Rays of hope, clouds of despair

The last few days were truly a roller-coaster for my crossdressing.

After my last post, I simply had to have a talk with my wife about it. This was actually about the end of my crossdressing session… but we talked for quite a long time. To keep it short: the major dilemma I have to face is to deal with what is more important for me, giving full reign to my urges and compulsions — and through that, diminishing my own personal suffering — or causing my wife’s anxiety levels to rise, forcing her to take extra medication and even risking another panic attack. This is a very tough dilemma when speaking about choices, where one’s personal choice will only cause the suffering of others and there is no way to rationally deal with the problem. Of course, my own “problem” is not rational either, but purely emotional (a state triggered by my condition as crossdresser, which I cannot physically change), so it’s hard to discuss which emotion should prevail.

At the end we sort of reached a temporary compromise. I cannot deal with my urges rationally, and I accept that my wife cannot deal with her anxiety rationally, even though her logical arguments are a bit stronger than mine. You see, she claims that when I’m crossdressed, I’m at a higher risk. This is a fact. Puritans might pick me as a target and attack me, which will not happen if I’m dressed as a male. Of course I can argue that we cannot truly and completely avoid getting attacked by robbers or merely angry or drunk people, and so, being anxious about accidents that might happen is not a sane concept: you might be stuck at home with agoraphobia, fearing the outside world, because there is so much that can go wrong. But even at home you’re at risk: a meteorite strike might puncture the roof and kill you. Or you can slip in the bathtub (or the shower, in our case) and hit with the head on the floor. Anything can happen: our lives are very fragile anyway.

But it’s true that when crossdressed all of the above can happen plus being a target from intolerant groups. That’s true. Also, if an accident happens to me, I’m more likely to get help if dressed as a male than if I’m crossdressed, which might trigger the “serves you right, you pervert” kind of reaction. So there is some ground for my wife’s anxiety. The difference between us two is not about the facts, where I concede that she has a point; it’s about how we react to them. I just pay more attention and take good care of myself when crossdressed in public; I don’t tremble in fear for imagined accidents that might happen (and thus losing all the pleasure and joy of going out).

So we talked about minimizing risks. We both agreed that the major problem is that we’re surrounded by intolerant people, some of them our neighbours, which might shun us (that’s the least that could happen — though they’re not really aggressive types). So perhaps going out dressed should be restricted to, say, short vacations in places where nobody knows us two, staying at a LGBT-friendly hotel. This is certainly something I have long planned to do — we simply can’t afford that for now, and it’s still something months and months ahead in time (if ever). But we could agree on that. (More on this below.)

Secondly, there are obviously LGBT-friendly spots, even near our home. My online CD friends living in Portugal meet all the time in many of those spots. While I’m perhaps not overkeen in just going to those places — I shall expand on that in a bit — we both agree that it is “safer” to go out to a LGBT-friendly bar or restaurant than asking for a coffee on a “regular” café. There, at the minimum, I’d get strange looks. I might be refused service and asked to leave. I might even be a victim of aggression (because I might be “tainting” the environment of the café and turning customers away). That’s true, so I had to agree as well about that. At the end, we agreed that it would be safer just to go out with some of my online friends, to see how I felt about it, and make sure it was on a LGBT-friendly environment. There is still some risk of “discovery” — mostly when getting in and out of the car; that’s the disadvantage of living in an apartment building without a garage. While on my previous “going outs” I just drove through the neighbouring towns at 3-5 AM in the morning — where everybody is asleep — these CD outings on LGBT-friendly places are much earlier than that: dinner usually starts at around 9 PM or so, and going to a drag queen show perhaps around midnight. So: going out much earlier means higher risks of meeting neighbours. Still, my wife agreed with the plan.

The only point I made is that I need some more practice driving around, with which she also agreed.

We also discussed some alternatives. A few CDs live relatively close to us, and we might think of inviting each other for dinner or something like that. Or perhaps I should try to reveal myself to my mother-in-law, who is a relatively tolerant person and might find my crossdressing “amusing”; we dine at her place every Saturday, sometimes with more family & friends, but often just us three. This would be a perfect pretext for me to go out. We filed that as a “possibility” which would depend mostly on my confidence in my mother-in-law to reveal myself.

Now, so far this sounds great, right? Well, sort of. When I said “my wife agreed” I should put that word in perspective. Usually, we mean with “agreeing” that “we both think the same way so we agree with each other”. This was clearly not that kind of “agreement”. She doesn’t “agree” with my decision of going out. She reluctantly agrees for me to go out because she feels how unhappy I am. But, in turn, if I go out, she becomes even more unhappy than me, and, worse than that, she might be prone to panic attacks (we sort of agreed that I would either go out when she was safely asleep, or, if it’s too early for her to go to bed, I’d keep texting her to say I’m well and safe). So this is the kind of agreement like you get on a war between two countries that hate each other but very reluctantly “agree” to stop the war because it’s leading nowhere, and each side makes some concessions to the other side. It’s not exactly the best analogy — because my wife and myself love each other, we don’t hate each other — but it’s the best I can come up with to express what we’ve actually “agreed” upon.

