Male Cross-Dressing and Relationships
For a male cross-dresser, the desire to wear women’s clothes and take on a female persona often brings forth a mixed set of emotions. On one hand, it can be deeply refreshing and relaxing to escape into the feminine side of oneself, which may include wearing female clothes, make-up, or taking on a feminine activity or identity. Yet, this type of expression can come with a price of feeling shame or guilt since it is contrary to society’s stereotypical view of what a male “should be”. For some, cross-dressing or the desire to cross-dress, has been a long held secret and struggle, resulting in symptoms of shame, depression and frustration. Having a spouse or partner who doesn’t know, or who knows and is disapproving, can make it even more stressful for the cross-dresser. There can be a fear of unwillingly hurting one’s spouse by being honest about one’s feelings, and there may be fear of being abandoned if she disapproves. Yet, at the same time, cross-dressing can feel very natural, bring feelings of comfort, relaxation and peace. A confusing dilemma!
Spouses and partners of cross-dressers may have their own challenges in dealing with cross-dressing. For a partner suddenly faced with this issue for the first time, it can bring up feelings of shock, fear, denial, anger, betrayal and more. Spouses often question “What else is he not telling me?” They may wonder if their partner is gay, or does he “want to be a woman full-time”. (The fact is that cross-dressers are predominantly heterosexual men, and they don’t want to be “in fem” full-time.) It can be difficult for the spouse who feels she has no one to talk to for fear they both will be criticized and judged by others. In addition, there can be resentment regarding the time, money and energy that goes into cross-dressing. Spouses often feel a wide range of emotions, not knowing the effect it will have on their relationship and where to turn for information and support.
How Therapy Can Help
For the cross-dresser, psychotherapy will not make the desire to wear women’s clothes or the internal female persona go away. It can help someone explore how cross-dressing affects their life. This includes relationships, children, career, and how they see themselves spiritually. It can help one overcome issues that may sabotage high functioning. The goal is to maintain, reach or restore a positive sense of self that includes acceptance, approval, self-respect and the ability to thrive while resolving any issues affected by the cross-dressing.
For the spouse, therapy can provide a safe place to feel heard and validated. You can explore your role in the marriage and share with him what is important to you. You can identify what his behavior means to you and how it affects you. You can say what will work for you and what won’t. You can evaluate your definition of gender. You can evaluate how important you are to each other. You can make choices that work for you. The goal is to value yourself and your spouse and identify how to create a loving and happy future together.
Therapy provides a confidential place for partners to be heard and validated by each other, set guidelines for the relationship, and to promote respect and a deeper appreciation for each others wants, needs, concerns and boundaries. Cross-dressing is workable in a relationship or marriage when both people are willing to compromise and there is a mutual desire to make things work. Couples who work together with mutual respect for one another and the marriage, often strengthen their relationship with a greater capacity for intimacy and passion.
Houston Chronicle Newspaper – “Male Cross Dressers Admit Self-Expression Can be Risky”, Allan Turner Editorial
“Ask Denise”– Questions and Answers Column. The Mirror– Summer edition 2006
Houston Tau Chi Chapter – Support and Social Group for Crossdressers & Spouses/Partners.
Tau Chi provides monthly meetings, dinners, various social events, activities and outings for crossdressers. Monthly dinner meetings include presentations by make-up artists, hair specialists, psychotherapists, etc. See newsletter for events and calendar.
For a list of the current Transgender Support Groups in Houston, Texas go to: