Anne Vitale PhD, Editor
Notes on Gender Role Transition
By Julie Freeman
April 27, 2007
When my husband first came out to me in the late 1980’s, we had been married for over 20 years and our children were almost grown. He was in his 40’s and had a bit more time on his hands than usual, so found himself crossdressing more and realized he could no longer keep the crossdressing a secret. What triggered his actions was specifically watching an HBO special on crossdressers that he believed contained information that would help him explain his crossdressing to me.
It appears that from my correspondence with crossdressers that this was not an ususual scenario at that time – crossdressers in their 40’s coming out to their wives. Keep in mind that these gentlemen were all in the same age bracket. Crossdressing was still relatively unknown within society at large, and there were still many laws making crossdressing a crime. Thankfully, times have changed, and crossdressers feel much freer to mingle within society at large.
And with the advent of talk shows about the same time, crossdressing became a frequent topic and still is. Unfortunately, the portrayal of crossdressers has become sleazier with the likes of Jerry Springer and Rikki Lake. But occasionally good movies such as Tootsie and Boys Don’t Cry will be produced with a hope that society will become more understanding and tolerant.
And, of course, with the increase in web sites devoted to crossdressing and other gender issues, more and more crossdressers are stepping out of the clothes closet looking for answers and support.
So it is not unusual for me to hear from such gentlemen – crossdressers in their 40’s who have been closeted for many years with a wife and family and now no longer feel they can keep the secret. They face the same challenges as their predecessors – how to help their wives accept the crossdressing, how to regain their wives’ trust and respect, and how to make sense out of the sudden chaos in their lives.
Because of the similarities in stories, I have come to believe even more strongly in the biological explanation for crossdressing. Why are so many crossdressers able to keep their secret for so long and then no longer can? Is it that the urge to crossdress increases over time? Could it be a physical reaction to stress caused by life changes, such as workloads decreasing or increasing? Children growing up and not demanding as much attention so that there is more time to address the urge to crossdress?
Only science can give us the answers if there are any. Maybe it has to do strictly with environment. Perhaps it is just easier to come out now. More books on the subject; more gender magazines available. That might explain why so many younger couples are addressing these issues now than did so twenty or so years ago.
Perhaps it is just simply a combination of the two – the fact that crossdressing urges increase over time and the knowledge that because society is more aware and more tolerant of crossdressing, it is easier to come out.