Of course I was rather happy (even if incredibly sleepy) at the results of the discussion. On the other hand, my wife was clearly very unhappy about it. Being on the losing end of this “battle” for seven years, I can fully empathise with her — I know exactly what makes her unhappy, and somehow it feels “wrong” to “win” the final war, when the result is just suffering for her.

I let this stay for a few days and didn’t mention it again — she’s someone prone to spend hours thinking about those things in silence, and it’s better to let her do so. But I had an excellent opportunity to dress during the Sunday before last, and so I announced — not unlike what I had done over a year and a half ago — that I would like very much to go out as Sandra, just practicing my driving and nothing else.

As expected, she didn’t take it well. I was actually expecting her to go back on her word, as she has done so often in the past years. This time she didn’t go back, but was clearly very unhappy about it, and so I said I wouldn’t go out if she didn’t allow me to go. She said I could make up my mind when she fell asleep — the decision would be up to me. So she took her anti-anxiety pills and tried to get to sleep, which she only managed to do after some three hours of restlessly turning in the bed. But finally exhaustion and medication gave her a deep sleep.

I need a nose job!

And of course I went out. I just did the same routine (but took a different path) that I had done a year and a half ago: drive around the neighbouring towns at 4 AM, and, on two occasions, leave the car and walk on the pavement, feeling the excitement of the sound of the boots clicking on the cobbled stones. Unfortunately, there was a light rain (I had an umbrella with me if the rain got too heavy) and also relatively cold, so I didn’t walk as much as I wished — and, of course, I was also already very, very tired, and when one’s tired, one is prone to make mistakes. This was all about controlling risks, after all, so after an hour and a half I went back home. I still was very happy about it, as this picture (taken in the car) shows 🙂

See the red eyes and the wrinkles beneath them? Yeppers, I was tired. But still felt extraordinarily well about it. This is definitely the kind of thing I’d love to do every day 🙂

Exhausted, I woke up late on Monday. My wife slept well, and, as she is prone to do, used the spare time while I was asleep to do some chores (our house is a mess!) but obviously also to reflect on things. If she’s daunting when she improvises — I have to tell you that she is a genius who was brought up in a family of geniuses; her own uncle, for example, could be the next Einstein if he managed to finish his PhD in physics; his ideas of how to explain the Universe, picking up where Einstein left, are fascinating to listen; but I digress — she is obviously much better in the morning, with a fresh mind, a clear head, and having given very good thoughts about the subject. While I was naturally a bit dizzy and sleepy. The point is that what she lacked in oratory skills on Sunday evening was vastly compensated with the argumentation after a good night’s sleep.

And here I will need to get back on Buddhism again. I have mentioned my own Buddhist training in past articles, but this will apply to anyone following a spiritual path. For example, this crossdresser managed to convince himself that his urges to crossdress were nothing less than the Devil putting thoughts in his mind. Focusing on that, he stopped crossdressing, and describes his own path leading away from it.

Now whatever your own personal spiritual path is, most of them (except perhaps for a few crazy sects here and there) just have two purposes in their teachings: explaining how to reach ultimate happiness, and how to avoid suffering. The way this is accomplished, of course, depends on the particular flavour of the teachings. In Buddhism, which has just these two purposes to deal with, the major difference — unlike pretty much any other system — is to train in the recognition that these two states (happiness and suffering) do not depend on external causes. It’s all a question of being in the proper mindset. The usual example given is that both believers and unbelievers suffer, and have moments of happiness that aren’t ever-lasting — so it’s not “faith” that makes a difference.

The major difference is on the method to apply to deal with the problems. This shouldn’t be too unfamiliar to anyone who did some therapy with a modern psychologist (i.e. as opposed to old-fashioned psychotherapy). They identify triggers — external conditions that will trigger a mental condition — but train their patients to identify how those triggers act upon mental processes, and teach them how to deal with them. In effect, the purpose is to separate the external triggers from the internal mental processes. When doing so, the patient is able to exercise freedom of will, by disallowing their usual, conditioned mental processes to be activated in the presence of a trigger, and activate (by an act of will power) a different reaction instead. There are a few techniques to do that, and usually (depending on the patient) you get results after some three years of therapy or so.

Buddhism techniques do pretty much the same — even though they take much longer, but have long-reaching effects — but there is a catch. They assume, for all purposes, that even the sanest person in the world is subject to react strongly to their own emotions, and by doing so, engage in activities (even mental activities) that will leave them in a state of insatisfaction. This “state” requires a bit of explanation. The technical term is dukkha which implies a degree of not being satisfied with something, of change, and of actual pain (mental or physical). It does not imply it’s always something “bad”. In fact, the most difficult aspect to understand about dukkha is that it applies to good things, too! Let me give you two typical examples. Imagine that you like ice cream a lot. If one assumes that one gets happy when eating ice cream, and the feelings related to ice cream were only “good” ones, then, the more ice cream you eat, the better you would feel.

