Our son was born a little over a year ago now. He’s pretty awesome :D Overall, he’s been a fairly easy baby, which is great for me as a new parent, though he’s being a minor terror lately! He’s strong-willed, determined, and has clear opinions on what he wants. I like that. I hope we can raise him to be thoughtful and considerate.
I want to be a good parent. I said before that when we’d have children, I’d try to be honest and up-front about my crossdressing. This remains the plan. Children are like sponges, and they’ll soak up your feelings. If you’re open and honest as a parent, they’ll be open and honest too. If you’re secretive and feel shameful about things, they’ll pick up on that and be secretive and be shameful as well. (Ok, these aren’t strictly facts, but come straight from an imaginary book titled “Liz’s Theory On Child-Rearing”. Seems like it makes sense, though). My dad was always pretty closed off, and that ended up being the general tone of our relationship. I don’t want that for my son.
My plan is to be open, be honest, not hide anything, and keep dressing. If he has questions, I’ll answer them.
If I want him to be open and honest with me, I have to lead by example. Hiding is a short-term solution – it might avoid an immediate problem, but causes longer-term issues, particularly when you’re accidentally found out. On top of that, there’s also the mental drain it will have on you for years trying to keep it a secret. Keeping a chunk of your personality hidden in the shadows is hard – I’ve done it before, and I never want to go back. If I have to have a conversation with my son when he’s 15 about how I’ve been keeping a secret from him his entire life, I have failed.
So far it’s been going ok :) It’s easy right now because he’s so young. He’s vaguely starting to form words, and is still growing his mental model of the world. For a little while, he took any change in my appearance badly. The first time I shaved, he screamed at my unbearded-visage. For a little while after that, whenever I had to shave, I had my wife hold him such that he could watch me take the hair off and understand that I was the same person, but beardless. That worked pretty well :D
With respect to dressing, he’s seen me dressed. The first few times, I think he thought I was a completely different person, and was a bit reticent. One time I assumed he knew it was me, because he laughed :D Another time I dressed around him, he was wary again.
I try not to take it personally – I know it’s purely because his brain is still developing, and that humans aren’t designed to cope with people who make drastic changes to their appearance. Babies certainly aren’t. I am hopeful for the day I get home from work on a day where I’d been dressing up, and he recognises me and is happy to see me like he usually is when I get home. (“Happy” might be an understatement, given that now when I get home after work, he tends to run around excitedly screaming :D)
One time while I was getting ready I tried to show him the intermediate steps: I had him see me with a cleanly-shaven face, then dressed with the boobs underneath, then a few times throughout the make-up process, and then finally with the wig and glasses on. Mostly he was just fascinated and curious. Not scared or disgusted, as was my fear, but why would he be? That’s something that’s learned, not innate. It will take some time, but he’ll understand.
I mentioned this in passing in the aforementioned post, but I’ll tell it again: When I was at uni approximately, oh, a thousand years ago, I was just starting to accept this feminine part of myself. I was still struggling with it, but I’d started to come to terms with it, and had a little student loan that I used to buy some clothes/shoes with (and I think one stick of black lipstick, and some black eyeliner pencils – it was a gothy time). I was also starting to open up to people about it a little. I remember being in the computer lab one day, with no one behind me, and I was looking at shoes, I think. A friend of mine was in the lab too, so I struck up a conversation with her over chat and hesitantly showed her the shoes. She was cool with it, essentially, but also a bit guarded. It turned out that her dad was a crossdresser also. We didn’t dig super deep into it, but I got the sense that she resented him for it. That it had made her life difficult and awkward. That their relationship wasn’t the best.
I don’t know if things on that front were ever resolved. I don’t know if the dad in that situation was open about it early on, or if it all came out one day as a surprise.
I don’t want to alienate him. At some point he’ll be a teenager. Being a teenager sucks. Everything is the worst, and the world is out to get you, and you hate your parents. Being a teenager sucks more when you have concrete things to point at and say “This is the reason why I’m unhappy!”. I worry that I am going to be that reason.
