LGBT filter: What's the upside?
August 24, 2011 9:07 AM   Subscribe

What's the upside to being LGBT (specifically, the crossdresser part of the T)?

I'm a (male presenting as female) crossdresser and am partially out of the closet about it. My parents know, three ex girlfriends know, two friends know, my counselor knows, and (oddly enough) my minister knows.

I think I have a very good idea of what the downsides to being a CD are (Hell, I spent a good hour earlier tonight wallowing in the downsides). However, I am struggling to think of positive aspects of being a crossdresser.

I can think of positive aspects for many things that might cause difficulty in a relationship, but I can't think of significant positive aspects for what tends to ail mine. So, fellow MeFites, what are positive aspects to being a crossdresser?

The following threads were somewhat helpful: (especially this comment)

Other possibly relevant info:
- I’m 30 & I’ve known I was a crossdresser since age 12
- Depending on the day, I’m 90 to 99% sure I’m not mtf trans
- I was suicidal about it a couple of times but not any more (see counselor above, also 1-800 hotlines)
- I live in the same metro area as the new season of The A-List on Logo

If you have further questions or comments that you'd like to share privately, please send them to

Thanks in advance!
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (32 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The only one that matters is that it makes you feel like you and it makes you feel good.

What else matters?
posted by inturnaround at 9:15 AM on August 24, 2011 [7 favorites]

Is it satisfying, helpful, fun, creative?
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:18 AM on August 24, 2011

There is nothing inherently positive (or negative) about being a crossdresser, or not being a crossdresser; there is nothing inherently positive (or negative) about being anywhere on the queer spectrum or being straight as the proverbial arrow. They're all just traits.

There huge positive aspects to not lying to yourself or others about these traits. I *just* said this in another thread, but being closeted is enormously stressful and can lead to or exacerbate depression. Being able to be open with and vulnerable to someone who knows you and loves the whole of you - not despite what you are or how you dress, and not *because* of that either - is tremendously freeing.

I don't actually know if I've answered your question; feel free to flag for deletion if you feel this is unhelpful. And good for you for coming out as you have - you don't ever have to come out more than you want to, or more than is safe for you to do so, but having even a few people who know and are supportive is a great thing.
posted by rtha at 9:18 AM on August 24, 2011 [4 favorites]

Here is one upside:

There will come a moment when you are sort of at peace with who you are. You'll maybe realize that what you love is the look, the clothes, and you don't want to be a woman; you want to be you, looking pretty. When you're at peace with it, your mind becomes a lot more open to exactly how wonderful it feels to get dressed up in whatever way you like - how exuberant it all becomes.

And there may come a day when you meet someone awesome, someone who not only doesn't judge you but actually kind of likes that about you. You will be comfortable not only in your skin but in their presence. They might even help you pick out clothes. Sooner or later they will tell you how pretty you look and you'll be able to see in their eyes that they actually mean it.

In that moment there will be a sense of personal fulfillment and joy that might never be understood by someone who hasn't gone through what you have. Happiness bubbling up from below.

If that's not enough for you: A lot of crossdressers, by way of figuring out makeup and such, also learn a lot about skin care and tend to look very well taken care of as they age.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:23 AM on August 24, 2011 [10 favorites]

Does it make you feel happy? Do you feel more comfortable in your own skin being yourself when you cross dress?

I guess this is a hard question to answer. If you think of something else like preparing eggs for breakfast. How do you like your eggs? What are the positive aspects of having them over easy or scrambled? None, really, unless that is just how you like them, I suppose. (And I do not mean to offend you or downplay your crossdressing to the level of eggs - just trying to make an example that everyone prefers different things different ways, sometimes with no need for positive or negative reasons.)

I did date a fellow once who, on the first time I met him at his apartment, he answered the door in a long flowy skirt. (I dated him for two years after that, FWIW). He was also an avid bicyclist so shaved his legs because apparently that's what some bicyclists do. And he was wearing the skirt because he said it felt really nice on his shaved legs.

As a girl who wears skirts, I can definitely relate. :)

I don't think it made him a better or worse human because of it. He did it because it felt good and that made him happy. I can't really think of how anything could be more positive than that.
posted by jillithd at 9:24 AM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

(Hell, I spent a good hour earlier tonight wallowing in the downsides). However, I am struggling to think of positive aspects of being a crossdresser.