But in reality what happens is that at some point you simply cannot eat any more ice cream. Your stomach is full. You can force yourself to eat more and more, hoping to get more happiness from ice cream that way, but there is a limit to how much you can take. If you continue to force yourself, you might get stomach cramps. This is the aspect of physical pain related to an activity that usually makes you feel good. But even if you stop eating ice cream well before that, you’ll be ever-so-slightly disappointed that you cannot eat more. You might be thinking about the next time you have an opportunity to eat more ice cream, and that thought is related to a feeling that you’re not absolutely happy until you get some more. This is dukkha, and we all experience it.

If ice cream doesn’t rock your boat, then perhaps sex will. Sex is one of the ultimately pleasing experiences; orgasm, or ecstasy, is possibly the strongest, most powerful “good” feeling we can have. So it’s natural we strive to get as much sex as possible. When finding the perfect partner, we might feel compelled to have sex with them for as long as we can. But depending on our robustness and age, we might not be able to hold on for many hours at a stretch. Even when young and healthy, and possibly very fit, we might manage to get the experience of having sex with our partner for a whole weekend and never leave the bed during those 48 hours. Nevertheless, we’ll have to stop and sleep; and maybe on Monday we’ll be incredibly sore, even though we might be otherwise fit and healthy. There is a limit to how much sex we can handle. So while the experience is undoubtedly “good”, at some point, it hurts so much to have just a little more sex, or one’s so tired that one has to give it up. Even if you’re not overly frustrated about it — after all, you might be able to do the same thing next weekend! — there will be a moment where you simply cannot go on and need to stop feeling the pleasure of sex to get the feeling of either outright physical pain and tiredness, or at least the feeling that “now I have to postpone making sex until the next weekend — how boring those next few days are going to be!”

Unless you’re seriously addicted to ice cream or sex, those moments where you simply cannot take it any longer and have to stop are not necessarily connected to “frustration”, “depression”, or even what we conventionally call “suffering”. It’s just the way things are: our body has reached a physical limit. When we reach that limit, we just have to wait until our body handles more of that wonderful sensation. This is dukkha. Normally, people don’t go to therapists telling them that there is something wrong with them since they wish to have sex all the time, but since the sensation of exhilaration has stopped for a bit and sex became painful, they have a “problem”. In fact, we just accept things as being that way — there are elaborate scientific explanations to explain why we cannot have sex and feel pleasure from sex 24h/day, 7 days a week — and don’t worry too much. We still crave for sex (or ice cream) “constantly” in spite of knowing we cannot have it all the time. Some, indeed, suffer so much from the absence of sex (or, again, ice cream) that the craving never ends, even though they might realise that it’s impossible to engage in 24h-a-day-marathons of sex (or eating ice cream) during the whole year because it’s simply physically impossible.

[shashin type=”photo” id=”1405″ size=”medium” columns=”max” order=”user” position=”center”]So how does Buddhism provide a method to deal with these things? Firstly, it encourages one to look at the source of the problem; and then, once it has been identified, to erradicate it. After that, something important and interesting happens: you can full enjoy the experience without suffering (in the sense of dukkha, not in the sense we usually attach to the word in the West) any longer. Here it’s important to understand that we all have a confused mind which usually never pinpoints the source or the cause of the problem correctly, and Buddhist training and practice exists to help us to identify that cause.

What we usually say is that the problem is caused by things like, well, “the way our brain is wired”. Hypersexuality — or addiction to ice cream — is not rational, but it’s “encoded in the genes”. Or, if we’re bahaviourists, we might say that being exposed to something repeatedly, we somehow get “addicted” to it and there is nothing that we can do about it, because we somehow have “interiorised” this experience. Social context and history (the way you were educated, the way you were exposed to the environment, the kind of relationships you have formed in the past) just reinforces the “addiction”. In effect, we sort of find out a lot of justifications for how we think about a certain compulsive behaviour, and push the cause into some kind of external thing — it’s the way we are, and we cannot change it. Western forms of treatment are usually a combination of drugs and therapy.

But what actually is the cause is far more subtle, and there is just one real “culprit”: our own mind. Due to a lot of circumstances, our mind functions in the sense of gratifying the ego, pleasing it through activities (and thoughts!) that make us temporarily happy. When these activities stop, we are unhappy, but we’re driven by those same circumstances to seek an ego-pleasing activity once more, and while we’re opposed in our search for those ego-pleasing activities, we reject — or even get openly angry at — every obstacle that opposes our desire. That can be a person (like our parents denying us some ice cream), a physical constraint (for some reason, our bodies cannot absorb more ice cream…), or a social conditioning of some sort (“it’s bad for you if you eat too much ice cream!”). These are ego-traps; the ego does two things at the same time: first, it enhances the qualities of the desired object or activity (eating ice cream — or having sex — is viewed as being way better than it actually is), and this reinforces the craving. Secondly, it diminishes the qualities of all obstacles in reaching that desired object or activity (e.g. the parents preventing us to eat ice cream are “evil”; our body is “weak” and “wrongly-wired”; the whole world is out there conspiring against us to prevent us from having more ice cream or sex). This “shifting of the blame” occurs all the time, and it’s part of our nature: we’re constantly doing it, even though we might not be aware of it.

