Four years ago, I joined my first online transgender/crossdressing community, Crossdresser Heaven. Like so many others, taking that first step of joining an online space was fraught with indecision, fear, and anxiety. I asked myself: will I find others that I can really talk with? Will anyone really listen? And of course, is there more to this than liking the feeling of wearing women’s clothes? I was terrified that I was making a mistake, and that I just liked to wear women’s clothes, so why would I need to find support? Yet, by seeking it out, the answer was clear that finding others who I could relate to was so very much needed. The connections made here helped answer the first two questions. The third was a bit more complicated, and inwardly I wrestled with it. I was never really sure about opening myself up to that part of me, kept hidden since my early years. I repressed those memories and feelings deep inside, and for decades I didn’t even think about it at all. For you see, I got caught by my parents dressed in some of my mom’s clothes. I thought I had the house to myself and that I had time, but surprise, surprise – they were back sooner than I expected. I felt ashamed when I saw the look on my mom’s face. My dad…well, I thought he just looked mad, but his reaction was much calmer.
Needless to say, I was beyond embarrassed, an emotion I never handled well. Not too long after that, my folks got me into therapy. I think they hoped that I was going through a phase, or reacting since our family had weathered death after death in previous years during that time. It was in therapy where I began to cling onto the idea that I was just acting out of grief, and I don’t remember even acknowledging my dressing at all when it was approached. Instead, I dug in and entrenched those feelings deep. Since I was already bullied as a kid, I figured I didn’t need to add more fuel to the fire. If my own parents reacted that way, then what would it have been like for me if others found out? (It wasn’t until I came out to my parents recently that I got their perspective from that day. They said it was not so much me wearing the clothes, but what I was wearing that caused my mom’s reaction. Their emotions were way more complicated than I ever knew, sad to think that the three of us have never talked about it over the years.)
Life happened. I graduated high school, went to college, then to grad school, held a series of jobs, dated, and had several serious girlfriends. I had a breakdown, got better, met Gwenn, we moved to a new town, got new jobs, and we got married. Eventually I got depressed, etc. You know…life! During that whole time, I always felt off, and not quite right with the definition of being a “man.” But I never allowed myself to think that, well, maybe being a “man” isn’t me! Instead I thought I was just different. It’s only with recent reflection that I have realized that it surfaced in subtle ways throughout my adult life. It was in those moments when I would go clothes shopping with my mom or a girlfriend, or seeing someone wearing an outfit, or those times when my women friends would talk in front of me as though I was one of the “girls.” It would bring twinges of guilt, sadness, excitement, envy, and loneliness. I must have kept on pushing it further down subconsciously with each twinge, keeping me “safe” from feeling the way I did years ago.
Fast forward to 2013, when I sought counseling after another rough patch. It was there that I finally mentioned, after decades, that I had crossdressed when I was younger. We didn’t wade too far into it, as I tried making it seem insignificant, just trying to tell a much fuller story. After the session, I felt raw and noticed my thoughts kept turning back to the moment I got caught. The first large crack was made. The more I thought about those long-repressed emotions and memories, the bigger the crack became, which led me to originally think it was really about the clothes and wanting to wear them, nothing more.
Well, I was wrong on that… Since outing myself to both myself and Gwenn, the journey has become a whirlwind of introspection and reflection for both of us. It became clearer that being Michelle was always there in my life, and the smile on my face when I was Michelle showed me a much deeper feeling. Gwenn acknowledged it much more easily and quickly than I did, that I was having such a hard time saying that I am trans. Being able to say that aloud only happened in the past year and a half. Since that moment, I have been coming out to friends, family, and coworkers. I started transitioning, going out in public, and working on what my journey will be and where I want to go. By now, having the language to describe the emotions and thoughts with such phrases as “gender dysphoria,” “incongruency,” “gender fluid,” “transfeminine,” etc., along with meeting people virtually and in person, is liberating. There are lots of decisions yet to make and I’m going at my own pace. Sometimes it feels glacial, other times like a rocket, but I’m moving! Lastly, the sense of congruence (or wholeness) that happens now is powerful and helps me weather the storms of inner insecurity and fear.
I want to say thank you to everyone that has helped me along this incredible journey we are all on. Whether it was just a quick “hi” in chat, a response to a post or article, a late-night conversation, or by just being on the site – all have meant something to me. Our paths will not be exactly the same, but we can recognize each other, give a friendly smile, an ear, or a shoulder, and know that we are not alone, no matter where this all takes you. I wish everyone love, peace and happiness.
More Articles by Michelle Liefde
- A Tale of Two Necklaces
- On Being Michelle and On Being Here
- Media Review: And now for this century…
- Media Review: The Music Video for Quiet by Milck
- Media Review: The World According To Garp