...then why do you do it? If there's nothing but downside, why do you do it? If you're doing it because you're more comfortable that way, is that not enough of a positive? Even if you're only doing it for fun, surely that is enough?

but I can't think of significant positive aspects for what tends to ail mine

...this kind of makes it sound like you think there should be some aspect of cross-dressing that will solve relationship problems? Maybe I'm just misreading.
posted by missmagenta at 9:27 AM on August 24, 2011

I find certain kinds of cross-dressing to be charming and sometimes hot.

My keychain is actually Mickey Mouse in a skirt and heels. I had a friend get it for me when he was in Florida.

Some would say that it's Minnie, but I know better.

Hope that helps!
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:30 AM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

It sounds like one of the things you are struggling with is teasing apart your gender identity from your sexual/intimate relationship preferences. I can't really offer advice on exactly how or whether to do this, but it might be helpful to think about the two separately. Maybe try to think about where you identify on the gender spectrum, and then think about what types of people on the gender spectrum you are attracted to or trying to have successful intimate relationships with. Then you can figure out what parts of yourself are "positive" and can bring to a relationship--you sound like you are a thoughtful, creative, introspective person, who is interested in your own emotional growth and those are all extremely positive traits!
posted by gubenuj at 9:31 AM on August 24, 2011

Positive aspects of crossdressing? Where do I start?

You're instantly a thousand per cent more clued-up than your average person about what the world looks like through the filter of another gender. Especially (but not only) if you've been in a social situation where you were treated as just another woman, you're able to appreciate and contrast the myriad ways society interacts with gender presentation to a degree that people who never step far outside their boundaries simply can't imagine. It's not a perfect window into the woman-gendered experience, but it's a window nonetheless.

You're very likely able to hold an intelligent conversation about clothes, makeup, jewellery and fashion in general where the vast majority of guys will mumble and grunt. This is an important and rare skill and not one to be underestimated, and one that in my experience has been useful socially, professionally and romantically. These aren't shallow or irrelevant things, and they're an area of knowledge and experience that the vast, vast majority of males cut themselves off from. And if you don't feel knowledgeable about that stuff right now, it's likely you'll take a ton of pleasure in becoming knowledgeable. Because you're a crossdresser!

To a far-from-insignificant selection of potential sexual and romantic partners, the fact that you're a crossdresser is hot. And if it's hot to you, that's an even bigger plus. Things that are hot are inherently unequivocally good. And to an even larger group, it's fascinating and exciting. It's an excellent way to meet interesting people whose tastes and opinions will surprise you and to have adventures with them and make lifelong friends.

Looking good in drag is an art and a craft, and there's at least as much pleasure in those things as there is in any art. Except that if you paint a beautiful picture you generally don't get to swan around wearing it on your head, fluttering it around on your eyelashes, getting drunk with it and singing karaoke. You can be your art, and be your fashion, and do so in ways that aren't so easily reached for a lot of other social groups.

Crossdressing can teach you things about personal grooming you didn't know you didn't know. There's no better way to learn to shave really close and keep your face healthy than wanting to wear makeup, no better reason to take excellent care of your skin than parading around in a backless dress now and again. Not to mention (and I am not even joking) the balance and co-ordination you get from being comfortable in heels. No guy has better body care than a crossdresser.

I'm a crossdresser/genderqueer transgendered something-or-other/drag queen, and always have been and always will be, and I wouldn't be anything else for the world. Any negatives are so outweighed it's just ridiculous.
posted by emmtee at 9:32 AM on August 24, 2011 [24 favorites]

What is the upside of being a lesbian?

The negative aspects associated with being part of the LGBT spectrum are extrinsic - they are imposed by the surrounding culture, not inherent to the aspect of not being heterosexual or cisgender. On the other hand, this means that the positive aspects of being heterosexual, or of being cis-gender, or of dressing in conformance with your gender role - all the positive benefits are also extrinsic. I am unfairly rewarded because I was born straight. I am unfairly rewarded because I am most comfortable dressing in conformance with my gender presentation, and because my secondary sex characteristics match my internal idea of my gender.
posted by muddgirl at 9:33 AM on August 24, 2011 [11 favorites]

I'm in a vaguely similar position to you--I was male assigned at birth, and think of myself as genderqueer. I feel really good wearing skirts and other "feminine" things but don't feel like I'm a woman. To me, both binary gender boxes feel like confining spaces where I can't fully breathe.

