During the 18 months with my therapist (a regular Jungian, not specifically-gender-focused), I processed through a number of general life topics and also a bunch related to gender dysphoria. Like so many friends I’ve talked with, I spent 30 years trying to quit female clothing, yet continually kept being drawn back to it. I’d beat myself up, feel ashamed, repent to God and myself, to my wife and accountability group friends, and then buckle down and try even harder to stop. But, it was never long before the desires crept back in. One time I even downloaded a sobriety app and white-knuckled it through two miserable years.

OK, back to the therapy journey … one of the questions I started asking myself was:

How much of my desire to feel feminine is because of my identity? How much is possibly due to behavioral or chemical addiction?  

When doing actions that society deems to be taboo, we often experience a sort of high. From what I understand, our body shoots endorphins (oxytocin, serotonin, and other such bio-chemicals) through our veins, generating a level of excitement. As with any pleasurable chemical, even biological ones, addictions can be formed. So when I spent time presenting my feminine self, I often described that experience as having felt free and it enjoyable, exciting, and peaceful. I felt the “pink fog” like so many of us have, and I questioned, “Why was I feeling it,” and “What was its source?”

We talked through the signs of addiction and which of them applied to my situation.

  • >You spend a lot of time thinking about it.
  • >You have a hard time giving yourself limits.
  • >You try to quit and are unsuccessful.
  • >You can’t stop yourself, even if you want to.
  • >You need more and more and build up a tolerance to the effects.
  • >You feel strange when the drug wears off…shaky, depressed, confused.
  • >You have a hard time taking care of normal everyday tasks.
  • >You fail to complete your work, home, and school obligations.
  • >You lose interest in things you used to like.
  • >You keep doing it, even when it makes bad things happen in life, conflicts with friends, family, and work.
  • >You have a new set of friends that create a kind of double life.
  • >You look through other people’s belongings for your fix.
  • >You eat a lot more or less than before.

I had to be brutally honest with myself; no under or over exaggerating; No hiding.

After talking through these, my therapist was pretty certain this wasn’t an addiction issue, but I wanted to keep checking it out. I decided on the goal of “making my feminine experiences boring.” That’s the way I worded it. I wanted to make those times so normalized that I wasn’t experiencing those bodily highs anymore. I figured that way, I’d see what kind of peace and freedom was left, so I could learn more about my identity.

I set a schedule. Once a week, I would go spend a day in the city, working, doing normal tasks (not shopping, which is another endorphin-injecting activity). I did this for four months. It became just another day in my week. And through this, I verified what my therapist already told me: this wasn’t addiction-based. That still didn’t mean it was identity-based. There were many more things to sort through. But this helped me to see that my feminine days didn’t harmfully affect my demeanor and my life production, they increased it. I was more productive and focused, more at peace and free, livelier and empowered.

This process didn’t answer everything about my gender dysphoria and behaviors, but it definitely put one important piece into the puzzle.

What have you done to sort through any feelings that could potentially be addictive?

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7 Comments
  1. *skippy1965(Cynthia) 4 months ago

    Hope-love your article. I’m still exploring my own journey and don’t yet know where the final destination is for me. I did write any articles over the last several years -exploring my thoughts and feelings much as you are. One of those was last summers “Sometimes She Screams!” where I realized that no matter where my path leas me ,, Cyn is NOT gonna be silenced completely ever again- for she is a big part of who I am and I won’t abandon her as I almost did years ago.
    Cyn

  2. Brie Anne 4 months ago

    Thanks so much for this post Hope! It’s very thought provoking. I’ve never really considered the addiction angle before. But, I found that I check more boxes on the addiction list than I’m comfortable with. It’s definitely something I need to explore further. Is this an addiction for me? If it is, what, if anything, do I need to do about it? Lots to unwrap there. Thanks again Hope!

