Here’s another of the rambling, self-analytical posts about where it all went wrong and how crossdressing fits into everything. For chronology and context, see Where did it all begin?, Why Didn’t I Buy Nike?, and My Best Day Ever.
As high school ended, my opportunities to dress dried up. Around graduation I started a brief relationship with one of the only girls I’d call a “girlfriend” in high school, and the shame spiral really kicked in — after all, I was a dude with a girlfriend! I couldn’t wear a dress! So I denied myself. And then in August of that year I moved to college. Mom’s clothes were at home, I had three college roommates, and I possessed neither the money nor the courage to pursure my feelings any further. So I just started squelching it, big time.
Actually, that’s not true. While I didn’t do it, the honest truth is that I thought about it. Sometimes a lot. And the few precious opportunities I had to explore it — in any way whatsoever — I did. Like on Halloween, when I walked off campus to the local Goodwill under the pretense of “finding a Halloween costume” to try on a few dresses (none of them fit). Or when the residence hall Hall Council did a cross-dressing night as a school spirit event; luckily, by then I had struck up a friendship with a larger girl and I convinced her to let me wear some of her clothes for the event (her shoes, sadly, didn’t fit). At the same time, I was viciously hiding my thoughts and feelings from everyone else, lest they judge me.
It was during college that I developed a little fantasy story in my head. I liked to pretend that I had a secret power. It worked like this: when I saw a girl in an amazing outfit, I would “choose” her as the target of my powers, and “Zap!” all the people on campus, man and woman alike, would be magically changed so that we were all wearing that outfit. As I walked through my days I’d identify the best candidates — usually girls in skirts and hose and heels — and “zap!” Everyone would be wearing it, at least in my head. Then I’d imagine what it felt like to wear the outfit, and how shocked everyone else would be. But they’d never know who was responsible.
It’s only now, with hindsight, that I realize both how absurd that story sounds when committed to words, and also how carefully constructed it was. Because everyone else got dressed up, too, no one would know who caused it. No one would know it was me. I had to keep my desires secret, even in the playground of my own mind.
My college years were also the years where I got more worldly. I met my first openly gay person, and then my second. I met Wiccans and Jews and Hindus. I occasionally got drunk. I learned that I hated frat boys and College Republicans. I learned that I loved video games and vodka. I joined some student clubs, and then tried starting one. I met the people who would become my “college friends,” the ones I still count as friends today. I committed myself to being nonreligious and proud.
All that, but I still didn’t know what to make of my own self. Of all the people I met in those years, none of them openly identified as trans-anything, so I never normalized to it the way I did lesbians and pagans and Catholics. And it was the 1990s; there was still a lot of stigma attached to things like crossdressing. So the “perception problem” plagued me throughout my undergraduate years. Be the nice guy; be the reliable guy; don’t let them know you’re anything but normal; don’t let them see you sweat. That was the safest way to be.