Buddhism training exposes a method where we observe how our mind forges these ego-traps, and, with enough practice, one is able to recognise the moment when our self is forging a new trap, and identify it. When this moment is recognised, we have freedom of choice: we can indulge in those cravings — fully aware that they are ego-traps, created by our mind — or we can choose to avoid them (because we recognise them as ego-traps). Needless to say, it’s far harder to actually do it than to describe what happens. That’s why “weekend seminars” on Buddhist meditation will have little effect, and that’s why Buddhists take years or decades to achieve something that from a purely rational point of view seems obvious. Obvious, yes, but insanely hard to do. Why? Because we have lived a whole life (24 hours per day!) used to shift the blame to something outside our own selves, and this reinforces the way we automatically react to certain emotional states that get triggered by circumstances. We see a cup of ice cream, and instantly we crave to eat it, because we’re so well “trained” or “conditioned” to react to our emotional attachment to eating ice cream — over decades. Breaking that conditioning is obviously not going to be easy, and naturally it takes at least as long to “undo” it than to learn it in the first place.

It’s like riding a bicycle — or tying up your shoelaces, or learning how to write, or walking in high heels and applying makeup. At the beginning it’s incredibly hard. But after enough repetition, our mind learns how to do it, and we don’t give it a second thought — we just enjoy the benefits of having learned a certain behaviour. We can learn pretty much everything this way. Unfortunately, we also “learn” how to crave for ice cream (or for sex!) in the same way. Buddhist meditation is the method by which we “unlearn” those habitual tendencies that afflict our mind by creating ego-traps. Like anything new that we begin to learn, it takes time, patience, a lot of diligence, and the results take time to appear. But once we master it, we’ll do it automatically.

Buddhism is not so simplistic as too refute that there aren’t other circumstances beyond the mind. As in the example above: if you’re “unlearning” your craving for ice cream, because you rationally understand it’s not good for you, and are able to go for many days without feeling that craving desire to eat ice cream, when you suddenly see a cup of ice cream in a shop (or a friend brings some over to dinner because they know you love it), all that precious training will be lost. We might shift the blame to the ice cream cup itself for “causing” us to relapse, or even to the friend who brought you the ice cream, unaware of your training to get rid of the ice cream addiction. In fact, the “problem” is not in the actual cup of ice cream (since it doesn’t trigger the same craving effect on other people, it just triggers it for you) nor in your friend (who actually thought they were doing a kindness) nor even in society (which just says that overeating is bad for your health — a scientific fact, not a rule to put a burden on your conscience). They are, however, conditions or contributive causes. When you wish to plant an apple tree, it’s not enough to just throw the apple’s pips onto the soil. The pip (or seed) is indeed the cause of a new tree, but you need all sorts of things for the tree actually to grow: farmed land, sun, water, protection from weeds, fertiliser, and so forth. It would be silly to say “the cause of getting a tree to grow is sun and water”. We all know these are contributive causes; just the seed is enough. Similarly, to get a child to grow, all you need to start with is some semen and an ovum. But then you need to nourish the newborn baby, protect it from harm, cure it from any health issues, supply clothes, and of course give them some loving kindness, and, at last, some education. If all those contributory causes fail, the child might never fully develop into an adult.

What our minds tend to do is to “confuse” the contributory causes with the real causes, and, as such, we tend to wish for those contributory causes to be present, and hate when obstacles are put in the way. So, for instance, for having sex you need a willing partner and some leisure to get some sex. If you crave for sex, and suffer from lack of sex, it’s typical that you shift the blame either on the partner (which might be unwilling) or a lack of partner, or all the environment (society, work, family…) which prevents you to have leisure to have as much sex as you wish. You might even blame your own body for not being able to endure sex marathons of several hours or days without resting. But these are just contributory causes — triggers, if you wish — for having a fulfilling sexual experience. When in fact all you need is your mind.

Now this is something that our egos very strongly reject. In our ego’s constant craving for pleasant experiences, it rejects any “explanations” that prevent us from having those experiences. Even when we start rationalising about those experiences, our egos will create justifications for behaving like they do. We might enter a support group to help us to deal with our craving for ice cream — “Ice Cream Addicts Anonymous” — which will basically suggest methods to train our mind to deal with the craving. But even after we start the training, even if we get some mild or moderate success, the ego will strike back. It will, all of the sudden, start making us believe that we’re somehow “special”, by convincing our selves that “others are lucky, for them ice cream craving is just an addiction, while, for us, it’s something inherent in our being — it’s encoded in our genes, it’s part of our brain’s neural pathways, it’s something which is beyond rational explanation — and so we’re allowed to go after our cravings”.

This is rather frequent. Specially in modern times — and there is a good reason for that. Unlike the previous Puritan societies we used to live in — “don’t do this, don’t do that” — we have thrown away all values of the past in this so-called “more enlightened” society and created new values to replace them. One of them is that our egos are worthy of being self-pleased. Technically known as hedonism — a right to please ourselves and indulge in our wildest dreams, triggered by our emotions — it’s the hallmark of the modern world. We got rid of a collective notion of “sin” or “wrongfulness” and the associated feeling of “guilt” which tried to curb our strongest cravings to avoid us to fall into the downwards-leading spiral of constant suffering (because we will have constant craving). We felt that this was far better than constraining ourselves (which also leads to suffering), and, as a result, we hoped to get a happier society that way.