    -Brie
    XOXOXO

  3. Ashley Parker 4 months ago

    Hope, I love this article. Thank you so much for writing it!
    I’ve thought a lot about these issues. As it happens I AM an addict (long-term opiates mostly). I went through rehab a couple years ago and have been completely clean and sober since. I have no desires to use drugs in any form. However, my CDing came back full force and it made me wonder if this was just another addiction.

    Yes, I think there are addictive qualities to the thrill of it, but something happened to me in rehab that makes me think it is not an addiction. We had to fill a questionnaire about past traumas (Have you ever been abused etc) and I was checking all the no boxes until I got to the last one: have you ever felt uncomfortable with your gender? Oh my god, it was like lightning. Suddenly the memories came rushing back of all the ‘feminine’ things I did and wanted to do growing up and I realized that there is a deeply feminine part of my soul. I believe now that I’m clean I’m expressing my true self and what I am doing is the opposite of addiction, but finding my true self, which I had been suppressing with substances.

    I still don’t know all the answer and it’s very frustrating since this is such a big part of my life, but I’m really grateful to be exploring with this community.

    Thanks again!!

  4. Elaine Hamilton 4 months ago

    Dear Hope, I loved reading your article and have experienced the same feelings as you have from the tender age of 8 or 9 and have continued to dress for years and years. My wife used to allow me to dress for role play in the bed room which I loved, but then something changed and and it all stopped (think she felt I was preferring the dressing to the intimacy with her). I have often suggested we try it again with no response, so as the urges of my female layer usually build up and so I would dress in private when she was not around, and went through the usual buying and purging routine. This never seemed to be enough and so I managed to find a dress maker on line and commissioned the most feminine dress to be made for me, this required that I get measured up, and so got dressed in a most pretty outfit with makeup and wig and attending the appointment dressed as best I could to pass as a women. Well the appointment went fabulously well and so I ordered another dress and did the same thing all over again. It was so exciting being out dressed and being accepted by the dressmaker, but I felt guilty that I was doing (or having to do) all this behind wives back, so u stopped and purged again. In couple of weeks my wife is traveling abroad and so I will have the house all to myself, and this time I have booked a one day make up lesson, which is so exciting and scary. This has again necessitated that I get a new outfit and wig for the occasion, which by the way through my purging spree’s is become an expensive exercise , but I just cannot help myself, even know I understand the risks involved and my “disloyalty” to my wife, but like you “I love both gendered expressions of my soul and wouldn’t want to lose either one” ….

    Love Elaine xoxoxo

  5. Amy Myers 4 months ago

    I too, have wondered if this is an addiction, as in a technical defined way. Certain aspects of this are certainly very pleasurable,so much so that one wants to repeat them to get that high, again, and again. But I too, have decided that there is more to it than that. I still have a strong male side, that I don’t want to give up, but the femme side just cannot be denied any longer. So, I’m not like some others here who have felt that they are trapped in the wrong body, and I find most women very attractive, and feel very hetro. But like others here, I too started dressing dressing at a young age, gave it up for ages, then did it from time to time over the years. Never had a problem with it, but late last year, for some reason, I felt that I wanted dress up more extensively, to the point where I could actully look feminine, and “pass” as the expression goes.
    My wife is alright with this, as she knew that I dressed at times, but then was a bit uncomfortable with me recently getting completely femmed up, as it were.
    Back to the main subject, I do find the need to dress up rather addictive, but how different is it from other things in one’s life that you love to do? For me, if I don’t play piano for a few days, it starts to bug me, and I just have to sit down and play for a while, likewise, I have a rather vintage car, and this time of year I just can’t wait to get it out for a nice long drive.
    The differences are many, as these are all socially acceptable things to do, but cross dressing, I’d like to define as “misunderstood”, as I think that there many misconceptions in the general public. Also it depends on the culture of the country you live in, even the district, where if you are, or even look gay, you will be attacted, and often much worse. Here in the fairly liberated West, Canada, in particular, “alt” lifestyles are becoming much more accepted that they used to be.
    However, the sense of peace and happiness that I have after a period of time in dress extends to way beyond the current moment, and usually, for me lasts well into the following day. Its’ a feeling I don’t get doing doing any of the other things I really enjoy. Certainly there can be a sexual aspect to this, sometimes more, sometimes less, and that can certainly be an addictive pursuit for many, but for me, and I think many others, dressing goes much further beyond just sexual satisfaction, to something far deeper. Just what and where that is, seems to be what most of us here struggle with.
    Being here, reading, and communicating with others, has helped to simply try to enjoy my femme side.
    As we age, we become more aware of the fragility of life itself, and it is too short to NOT do ones’ best to enjoy it, with respect to others, of course.
    Hope this isn’t too long!
    XXOO
    Amy