So, number one good thing about expressing my gender in a trans/genderqueer way is that it makes me feel like I can breath. I also think enjoy the feeling that my experience helps me grok in a really visceral way that the binary gender system is a social construct--it's a game! I think most people don't realize it, but when you do, it opens up the possibility that it's a lot of fun to play the game. And it's even more fun to make up your own rules. Also, and don't tell the cis people (especially don't tell the cis people who freak out when you point out that they're cis) but us queers are a lot more interesting and cool.
posted by overglow at 9:33 AM on August 24, 2011

Hopefully, dressing like you want lets you feel MORE LIKE YOURSELF.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:37 AM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Grab yourself some Eddie Izzard DVD's and glory in the comedy of a man comfortable with his trans nature.
posted by merocet at 9:55 AM on August 24, 2011 [4 favorites]

From the gospel of Thomas:

"If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you."
posted by hermitosis at 9:59 AM on August 24, 2011 [14 favorites]

You're very likely able to hold an intelligent conversation about clothes, makeup, jewellery and fashion in general where the vast majority of guys will mumble and grunt.

Right. This could be a very nice bonus for your future girlfriends and female friends — you can shop with them, take makeup courses with them, and talk to them knowledgeably about clothes and hair and jewelry and all that. A lot of women will really, really enjoy that because it's a unique benefit they are not going to find with most heterosexual men. It could be both enjoyable and bonding, and it can make a woman feel really "seen" and valued if her guy takes a genuine interest in her wardrobe.
posted by orange swan at 10:09 AM on August 24, 2011

Are you on FetLife? If not, you should check it out. There's nothing immoral about what you are doing, you need to accept that first and foremost. Meeting people of similar inclination will also help you feel more at peace.
posted by Dragonness at 10:22 AM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

You seem to be tying your crossdressing into being queer somehow and that's not necessarily at all the case.

As a matter of fact there have been numerous studies that have found 90ish% of crossdressers are heterosexual.

If you're crossdressing all of or most of the time there may be a gender-identity aspect at play here, otherwise I think you can stop worrying or concerning yourself with the "T" of LGBT as you state that you are 90-99% sure you're NOT MtF. And even if you ARE crossdressing that regularly... crossdressing and being trans are not synonymous.

But as for your specific question of the upside... doing what feels good, so long as you're hurting no other beings, is often good for the soul. Being your authentic self, whatever form that may take, frees you from the confines of what the world expects and allows ones spirit to soar. If that's not enough upside I have no idea what would be.
posted by FlamingBore at 10:24 AM on August 24, 2011 [5 favorites]

This is not necessarily true for everyone, but a lot of LGBT people have done rigorous self-examination about desire and relationships and gender and a whole host of things.
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:27 AM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Because women's clothing is so much more fun. As a man who doesn't wear women't clothing I am sometimes jealous of the plethora of different stuff women have to choose from. You want to dress up as a man, here's your tie. Feel free to pick standard or bow. Suit or tux. Done. Wear anything other than a small selection of colors and styles and you're branded a pimp.

Women's clothing, on the other hand, runs a huge gamut. A lot of it looks damnable uncomfortable to me but depending on when you feel the need/desire to cross-dress that may be a lesser issue for you.
posted by phearlez at 10:30 AM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

My husband is perfect for me in every way except he is not, and never will be, a CD because he wasn't made that way at birth. *sigh*


When I pass you on the street, I give you a mental high five and admire your courage! Also, I thank the universe you are comfortable being out and about because it feels right to me that the world should be populated by those I find attractive.

Who you are on the inside is more admired and more desirable than you know right now.
posted by jbenben at 10:41 AM on August 24, 2011

The upside to being a crossdresser is that you get to wear what you want and behave the way you want. You get to do an activity that is not only fun and creative but accessible (I loved making my own shoes, but there isn't exactly a school nearby) and reasonably low-cost (Goodwill, making them yourself, getting them from other people, ACCESORIZING).

You get to do something that is essential to your inner self -- and you KNOW WHAT THAT IS. Most people out there can't bring themselves to conceptualize a lot of the things that would make them feel more complete.

I have a coworker who is transgendered and presents a rather disjointed image -- sometimes dressed kind of like a prairie-state soccer mom, sometimes wearing a halter-topped club jumpsuit. I know her life hasn't been simple; she's weird for a ton of reasons that don't necessarily have a connection to her gender. But there are days when I just plain love having her around because she is positive, cheery and grateful for being able to express herself.