This is not the case. If we look around ourselves, we see that one third of the Western world is taking pills and doing therapy to deal with depression. Marriages are a joke: nobody seriously expects to remain with a chosen partner “for life” any more. People are wealthier and healthier, but that didn’t make them happier — the rate of suicides has steadily grown in our “modern” societies. Put into simpler words: in Third World countries, people die from hunger. In the developed world, we die from excess of food. Being overweight is a consequence of too much ice cream (stretching the analogy) because we feel we have the “right” to pursue eating whatever we please; breaking marriages is allowed because we feel we have the “right” to have as many sexual partners as we wish, and that novelty of experience is more important than being “faithful” (which is boring, depressing, constraining, and doesn’t really classify as “happiness” any longer). So this is not really about “don’t do this, don’t do that” — morals imposed by “someone” in their self-righteousness — but about what makes our lives more functional (and, as a result, more happy).

While our grandmas might have been sexually repressed and thus lived very unhappy lives, the current free-for-all sexual freedom doesn’t lead to happy lives. Sure, some people are happy that way. But in the times of our grandmothers, some people were happy as well. In fact, it seems that there might have been more people happier in the past  — hard to say, since people wouldn’t talk so much about themselves, and when they did, they weren’t that honest as nowadays — but even if there weren’t, all we can say is that neither extreme — artificial moral constraints or free-for-all morality — leads to complete and absolute happiness. Rather the contrary!

I do apologise for the long ranting, but in fact this was pretty much what my wife summarised to me on the day after my short drive around. Even though I obviously felt otherwise, what I am constantly doing is to justify my “right” to crossdress (more and more), or even the “right” to transition (as if that were possible…), and using that as an excuse for self-gratification. Now I obviously agreed that I was trying to get all pretexts to crossdress, of course — what crossdresser wouldn’t do the same? But when I try to justify it by saying “I’m different; my body/brain works differently; I have no way to change the way I am” what I’m saying is that I don’t have free will: I’m just a mere product of my emotions, triggered by my body (when I crossdress, I get ecstatic with the image) and my own mental processes (I love to feel, act, and behave like a woman) — all that to seek some sort of temporary happiness. While my argumentation might sound more rational than someone “justifying” their craving for ice cream — and it’s a far more elaborate argumentation, involving academic studies about what triggers the craving for crossdressing — when observed in a detached way, I’m not so different than an “ice cream addict”. I just have a different kind of addiction — a different way to please my ego — than others, but I use similar arguments to “justify” them.

Now, I’m not saying that I’m aware that somehow all my cravings and desires are “illusions” or “mental constructs” created by my brain to delude myself. No, I’m light-years away from recognising that. My usual image is the following: a person can desire to be a cat and go through surgery to become as closely possible to a cat. But we all know it’s impossible for a human being to be a cat. You can act like a cat, but not be one. Nevertheless, this person (shown in that article) has a strong wish to become a cat, and it’s not merely a fancy; he’s just “a cat in a human’s body”, but he cannot change his nature, and he suffered until he could at least become a simile to what his inner self tells him what his nature is.

Of course I can say — at a sufficiently high level of realisation, Buddhist masters can transcend all of that. They can discard their own body like clothes. If you think that’s wishy-washy mysticism from ancient times when people were more gullible, think again; these things happen every day in the 21st century. For us Westerners it’s an impossible-to-grasp concept because it goes against our experience. In the highlands of Tibet, in the present day, this is common-day experience. So common, in fact, that people don’t make a real fuss about it — they have lived for a millenium being constantly exposed to that kind of experience, so it’s natural for them. If you ask them why they cannot do the same, they will just shrug it off and say, “I’m not diligent enough in my practice. If I trained like those masters do, I would accomplish the same thing; I simply am too lazy to train that hard”. For us it sounds like magic; for them it’s just the difference between being a farmer (which takes little training) or going to university and become a doctor (which takes decades of study).

Now obviously I have not those “decades of study”, and I’m also lazy as well. This means that in spite of intellectually understanding that all my “urges” and “desires” are nothing more and nothing less than aspects of my mind — thoughts, if you wish — over which I’m supposed to have full control and a free will to decide to follow them or not, it doesn’t feel like that. Like a person wishing to become a cat, but cannot do so — even though, ultimately, having the body of a cat or a human is irrelevant, what counts is the mind behind it — I cannot become an ex-crossdresser by sheer amount of willpower. I simply have no willpower for that, and, more to the point, I don’t want to become an ex-crossdresser, and I don’t even believe I can become an ex-crossdresser at all. Of course I’m aware that some people can wish not to be angry or depressed people, and, with enough training, actually accomplish that. In those cases, I believe that the strongest reason is having a wish to become someone different. I don’t have that wish. I’m fine in being transgendered. If I have anything “strong”, it is the wish to become more transgendered, not less (as if “transgenderism” can be defined with adjectives like more/less). And while I keep thinking that way, I won’t change deep down in my self. I might take decades until I realise that those “urges” and “desires” are merely thoughts.