Well, I suppose no matter what, I’m going to be at least one of those reasons. Teenagers and their relationships with their parents are fraught enough at the best of times. I worry that I’m going to make his life harder: That he’ll be made fun of at school, that he’ll take a lot of flak for a choice that he has no part of.
I worry that people will judge me for “inflicting” my lifestyle on him.
I worry that he’ll take after me.
Most of all right now, I worry that I’m being selfish. A rudimentary analysis of the situation reads as if I’m consciously making a trade-off between my happiness and his. I suppose I am, but it’s a calculated trade-off. As I get older, I’m realising more and more that perfect solutions are few and far between, and that in general you’re trying to find the least objectionable solution from the selection of choices available to you. Like trying to find the cleanest stall in a public bathroom: unless your timing is impeccable and you happen to chance along the place two seconds after the world’s most diligent bathroom attendant has scrubbed the place clean, the best you can hope for is that the least shit-covered stall is available for use.
As far as I can tell, there’s no way for this to not colour his life poorly, if only a little bit.
Option A: Hide, and have him lead as normal a life as possible
If I attempt to hide this side of myself from him, that means I’m back to square one. I’ll be miserable, depressed, full of guilt. Carrying a weight forever. Resentful towards him for my unhappiness, but he’d never know why. Our relationship could never be all that it could be. Not to mention that he’ll feel my misery and carry it with him. I don’t want that.
Option B: Be open, and and honest, and have him deal with it.
If I attempt to be open, his life will probably be hard. He’ll have to fight, and any time he gets hurt, he’ll blame me. I can teach him that people are different, and it’s our duty to respect their being, their lives, and their choices. But when the rubber hits the road, his teenage years, unless society changes a LOT in the coming years, are going to be tough.
I think Option B is the right one. Keeping things from him will only make us both feel bad in ways he won’t understand. And in the likely event he’d find out later anyway, he’d feel like I was lying to him his whole life, which would be accurate.
With Option B: no one has to lie, no one has to hide. Any difficulties that come before us, I can help him tackle.
It’s easier to navigate in the light than it is in the dark.
I am optimistic though. I have an opportunity here to raise my son the right way – raise him to be tolerant and understanding of others. To build our relationship on a thousand awesome things, and not have this one thing be the iceberg that sinks us.
I hear parenting is hard.
Wish me luck.
Not that my opinion means much but I think you’re doing the right things. Hopefully your son will grow up thinking that “it’s just clothes”. Act like it’s something to be embarrassed about or ashamed of, and he’s going to get the wrong idea, for sure. Not only that, hiding it is going to suck mightily for you and possibly for Mrs. Liz as well.
You live in a very liberal part of the USA and likely many/most of your son’s classmates will view people who don’t conform to the gender they were assigned at birth all or some of the time as no big deal. On the other hand, if your son’s classmates are inclined to bully him or make fun of him, they’ll find *something* to pick on him about. If it’s not his crossdressing dad, they’ll find something else, believe you me.
I wish you all the best in the future.
You are like my father was with me, open and honest, the best way.
The one thing that he left with me however is, I hate lies.
Once when I was 50 years old, I was helping my father with a computer problem, he turned to me and said, “Whats your opinion on transsexuals?”
He then told me about a radio repair shop run by Ian P*****, a fellow that had taken me up in a glider.
My father went on to say, “Well Ian isn’t Ian any more, she’s Claire. Want to meet her?”
I went with him to meet her, she recognised me and asked, if I had done any more gliding.
Now, even though my father has been dead fifteen years, I miss my father and my best friend.
Kudos, you’re doing it right; but when he’s old enough you’ll have to tell him that the outside world may not be as accepting. it’s a difficult conversation to have, to explain bigotry and prejudice, and it’s a conversation i’ve had to have with my daughter regarding my race and our heritage, but if you raise him to know that bigotry and prejudice are wrong, he won’t be ashamed or resentful and he’ll be strong enough to stand against intolerance, just like my daughter does, even as angsty teens.
