit, smoke-filled nightclubs to watch men in frilly dresses and high heels delicately walk around on a stage. For years, crossdressing for men in movies or on television was strictly for burlesque or comic-relief. Many cities even had masquerade laws, which made crossdressing in public illegal for men. Starting in the 1980’s, crossdressing restrictions for men gradually began to lessen in the United States.
Many men now dress as women rather openly; just look on the internet and especially on Youtube. There are endless males and females wearing scantily-clad outfits, two-piece bikinis (males too,) and a variety of dresses, skirts, and high heels. There are drag queens, she-males, female impersonators, crossdressers, transgenders, and transsexuals. I have ignored other categories and crossovers, and I classify the last three categories as being of being gender-variant.
The majority of men, who dress as women, are crossdressers. Crossdressers’ sexual orientations correspond to the national norms, so most are heterosexual and usually married. There are (biased?) internet sites that claim that crossdressers make the best husbands, but women are generally leery of partners transgressing this particular taboo, especially when the start-up phase is extremely annoying. There is an effective cultural rule that Men Shall not Dress as Women. Due to all the potential embarrassment and ridicule, most men are reluctant to transgress this rule. However, men are often allowed to break this rule at Halloween, at parties, or in plays. Most men would be unaffected by such crossdressing, but a few will find out that they like doing it, and they will stubbornly refuse to give it up.
Crossdressing can be secretive and limited to the confines of one’s home. Men do this for a variety of reasons: to relax from tensions, to get sexually turned-on, to show off, to party or have fun, and so forth. There can be a total lack of authentic presentation, though training is now available at emporiums that teach men how to dress and act like women. Many crossdressers dress as women in sporadic episodes, so their women’s clothing is often stored away. Crossdressers often have limitations on how long they can go dressed as a woman. After a week or less, many get bored and can’t wait to switch back to man-mode.
Some men are already transgender, while others can graduate from crossdressing to transgender. This is far more significant than crossdressing, because there is a strong identity component. Transgenders can dress a women for months, or maybe all their life, without getting bored. Transgender, by definition, implies a clear separation of gender and sexual orientation, since transgender men have identities that strongly identify with women and their lifestyles. Like crossdressers, a significant number of transgender males are married. There is an overwhelming urge to be public, so extensive training is essential. Having a master bath with two sinks can become essential, as well as enough closet space for an expanded wardrobe. There can be endless tricky situations about who to tell and how, about switching gender at work, and about the general feeling of way too much exposure.
While transgender men might take some hormones and get some cosmetic surgeries, the break-down of sexual orientations still resembles national norms.
Contrary to popular opinion, men who crossdress or are transgender do not turn their female partners in lesbians; however, for the third gender-variant category, transsexual, this is a definite possibility.
Men with transsexual leanings are a small subset of transgenders, who long to be female, or, at least, resemble a female when they are naked. They can dress as women all their lives without getting bored. There are a few who view themselves as a woman trapped in a man’s body, but this is a stereotype for most transsexuals. Large doses of female hormones and cosmetic surgeries are an essential part of a transsexual’s transition journey, culminating in the gender reassignment surgery, which inverts a penis to form a vagina. After this, a man can become legally female and marry a man. Some oppositional detractors are up in arms over such a same-sex loophole, though Texas wants to ban anyone who is transgender from getting legally married. The sexual orientations of transsexuals do not correspond to national norms, since hormones and psychological factors promote the switching of sexual orientations. About half of male-to-female transsexuals want to be viewed as straight in their new roles…women interested in men.
I want to emphasize that even gender reassignment surgery alone is still cosmetic surgery, since no one physically male can actually change chromosomal sex and become a true female, with ovaries, a uterus, and hips wide through pelvic structure. Transsexuals become visually female. In many states, they can be designated legally female, though some oppositional detractors are fighting this idea.
We do not live in a society that allows more than two presentation-modes for gender, so everyone will be induced to fit the man-category or the woman-category. Even when there are liberal rules in effect for alternate-gender expression, the rules generally do not allow frequent gender alternation. There are guidelines for how to do this, such as the Harry Benjamin Standards of Care. There are problems with these guidelines: they can easily be bypassed, and they have no provision for maintaining family and personal relationships.
Gender-variant men tilt in some way toward women’s lives, but the envy has become part of a new male view of the female mystique in general. This has emerged as an internet sensation. It supposedly has to do with shopping, fashion brands, clothing, childbirth, and emotions. Besides men feeling alienated from women’s lives, women are all very mysterious (Stephen Hawking said so without elaborating,) and there are those cultural taboos that prohibit men from investigating first hand. There is a lot of fantasy here, especially all those fabulous female images and sexuality. Money talks, and all kinds of female glamour can be had at a price.