That doesn’t mean that I’m not working on it. For instance, a few things are the result of my training, but not all are positive in the sense of what my wife wishes me to accomplish. One is that I don’t get frustrated when undressing. Most of you might have gone through that terrible moment, when you’re having a lot of fun, but at last you have to remove your makeup, get rid of the wig, undress, and go to sleep — how terribly painful that moment is! Specially if you have no idea when you’ll have another session again! Well, it was like that for me, too, but not any more. I just enjoyed it until the end, but knowing fully well that everything has to come to an end, I relax, and enjoy the restoring sleep after a long session. On the next day I might watch some of my videos again, but with a degree of detachment, not of frustration, depression, or anxiety — I’m usually smiling, remembering the fond moments, but recognising them as merely more happy memories and nothing more than that.

Then my practice focuses mostly on paying attention to things. I’m naturally very unfocused and rarely pay attention; when crossdressing, of course, a lot of things require attention: remembering my pose, remembering that I’m even taller on heels and might hit my head on low ceilings (well, almost), remembering to take care not to smear the nail polish, remembering how to light up a cigarette as a woman, and so forth. But also, when driving, there are a lot of small details that are different – long hair gets stuck on the seatbelt, for instance. When going out of the car I have to remember how to place my legs on the ground in order to reveal little — like a lady does. All these things, which become more and more familiar with training, benefit a lot from my own Buddhist practice in attention, and become easier to accomplish.

The other thing is losing more and more the “fear of discovery”. This is also part of the training: losing the self-importance attached to my self which makes me “shy” away from “looking ridiculous”, by pushing the idea of “looking ridiculous” into other peoples’ minds — who cares what they think about me? I can only feel offended if I wish to feel offended — made me much more bolder in presenting myself publicly. Sure, I will attract a few laughs. So what? I’m happy if people get happy at my expense — isn’t that the point of my training, which is to make others more happy? My experiences so far only involved webcam chatting, of course, but I have great fun these days. If people laugh at me, I laugh with them! The more they attempt to make fun of me, the more I enjoy the session, and make fun at myself, too. As a result, in some chatrooms, my presence is usually welcome, because I make everyone laugh! (Of course, sometimes I get a few more serious comments — strangely coming from genetic women — asking me about makeup tips or similar things…)

So, thanks to my training, I diminished the level of post-session frustration, I’ve increased my attention, and I’ve managed to deal with the idea of being a laughing stock, and even enjoy that others have fun at my expense, and get some well-deserved laughter (which will make them forget their own problems in turn — isn’t that great?). These are real benefits, for myself and for others. But the crux of the problem is that I’m not even close in coming to terms with my transgenderism: it still feels like it’s something beyond my ability to “constrain” or “eliminate”. I simply cannot “let it go”.

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After this huge side-track, let’s get back to my conversation with my wife. To conclude, I admitted that she is right. I use my alleged “built-in transgenderism” — substantiated by all sorts of documentation on research in the field — as a justification for continuing to crossdress and do it more and more often. I give myself the excuse that, because I feel I’m transgendered, I’m “entitled” to go out, and who knows what else. I admit to all that. But I also admit that I’m not an enlightened being. If I were, I would be able to transcend the notions of gender or of “needing” to crossdress to feel more aligned with what I believe to be a core quality of my being. But I’m not enlightened. I’m not even a very serious practitioner. I might need decades — or perhaps a few extra lives! — to be able to reach that point. That doesn’t mean that I “gave up” on my practice: it just means that I (or my wife!) cannot expect that a few years of practice are enough for me to transcend my “needs” as a crossdresser. I can intellectually admit that my wife is right. But I simply do not experience things like she says. I’m very, very far from it. Rather the contrary: the more I observe my own mind, the more it seems pervaded by the urges and desires of becoming female and fully enjoying it. I realise, however, that this is just a first step: it’s not bad to be able to look at one’s own limitations, and work on going beyond those limitations. But I’m not at the stage of “going beyond my limitations” — not yet.

So — I told her — what this means for me is that being kept separate from my crossdressing will still make me suffer, even though I understand intellectually that it’s a suffering that I create for myself. I might justify it by claiming “it’s the way my brain is wired”, but I know that ultimately there is nothing “wired” in the brain — I just believe it is. Breaking that belief is, at this stage, well beyond me.

