Rhonda Lee

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I tried on mom's bras, dresses, and lipstick circa age 13, when I became particularly observant and envious of girls' clothing and how pretty and special they must feel wearing feminine items and looking pretty with makeup, pony tails, jewelry, heels, nylons, and so much off limits to me. I felt guilty and tried to stop but could not.

Thought I had succeeded after meeting my future wife in 1967. We had a fairytale romance for years that convinced me the dressing was just a puberty thing. Eventually I backslid, stashing bras and a few other items I could not successfully purge, even though I always believed I could muster the will to do so.

I never knew there were others like me and kept thinking I could quit until I succumbed in 1998, when facing lots of stresses in my life. I allowed myself to be discovered by my wife, wearing an outfit she was giving away. Bad idea! That led to counseling. THAT counselor tried to help her see it was no big deal; women wear men's clothes all the time, without criticism. But my wife found others who supported her opinion and walked out without a goodbye after 40 years of marriage.

After nearly committing suicide and failing, I determined to pull myself up by my bootstraps, deciding to try things I never would have dared do before. One was to check out Tri-Ess. Met my first crossdresser, bought my first dress, and went out for the first time, all within a day of arrival. What I expected to be a one-off experience to prove what I always thought true... CDs are perverted... I quickly realized my assumptions were wrong. What else could I be wrong about? I decided to wipe the slate clean and learn from scratch what was true for me.

My wife returned a year later on condition she could accept my crossdressing as by then I accepted that was who I was. She did more than I thought possible, but was influenced by counselors and others who thought I was addicted, could be cured, and she needed to leave me if I could not. I went to the counselors she recommended, but even they concluded I could not deny the reality of the woman inside me. To my great dismay, and hers, we divorced. She was convinced I could change but loved the woman inside me more than her; I knew I loved only her and would change if I could, but the female part of me was real and could not be suppressed.

I decided the best I could do with my life was to try to help others avoid falling into the same traps... uninformed counseling and wrecked relationships due to beliefs that crossdressing is wrong and can be cured. I know it is a gift to be able to more fully experience our total being and can be a blessing, not a curse.

Since then I have sought purpose in life by devoting myself to outreach in hopes of trying to help others realize we have gifts to be celebrated and enjoyed, rather than dismissed as invalid. I extended my efforts to the broader LGBT community, all of whom have their own truths that should not be dismissed as misguided. I have learned that all have truths worth sharing, many of which I should apply to my own life and beliefs. I have learned much about life and love from everyone I have met.

My primary focus is to help others understand/accept crossdressing, something I can personally relate to,presenting regularly in classrooms, once giving an NPR interview , and immersing myself in projects locally, nationally and internationally that I hope will benefit CDs, their SOs, the medical community, counselors, and others. Too much damage is being done. I am reliving my youth by dismissing the dogma and prejudice I was taught, and opening my mind to new truths.

I wish I'd started this journey much earlier in life. I don't know nearly as much as I used to know, but am excited to learn/experience more, accepting both my male and female side as valid and worth developing, and better appreciating that we all have a lot to offer each other because we are DIFFERENT, and that is GOOD. It is far better to accept people's unique gifts than try in vain to dismiss or change them. Wish I'd known this before age 60, but one is never too old to learn!

Rhonda Lee
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