Most women do not really know how to deal with this subject when they meet men who might be gender-variant; or discover that a male partner has such inclinations. Even when women are knowledgeable about the subject, there is a perception that it requires a lot of work. Just bringing up the subject sometimes can get a husband kicked out of the house, when it would be better, in many cases, just to view it as another male hobby, which can be quite obsessive. Permission to crossdress is usually only given to men and boys for gags and temporary fun, not as serious exploration or as alternate identity.
Even a famous transgender activist once filed for divorce, but later retracted it, when her husband came out as gender-variant. The usual logic seems to be that gender-variant males are betraying their heritage and their families by dressing down to a culturally inferior gender presentation. Apparently, the male power structure does not want to allow any men to jump ship…whether it weakens the implied power of men in general, skews societal gender ratios, or implies flaws in all reasoning about gender. The verdict is often guilty with no chance of a fair trial.
Every year, a small number of transgender husbands push through a total transition to transsexual with very poor coordination with their wives and families. In nearly all cases, this leads to broken relationships, if not divorce. It is strange to want to be a woman, but not to understand that many women are relationship-oriented. This places a stigma on properly behaving transgender husbands, who really do answer that often asked question: “Why can’t my husband be more like my girlfriends?”
Gender-variant men have fought labels from oppositional detractors such as perverted and even child molester (totally non-factual) for years. Fabulous gains have been made, but the battle is still uphill. Oppositional detractors do not want gender-variance to be legitimized, and a variety of pseudo-psychologists make a living claiming that any man who is gender-variant is just suffering from repressed homosexual tendencies.
If anyone says they understand this, they are lying. Perhaps the first cause is the fact we all start out as female, before sexual differentiation occurs. This is why men and women have common secondary sexual body parts. Fetal errors can cause anomalies, or the reason could just be because.
Perhaps the reason is as simple as costuming. The styles of clothing, that women can wear, has mushroomed during recent years. As already mention, this is part of a mystique that men might envy, besides just catching men’s eyes. Women are allowed to use style creatively almost everywhere during their daily lives. Some men might first want a share of such costuming, which, of course, would immediately lead to cultural gender issues.
The Alternate Woman
Online dating is an especially treacherous arena for gender-variant males seeking female partners. Those of us who do not hide our gender-variance usually get swift rejections. I have found that it is not wise to bring up the subject in initial conversations. I am still trying to discuss this matter with dates and potential dates, without the woman being seized by bewildered emotions, instead of just doing simple discussion. I’ve heard you’ve turned into a girl too many times. It’s as if I’ve become so totally different that I can no longer be addressed as a person. I claim that I make a good partner, without vices such as cheating, running away from problems, and a host of other asocial behaviors.
I may have a credible reason for being gender-variant, but no reasons have any legal standing. I was born autistic, with no gender identity. As I entered early puberty, I became interested in girls. Besides being attracted to girls, I also started to identity with them. I fantasized about dressing as a girl, but I was ultra-shy and easily embarrassed and could not express any alternate gender inclinations. While this desire to dress as a girl seemed odd even to me at the time, it eventually offered me a way out of my dilemma of being socially non-functional.
I have Asperger’s Syndrome, which is on the autism spectrum. Boys with Aspergers typically can’t talk well, are socially clueless, have intensely specific interests, and experience auditory and tactile discomfort. I have tactile discomfort with clothing weaves, and gender discomfort with clothing that is too tight around my neck. I wanted to rise above my limitations. I also wanted a woman partner, a nearly impossible task for any Asperger man. For years, I repressed all gender-variant thoughts. I wanted a woman, and I assumed that gender-variant ideas interfered with my goal.
Eventually, at age 35, I got married, but I soon discovered that my gender-variance was not cured. Marriage is only a cure for being single. I was a terrible husband, locked into endless asocial habits, because I could not master all the socially-correct nuances of being a man; instead, I would pick the worst behaviors. I decided to explore my gender-variance as a means of changing my behavior. My late wife, Carolyn, was unsupportive at first; then she became very supportive as my gender-variance helped improve our marriage when I began to talk about things and was no longer continually opposed to things she wanted to do. Eventually, instead of complaining, I began to look forward to all the visits to my wife’s many relatives, and I took her to Hawaii many times. However, it was not until after her death that I really began to implement all the changes to my social interactions.
Here I am at age 69. Rather than being at the end of my life, I am continually starting over again. I lost my loving wife, but I do have a therapist and many friends to guide me. I have been living as a woman during my daily life for over six years. There is no situation that I fear, so I have pretty much done everything dressed as a woman. I have bought a house, bought three cars, gone to several churches, gone to my doctors and my dentist, had my hair cut (without my wig on,) had automobile accidents, gone to three high school reunions, plus all the shopping and other wanderings. I mainstream in the real-world, and seldom encounter another alternate woman during my days. Besides enjoying all the built-in humor, I can be whimsical and mysterious just like a female, because I no longer have to be super logical. However, I have all the necessary skills to make my presentation look natural and understated. I automatically sit modestly, and continually adjust my skirts without thinking about it.