My wife proposed as a measure to work towards “breaking that belief” that I stopped chatting with my fellow crossdresser friends, and, instead, focus on observing what I feel and experience while crossdressed. She argues — and, again, there is no fault in her reasoning — that by chatting with other crossdressers I’m only reinforcing my own self-image as a crossdresser. This is part of her theory that no sane (male) person would actually like to be a crossdresser if they would have to worry every day about their hair looking right after waking up, or dealing with the period, or any health complication related to te female genitalia, and so forth (because she has to deal with all that, and even more). When a crossdresser puts on makeup and wears a fancy dress, she’s just creating an artificial, idealised image of a woman, where everything is positive and nothing is negative, so we crossdressers naturally find that image very appealing. Being female 24h/7 means having to deal with all the negative aspects of the situation, too. Now this is the kind of argument that I’m unable to reply to: because, of course, I have no experience in living 24h/7 as a female, I have no idea how I would deal with all those negative aspects. Would I find them so overwhelmingly painful that the desire to “look great” (meaning wearing makeup and fancy dresses) would simply disappear? Perhaps. That depends so much on so many factors. It’s true, of course, that I tend to minimise all negative aspects of being female, and enhance the positive aspects — all crossdressers and transgendered MtF will feel like that. Unless I transition and went through the Real Life Test, I will never experience the negative aspects of being female. So obviously I cannot contradict my wife’s argument. She might be right.

Then she added a further argument, which is one that I have alluded before on my earlier articles. I’m currently studying to be a teacher — both of computer science and also of Buddhist practice. In both cases, my appearance as a crossdresser will shun people away. I won’t be able to get a job as a transgendered person in any university; and I won’t be allowed to help others to do Buddhist practice if I appear in front of them dressed as a woman. So insisting on my “urges” won’t benefit me at all, and, more important, it won’t benefit others, either. Not to mention being shunned by neighbours, friends, and family. My wife doesn’t worry too much about that — when she’s being rational about it — except when she considers that my appearance will actually drive others away. And that’s something I’m not supposed to be doing: I should be encouraging people, not frightening them by showing an unusual appearance, which might make others question my sanity and the kind of things I’m supposed to be teaching. Teachers, whatever they’re teaching (well, unless it’s on a seminar about transgenderism…), should present themselves in a neutral way that is “politically correct” and doesn’t drive away potential students. Again, her logic in this aspect is blameless; and while we haven’t discussed this specifically, it’s obvious for anyone following my rantings that I’m not really keen in moving out to some remote place and become a sex worker or transvestite performer or something like that.

Now wait… wasn’t this only about going out? Well, yes and no. My wife is just following the reasoning to its ultimate consequences. She said that soon just “driving around” wouldn’t be enough, and I agreed. Then “going out” with some CD friends might lose the “novelty appeal” — I might have to agree with that, because, well, almost all of the crossdressers I know just share one single interest with me: crossdressing. When chit-chat about crossdressing is exhausted, what else is left? Unfortunately, I consider myself a pseudo-intellectual who requires a bit more from a friendship than just talking about lipstick, mascara, lingerie, high heels, and cocktail dresses. So, yes, again she’s right: going out with CD friends would, at some point, not “be enough”. So she assumed that going out in plain daylight would come next; and facing angry looks (or even violence) if I wished to go shopping fully dressed in the middle of the day — not to mention the high risk of being recognised by someone and losing all my credibility as a relatively serious and reliable person. Again, she’s right: I’d certainly love to go out during the day, and not necessarily with other CDs, but probably having a nice afternoon with my wife at an esplanade — that’s what we enjoy to do together anyway. And what would come next? Well, I’d become bolder and bolder, go out more and more often, until an “accident” happens — and an “accident” might very well be recognised by someone.

At this stage I was pretty much speechless, because, well, I had to admit that she was right.

She did leave a suggestion, however. As said, she suggested that we could go out for a few days and get a room on a LGBT-friendly hotel in a city where nobody knew us. That way, I could go out fully dressed and enjoy myself — and also see how I react being laughed at in public. Still, accidents might happen — like a car crash with me fully dressed — how would I react then? What my wife thinks is that I’d get so scared that I would never crossdress again; it’s possible, it could happen. In any case, having a short vacation where I’m dressed all the time (like I used to do before I met my wife; even though I didn’t go out much back then) is currently out of the question, since we cannot afford it.

She also hinted that we all have our dreams that will never be fulfilled — her own dream is to visit Italian cities (she’s attracted to the architecture, since that was the training she had at university). Sadly for her, when we could afford travelling, we never had the opportunity (time!) for doing so — I worked 350+ days a year and had no time for vacations (the remaining days we did, in fact, spend on some short vacations, but always inside our country, Portugal). And I didn’t even know when I’d be free for taking a few days off. Well, now I’ve got plenty of time — or rather, I have a much more flexible timetable, so I could fit any amount of vacation days pretty much when I wish. But now we have absolutely no money 🙁

She is fully aware of that, and, after a lot of thinking about it, she managed to persuade herself that her own dreams would never come true, and it would be stupid to pine away in frustration for something that will not happen. She just watches movies and pictures of the cities that she would love to visit, and remains content with that. I should have the same attitude about my very limited and restricted crossdressing.

As you might imagine, after the thrill of going out, this was a serious blow. In a sense, I had this strange premonition that this would be a one-of-a-kind experience. I didn’t even talk much to my CD friends about it — I was expecting something of the sort to happen, but not at this level: I was just fearing a postponement of the next time out. What my wife sort of hinted at was far more overwhelming: stop thinking so much about your dreams of crossdressing. Face reality: you will never be more than what you are now. Be content with what you have. Forget about your dreams, as I (my wife, that is) have forgotten about mine.