THAT is her identity. I know she's not always happy, and I've been near her when people have made ignorant comments. But I also appreciate that a lot of the way she is comes from making the tough decision to live and dress the way she wanted despite what others might say. And let me tell you, there are others in this office who could use some damn lessons on that front.

It might not be easy sometimes, but what worthwhile activity is?
posted by Madamina at 10:43 AM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

A huge benefit of being queer is that you don't get to live an unexamined life in which you just blindly accept what you've been taught. Throwing off the constraints associated with gender frees you up to question the other constraints you've been handed. Also, once you accept yourself and see how pointlessly divisive and ignorant and just plain wrong the prejudices against you are, it will be a lot harder for you to buy into other pointlessly divisive and ignorant prejudices against others. What a gift!
posted by Wordwoman at 11:05 AM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

In the right bars, you can get a lot of free drinks
posted by Jacen at 11:07 AM on August 24, 2011

For what it's worth: when I see a dude out and about in drag, I feel the way I do when I see a dude who's wearing a tuxedo or a ren faire costume, or carrying a bunch of flowers or a banjo or a surfboard or something. "Hey, there's a guy who's making a point of doing something that makes him happy. Right on."

The thing is, I don't go up to surfers and say "You like surfing? Cool. —Oh, no, I'm not into surfing at all. I'm just glad you're happy." That would be weird. And so similarly, if I sat next to you on the subway, I probably wouldn't shake your hand and be all "I'm glad you're happy." But I'd be thinking it.

And so okay what I'm saying is, if you're counting overt negative reactions as downsides to the way you live your life, make sure you also count all the silent positive reactions as upsides.

Also, this seems like a weird thing to say, but I feel like it might be important to say it. I don't crossdress; seeing other guys crossdress isn't a turn-on for me; and the way I present in public is pretty damn straight. Don't assume that the only silent "right on"s you're getting are from the minority of people who are visibly queer or who are attracted to visible queerness. Even in the big bland scary straight (or straight-acting) majority, there are going to be people who are basically like "Nifty! Not my thing, but I'm glad it works for you!"
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:15 AM on August 24, 2011 [12 favorites]

Hi, I'm on the MTF transgender spectrum and sometimes characterize myself at the moment as "more than just a crossdresser" and "not quite feeling the need to transition". I am still sorting out a lot of "who I am" or "what I want out of this" myself (and how that interacts with family and career).

As best as I can explain what works for me, or what the "upside" might be, my first thought is that I'm avoiding the downside. Which is to say, that if I were forced to suppress the femme side of myself and never crossdress, I would have a hard time continuing. The stress and other negative aspects might lead me to implode on myself. Could I live? Eh, maybe. But it would be a Very Bad Thing.

This is something a lot more internal than, say "not being able to go fishing" or "not being able to read my favorite book ever again". I am reluctant to say "I would die without it" because I don't think I'm there. I would find a way to endure, but it would be "enduring".

More tangibly, I view the "upside" as the sense of total rightness when I am presenting as female. On other forums, I've seen this described as "pink fog" or "gender euphoria". It is a feeling of satisfaction, of happiness, of rightness. Part of it is as simple as the feeling of being loved for what I am. While out with my wife at dinner a few months ago, she told the waiter (while pointing at me) "she needs more time to decide". Her simple use of that pronoun was enough to make me tear up (from happiness) (and even now I'm feeling a bit sniffly thinking about it).

The "I share clothes/makeup/shoes with my wife" thing or talking intelligently about makeup or fashion or whatnot, yeah that's kind of a superficial upside. Is it worth giving up heterosexual and cisgender privilege? In and of itself, of course not.

I guess another "upside" is that I have gained entry into the queer circles, and have better insight and empathy with what non-hetro and non-cisgender and non-male privileged folks go through.

Fairly regular MeFi poster using a sockpuppet here, feel free to contact me through this account if you want to talk separately.
posted by TranSubstantial at 11:38 AM on August 24, 2011 [5 favorites]

While I do have some issues with the film As Good As It Gets I think one of the best parts is when Greg Kinnear's character Simon remarks to Jack Nicholson's character Melvin:

Simon Bishop: Melvin, do you know where you're lucky? You know who you want.

