Transgender and Crossdressing Rights in the Land of the  Free and the Home of the Brave

Dear America,

You don’t know me. You don’t know my friends. So I thought I’d stop by and say hi.

I am a member of a small fringe minority that you – let’s be honest – don’t really know much about. I’m a crossdresser. A guy who likes to dress in women’s clothes. You’ve heard about me, you’ve wondered about me (perhaps), and, admit it, you’ve made lots of jokes at my expense.

You know my cousins – the drag queens (who seem to be quite hot on reality television today), and the transsexuals - the brave girls and guys who are transforming their bodies (and in so doing, transforming society) for the simple right to live their lives as they see fit. You, America, are slowly but surely getting to know those groups thanks to rule benders and courageous trailblazers like Chaz Bono, RuPaul, and Miss World contestant Jenna Talackova.

But crossdressers like myself have remained somewhat of a mystery. And that’s no surprise. Most of us are still closeted. Most of us live in secret. And many of us, who venture out into the world to attend parties, festivals, and big sales at Penney’s still remain unknown even to our closest family members and friends.

So a lot of this is our own damn fault.

I also know that as a crossdresser, I don’t face the same emotional turmoil and struggle as transsexuals and other who are trying to live their lives 24/7. At best, we’re often seen as nothing more than “hobbyists.” “Fetishists.” And they could be accurate. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t have rights. And it doesn’t mean that we don’t also crave acceptance and understanding from our families, friends, employers, lawmakers, and society as a whole.

But things are about to change. I have no valid reason for saying that. But I’m sure of it. America, all that you know about crossdressers (which admittedly isn’t much) is about to change. I have no inside information regarding this matter. I know of no major celebrity who is about to come out. I know of no big budget studio movie about to be released that explores this issue in a sensitive way. I just think it’s going to happen. And if it does, maybe it won’t be so hard for me and my friends to tell our wives, our parents, or our bosses about a part of our lives that brings us so much joy and satisfaction.

I know what follows is circumstantial evidence at best. But here goes:

  1. The begrudging acceptance of the above groups I’ve mentioned. Views are obviously changing regarding drag queens and transsexuals. And we, the crossdressers, just might be able to ride on their coattails.
  2. The anti-bullying campaign. Ask any teenager – the world hasn’t changed over night. Bullying is still rampant. And junior high is still one of the most intolerant places on the face of the earth. But all of this anti-bullying is having an impact. Teachers, administrators, coaches, and other youth leaders are starting to take a hard look at the way they treat bullies and their victims. Movement towards tolerance is becoming the way of the future. It won’t happen overnight, and it won’t solve everyone’s problems. But if the kids of today grow up in a more tolerant society, that has to affect society tomorrow. I mean, gays and blacks and other minorities don’t have it great in America. But they certainly have it a lot better than they did 20 – 40 years ago. And I think we’re next.
  3. The Internet. Tolerance may not be a solid lock for the future, but the Internet sure is. It has already become an integral and unavoidable part of American life. Now, the internet has often been labeled as a breeding ground for hate.. and it is. Losers and haters can form groups and post hateful comments with complete anonymity. And that anonymity seems to make them even bolder and more crude. But all of that pales – and pales greatly – when compared to the powerful strength and sense of community that crossdressers (and other gender variants) have found over the past ten years on the net. Information. Chats. Websites. Communities. It’s all there along with the hate -- and the message is overwhelmingly positive. Reassuring. Inspiring. Young people growing up today have more access to transgender information and positive feedback than ever before. And the same goes for 53-year olds entering this lifestyle after a lifetime of secrecy.

But, America, the main reason for my optimism today is something else. Something that encompasses all of those reasons above. But adds something more. Because… the main reason I think crossdressing is going to become more acceptable in the near future is you. America. You see, I have faith in you. You’ve let me down before, to be sure, but somehow, you always seem to rally in the end. In the end, you always seem to let your true colors show. Not red, white and blue. But compassion. Understanding. And a devotion to that odd concept that this country was founded on… freedom.

When people talk about the American dream they are usually referring to the fact that, thanks to the free enterprise system, a person with little wealth or connections, can, through hard work, smart thinking, and a little luck, become successful. A notion we may take for granted, but believe me, there are many people living in other countries under different systems, who don’t have the same possibilities.

But to me, the American dream is something different. While wealth and power are certainly admirable and worthy goals, for many of us, mere acceptance would be a big step in the right direction. And while it may seem far off – and probably is for some (depending on where you live in this diverse country) – change is happening all around us.

I recently heard a women’s rights advocate speak. She mentioned how the women and girls of today have very little idea of what women went through 40 years ago. Or how few opportunities existed for women back then. But now, more women in America graduate from college each year than men! This radical change happened while most of us were alive. The world changed right under our noses.

As I listened to the woman speak, I couldn’t help but feel that the transgender community is in a similar position to the women of the 60’s and 70’s. Finding our voices. Finding our inner strength. Weary after years of unemployment, underemployment, lack of respect, lack of opportunity, and general dissatisfaction.

Back then, America, you didn’t feel comfortable with women in the workplace, women in sports, or women in universities. But somewhere along the line, you came around. And you realized that – even if something made you uncomfortable – that didn’t make it wrong. Or illegal. Or even worthy of debate.

Why? Because that’s not what you’re about, America.

You’re about opportunity. You’re about freedom. You’re about that wonderful idea that we’re all entitled to our own individual pursuit of happiness.

So here we go. Movements by ethnic minorities, religious minorities, women, and gays and lesbians have marked our trail. We only need to step out of the closet and follow. Like any freedom, the happiness mentioned in our Declaration of Independence isn’t guaranteed. But according to our founding fathers, the pursuit of happiness isn’t just a good idea. Some nice advice from the family elders. It’s our birthright. No matter where we come from, no matter what God we believe in, no matter who we love, and maybe someday, no matter how we dress.

America, whether you meant to our not, thanks so much for inviting us to your party. But watch out, because in the next few years, I think you’re going to see a lot more of us taking you up on the invitation.

Take care out there!

Be safe. Be smart. Be sexy.