I was once told I could never succeed a being a woman, especially since I‘ve kept my male name, don’t take hormones, and don’t want or need expensive feminizing cosmetic surgeries. People often erroneously think I am a fully-transitioned transsexual, but I really have not acquired female anatomy. I am also asked if I have met any interesting men, but I have zero interest in men as dates or partners. In fact, much of my day is spent thinking about women and looking at women. I am not a crossdresser or a transsexual…I refer to myself as a two-spirit person (niizhmanidoowag in my native Ojibwa,) or an alternate woman. I created the term, alternate woman, because I think it fits me having a woman-orientation, rather than a female-orientation. The former relates to identity, whereas the latter to biology.
I do have a variety of female image consultants. I know how to do make-up, and I do pass as a woman. I have tried to tone down and not pass, but I still pass. I asked my therapist what it meant if women can’t read me, but he said they would be more impressed if I was as authentic as possible in my identity. Being authentic means conducting myself as a woman without any parody, mimicking, or putting women down. Since many women are relationship-oriented, I endeavor to be relationship oriented too. I don’t want to have behavior that destroys relationships. My woman-image is identity, not a behavior, and I don’t want to mess with something has radically improved my life.
Most women are just being themselves, without having to justify or prove who they are. I am always being myself, without explanation or passing out hand-outs, as crossdressing organizations are often prone to do. I do not try to be stealthy or fool people, since that can create tensions that can destroy authentic behavior.
Dating is difficult. Women have often commented that they don’t do my kind of sex, falsely assuming what my sexuality is actually like. I do not think my presentation was sexual…maybe I’m doing something wrong. Or, maybe they are taking about sex in bed, but I don’t go to bed dressed as a woman, and I certainly don’t need any article of clothing to help me have sex.
Dressed as a man, I can’t even pass a lot of dating meet-up personal chemistry tests. As an alternate woman, I have virtually no anxiety, no fear, no tension, and plenty of confidence. I have noticed that women have a lot of distrust of men at dating meet-ups; however, if I meet the same women as an alternate woman, they drop their guard and become a lot friendlier.
Because I am autistic and transgender, I can change my behavior. I am gradually becoming more social, more sensitive, more empathetic, more sharing, and a lot more flexible and easier to get along with. I share clothing, jewelry, fantasies, and even my transformation itself. Though a female partner may not be crazy about total sharing, it is a way to show there are no secrets. No one can argue that I am not fairly in touch with my feminine side. While, my masculine side is still more dominate than my feminine, I have learned to soften the rough edges and reign in out-of-control anger. One of my new year’s resolutions is to develop a female voice, which I can do with a training DVD.
Unlike some deceptive transgender men, I love women and long to have a new female partner. I do not need a partner who would be a template for how I want to become, nor do I need to pursue a fantasy transition to female that has no value whatsoever. My life as an alternate woman is interesting and free of problems, except for dating. I have never even had an incident in a women’s rest room.
I have the social skills to make a partnership work, and, I am no longer burdened by oppositional behavior, so I can step in to help regardless whether a task is “men’s work” or “women’s work,” and I don’t have to be constantly defending myself.
I do wear women’s clothing, but I don’t have any women’s underwear fetishes. I am discriminating in creating a very personal image. I have been described as resembling a New England woman. I groom myself as a woman and try to keep my nails properly trimmed, but I never use colored nail polish. I seldom wear lipstick, just settling for lip liner instead.
Even those who know treat me like a woman. I am often invited to women-only meetings at my churches and other organizations, and, besides all my male interests, I have added fashion, clothing, jewelry, and so forth. I don’t need to fool people into thinking I am female. I am always modest, usually dressed in skirts, but sometimes dresses. I like the openness of women’s clothing, as opposed to my perceived view of the closed and restrained nature of men’s. I do not parade around in underwear or dressed as a character from the Rocky Horror Picture Show, nor do I post any pictures on the internet. All my clothing is age appropriate…for a 60-year-old, since many people don’t think I am older than 60. I do have high heels, but I don’t wear them daily. I take care of my skin and face, and my make-up consultant recently took me off foundation. I do wear colorful outfits, and my breast inserts do fill those feminine tops. My décolletage looks realistic, but I don’t need real breasts. I reserve real breasts for a female partner. I am not messing with my image as a heterosexual male in the bedroom.
I find it interesting that, resembling a woman with nice breasts, I have become exempt from male posturing, which I have never been able to master. I have been accused of being not macho enough, but being feminized is the scariest thing for macho men. Actually, I can handle myself quite well in nearly any social situation. People have commented that I might be a little too confident and brazen at times. Once passing publicly as a woman was difficult for me, but it has now become almost trivial.