That seems to be the upside of many things in life and it applies to crossdressing as much as anything else.
posted by Green With You at 11:51 AM on August 24, 2011

I am a woman, but I spent my late teens dressing like a boy and trying to act more like a man. I made a serious effort to speak in a lower tone, avoid feminine sounding words and patterns of speech, changed my handwriting to a less bubbly style, and learned to walk differently. I chose a profession that was traditionally masculine. I wore a tuxedo to my senior prom. I did it because it was exciting, and because it made me feel like the best version of myself. I've felt the gender euphoria that TranSubstantial mentions. It's worth it, isn't it?

I have since become more feminine, but I'll always value those years. They permanently changed my perspective on gender. Crossdressing taught me simultaneously about how gender can be both artificial and still deeply important to my identity and social status. It was surprising how pressured I felt to act more manly, in spite of the fact that I was a woman. It was surprising how aware I became of the ways you could boost your social status among men, and how different they were from the ways you boost them as a woman. It made it easier for me to relate to my male friends. Similarly, you must have learned about the sorts of pressures women feel to be friendly, thin, nurturing, and well-groomed. It's valuable knowledge that can help you be more sympathetic and kind towards others.

When I see crossdressers (and queer people in general), I feel hope and admiration. They are people who are living creatively and courageously. Their path is difficult, because there's no reason for them to believe that it will lead them to success or safety. They walk it anyway. They are different, but they embrace it instead of hating themselves. By their nature, they challenge accepted wisdom in a way that I think is important for a healthy society. I don't mean to put crossdressers on a pedestal. I'm just trying to get across the sense that being confidently different is a huge upside when we, as humans, are all too easily tempted into doing what everyone else is doing.
posted by millions of peaches at 12:08 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

I truthfully haven't read any of the other responses because I'm far too lazy, so pardon me if it's repetitive. I LOVE drag queens and cross dressers. I love sharing make up, shoe, clothing tips. As a lipstick lesbian, I'm often saddened by the lack of beauty in the butch lesbian world and find myself floating towards drag queens and cross dresses to have a good chat :) So, maybe you'll find a nice lipstick lesbian to become friends with :)
posted by DorothySmith at 2:23 PM on August 24, 2011

Do you feel more authentic, more honestly like yourself when you do this? That's upside number one, and the biggest one by far. Benefit number two is that generally speaking (in my opinion), women's clothes are far less expensive and far more interesting than men's clothes, provided you can find them in your size.
posted by davejay at 3:56 PM on August 24, 2011

From what you say about how many people you're out to, I suspect that you aren't part of a community which plays a lot with notions of gender and suchlike. If you're in a reasonably-sized city, you might consider seeking such a community out. They're not always sex-oriented or freaky or even exclusively queer-oriented. My group of friends is very eclectic regarding orientation and dress and gender identity. That's not what drew us together, but it's very nice for all of us that no one loves you any less for what you want to wear or who you want to sleep with. Granted, we mostly live around Capitol Hill in Seattle. But it was like this when many of us still lived in Indiana too.

I am also one of those who regrets that my charming husband, lovely in so many other ways, is not interested in playing around with his gender-presentation. But that's not him, and I know it would make him uncomfortable. Even if it might be fun for me.

I *like* people who are true to what they are rather than adhering to societal norms that don't work for them. I respect people who have examined themselves sufficiently to know what they are. And I like the understanding of and tolerance for other demographic groups that seems to come naturally with being a member of a marginalized group. You, as a crossdresser, *have* to think about your place in society, about status-markers, about where flash judgments may be wrong. That makes you a much cooler person, in my eyes, than so many who just slip into the slot assigned them so comfortably that they never consider that not everyone else does.

It does sound as though you know some pretty openminded people. This is good. Just know that there are a lot of other openminded people out there too, and, just as there will be some who are unfairly prejudiced against you for cross-dressing, there are also some of us who will be unfairly prejudiced *toward* you. Which is slightly embarrassing, because one prefers to think of onesself as not being prejudiced at all, but, yeah. Even in some not-officially-queer spaces, this counts as a mark in your favour.
posted by Because at 4:21 PM on August 24, 2011

From the OP:
Thank you everyone for your responses. I appreciate them very much. I had been looking for some things like this to keep in mind whenever I start feeling down about being a crossdresser. There are enough responses here that, while I'm not sure I can fit them all on the same page, I'll see if I can find a way to shrink the print so I can carry these around on me for reading when I feel down, or envious, or what have you.

Thanks again, y'all are awesome. :-)
posted by jessamyn at 9:28 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't know about you,

But I love just how DAMN GOOD I look in those heels
posted by Blasdelb at 10:05 PM on August 24, 2011

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