Yeah, that’s going to be a tough one :/ But necessary! Awesome that your daughter will stand up against intolerance! I’ll have to make sure I raise my son the same way <3
Please, give your child to your wife and get a divorce pronto. Don’t visit your baby unless you’re not in drag. This is child abuse. Even you said it was disturbing your baby and if that has to be explained to you why, that’s a problem. Don’t corrupt your child, I beg you! Your baby is innocent and deserves so much more than this. You have autogynephilia and there is no cure.
Get a divorce? But we’re happily married!
How is this child abuse? He’s not being hurt in any way. Yes, it’s disturbing my baby the exact same amount as when I shaved off my beard – should I also never shave ever again?
I’m genuinely curious to understand your reasoning for why you consider this child abuse.
I’m so glad you’re being open with your son! That’s the best option you and your wife could make when it comes to this. This way you’ll be able to make your house a safe place if your son turns out to be a cross dresser like you or if he’s a part of the lgbt community. And I’m sure he’ll slowly learn to recognize you either way especially if you introduce it the same way as you mentioned you did with you slowly dressing up and such.
If he truly is strong-willed, read the book, “You Can’t Make Me, But I Can Be Persuaded.”
It helped us.
ooh I’ll take a look!
Your blog is truly lovely. You have a beautiful voice and your writing is elegant and lively. Reading of your adventures, fears, hopes, cares, concerns, dreams, and uncertainties is like watching Meryl Streep recount her life in Defending Your Life.
You are a breath of digital fresh air.
I wish I had chosen a different path in dealing with my kids. We took the best approach we thought we could at the time. A different stall in the lu, if you will. We all do the best we can, with the information we have, at the time we have it. I tried to understand – believe me we all have – why I had this desire and need to express myself and experience myself through the lense of being dressed as a woman. And I still have no clinical answer, I suppose. Ultimately, I decided I would try – I would – white knuckle it and purge it from my life.
Years later, after finally finding the courage to step out and discuss all this with a gender therapist, I happened upon the simplest answer to my question of why. And it struck me that the most logical – though certainly not the most believable – answer to my question of why this strong desire, compulsion, and need to appear and express myself as a woman is simply because at my core, in the depths of my most essential being, I am a woman.
And now, decades later, after my kids have learned about the outward expression of that inner reality, it is difficult, though not impossible to repair the damage of deciding to “protect” them from that part of me. I cannot change who I am. I tried masking it, locking it away, denying the truth of who I am – and still do, oy. And after all that masking and shrouding and denial and lying, it is difficult discussing it because they have decades of a visual reality that does not fully express the entire reality of who I am. And trying to resolve that disconnect now is extremely difficult.
I understand the difficulty from my struggle. I battled with it my entire life. I can’t expect others who haven’t experience the internal struggle of my lifetime to resolve an external disconnect in a fraction of that time, while thinking they no longer know who I am. I can’t fully experience their struggle of being confronted with the information that the person they knew as their Dad, doesn’t really identify as a guy. What does that mean? Does he wish he wasn’t a dad? Why did he marry a woman? Why did he have kids? What is wrong with him? Why what where why why why?
While for their sake, it would be better to not have to deal with this at all. The choice was deal with it openly and honestly then, or shield them from what I then understood was an external practice – hoping I could contain and abstain forever. I now know – and to a much lesser extent understood but refused to accept then – that in locking down the practice, I was effectively locking out my self in a very real way from our relationship. And sadly, by doing that, I was inadvertently keeping them from knowing a large part of who I truly am.
Life is messy and we do the best we can. We pick – hopefully – the best paths we can and want what is best for our kids and family.
We just can’t end up denying who we are, or in the end, we fail to do what we set out to do, because we remove a large part of who we are from the picture of we and us. And that isn’t really best for anyone.
As one looking back down the road more travelled, it would be a shame if you were to allow shame to keep Liz from your kids. She is a beautiful and loving person.
Sorry for the long rant. But thank you for your honesty and sharing your life experience.