  6. anne-marie 4 months ago

    Obviously I cannot speak for any body else but I would say I am definitely addicted and self medicating by getting my daily fix of femme style clothing.

    I do however think that things go way deeper than this.

    As a young teenager, I would get a big sexual rush from wearing clothes – usually femme clothes but sometimes new male clothes. It wasn’t the feel of the clothing but what was going on in my head. I didn’t at that time think I was either boy or girl or even something in between. I was just me. Biological sex and gender didn’t even cross my consciousness. Indeed, I had never even considered what we now term gender. Despite all this wearing nice clothes made me really horny.

    Throughout my life I have done the purge thing on a number of occasions. This wasn’t consciously due to pressure from others, more due to a general feeling that cross dressing was wrong – is that why so many of us live life in the closet? Where does that feeli g come from – nature or nurture, perhaps both? I tend to think its part of a societal values base that says x-dressing is wrong. If this is correct then what is the base of that value?

    Now, just for argument, imagine a region or a state where men dress what we call ‘en femme’. If that place was our only experience of the world, how would we then think about wearing what we now think of as womens clothes?

    If we then encounteted a neighboring region/state where men wore only drab. What would we think of that place and if we began wearing drab in common with the home residents, would that be cross dressing? How about if we then wore drab in our home region/state (home)?

    Similarly if in our home women wore drab, if we subsequently adopted drab would we then be cross dressing?

    It is also often said that dressing helps us feel more feminine. How do we know that? Is what we feel the same as what women feel and does woman (A) feel the same as woman (B) about wearing a particular item of feminine clothing e.g. does (A) feel the same wearing a particular lbd as (B)? Is our experience then our projection of what we think it feels like to be a woman?

    Perhaps we are objectively male but subjectively female. Am I then as a genetic male really addicted and self medicating when I get my daily ‘fix’ of en-femme or am I just being true to my gender expressions?

    Perhaps its that we are all really mixed male and female biologically and/or psychologically……….

    Like I said things go way deeper. We are only just scratching the surface of a very complex biopsychosocial subject.

    The answers are out there. I just don’t think that anybody has found them yet.

    Thanks Hope for posing a very interesting, even a stimulating and thought provoking question. I guess the Pink Fog affects every member of CDH.

  7. Bettylou Cox 1 week ago

    Reading this article for the second time; the first time was immediately after I joined CDH. Now, with some experience upon which to reflect, I can say for certain that I AM addicted to the Pink Fog. Could I, or should I try to bring it under control, or even kick the habit? The thought reminded me of a question I once asked my Flight Surgeon back in my Air Force days: “How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb”?
    The answer: “Just one, but the light bulb has to want to change”.
    Well, this light bulb doesn’t want to. I suppressed Bettylou for too many years, to the point that I don’t have that many left – and I want to enjoy them all. I was an angry young/middle-aged/old man; it’s a miracle that I found a woman willing to put up with me. But I did, and I owe it to her to moderate Bettylou until such time as she is willing to accept this other me entirely. It can happen. Bettylou is more thoughtful, soft-spoken, and certainly happier than my alter-ego. I won’t parade her in front of relatives and friends who are likely to be offended; but I won’t – I can’t deny her existence. She is me, and we are one.
    Bettylou

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