That was a hard pill to swallow. Now, on a previous article, I mentioned that some wives might be very tolerant and even slightly encouraging while their CD hubbies remain at home. Since then, I’ve seen a lot of similar reports from other CDs. Many report that, at some point, their wives have pretty much the same conversation — the arguments might vary; my wife is extremely rational, while other CD wives might be more emotional about it — and put a stop to the “going out silliness”. All seem to reason in pretty much the same way as my wife did: if you start going out, when will it stop? What is the limit? So they enforce the limit: stay at home.

In my case, there was even a second limit to be imposed: stay at home, don’t chat with your CD friends. Then perhaps crossdressing loses a bit of its “positive” image. Being bored when crossdressed should show you that it’s the same as being bored in male clothes. That was the second blow.

Needless to say, this evoked a feeling of deep frustration. While you all know how patient I can be — waiting years and years for my wife’s agreement on CD-related things — there was always a certain amount of hope and expectation: maybe next year she’s more willing to let me out; maybe in five years I might be allowed to travel crossdressed, etc. My own plans for this year were to try at least to get some therapy from a professional. After this discussion, I feel that need even more, although I also fear what the therapist might say — you see, these days the current fashion in therapy is to “build up a stronger self” (which runs contrary to my own Buddhist practice), and a therapist might turn me against my own wife, and that cannot work well (some CD friends already have warned me about that). As my wife so well put it: “I don’t want to be seen as someone evil which prevents you from having fun. Instead, I wish you to observe your thoughts and feelings well, and realise how stupid your own expectations are.”

Again, this has a ring of rightness. But on the other hand, I suddenly realised I lost my last drive in life.

I will have to step back a bit again.

When I was a teenager, I had this idea that I wished to work on computer science research. But my experiences on a State-funded research lab weren’t the best, so I dropped that “dream”. Shortly thereafter I started my first experiences with crossdressing — and got my first information about crossdressing on the Internet too. I sort of justified it because I had a very confusing relationship with my former girl-friend. She sort of hinted that I should risk a bit more instead of sitting all the time in a research lab, and somehow this would make me more “worthy” in her eyes. So I followed her recommendations, left the lab, and built an Internet start-up from scratch. This was a few years before the dot-com bubble, so it was actually very successful. Sadly, this also meant working insane hours, and, after a while, my girlfriend left me, because I simply couldn’t keep up with my appointments with her…

This was truly a turning point in my life (even though it was later wasted…). I decided back then that I wanted to be a millionnaire before I was 30 years old. I didn’t want to become a billionnaire — I have no greed — but just having enough to be able to enjoy the rest of my life without having to work (the perfect dream of a lazy person!). But by that time, I had a secondary goal — one that nobody suspected. If I could afford to live just from interest in the bank — and I’m frugal; I could certainly have an enjoyable living with just half a million in the bank, it would be enough! — then I could also eventually transition in safety, not needing a job to sustain myself, and thus avoiding the terrible dilemma that every transgendered person has to face when trying to live in a workplace which is intolerant of transgendered people.

So, unencumbered by a girlfriend, I did really work hard for a few years. And I did make close to a million dollars — not before I was 30, I was actually already 31 at that time. 🙂 My plan seemed to be working! The only “gotcha” was that in the mean time I was already dating my wife, and we already spent all the time together. I was not keen in getting legally married, so I actually bought just a tiny bachelor apartment, because I didn’t expect our relationship to last long (at that time, I put little trust in “relationships”). I didn’t know anyone in this town where I bought the apartment, so it would also be a “safe” place for my crossdressing sessions.

A lot went wrong after that: The dot-com bubble crashed, and with it the financial system collapsed; I believe it was even worse than the current crisis we’re going through — at least it was for me — the difference being that the media shrugged it off as being “something affecting only the computer industry”. In reality, for me, it meant that all my money in the banks disappeared in less than a year — literally it vaporised! Just one of my banks lost 100,000 (!) customers over a year, as their money all disappeared. How? It’s way too complex to explain here and requires a detailed explanation of the devious and tricky ways banks have to screw their customers… The point being, after a few years, not only I lost everything — money, cars, even my home — but I had accumulated an insane amount of debts and was being stalked by petty criminals who couldn’t believe I had lost all the money and attempted extorsion (threatening me and my wife); I had to leave for half a year and let the police do their work. (I wasn’t much lucky, though; all the police managed to do was to scare them off, but since they very likely left the country and never bothered me again, it pretty much amounts to the same thing.)

Well, I didn’t give up easily; after a while, I was determined to “raise from the ashes” and build up everything from scratch. It would take longer — I was not as young as when I was 24-25, I had less energy, and the opportunities in the post-9/11 world were much more scarce than before. Then this current crisis hit at full force, and I pretty much resigned myself to forget all my dreams of becoming a millionnaire again merely by working hard. The economy never recovered enough after 9/11 and the dot-com crash, and this second crash was too overwhelming for an economy that was barely recovering. So I have pretty much abandoned that plan; now my only “plan” is to survive at minimum wages — enough to eat, have clean clothing, take a bath every day, and get access to the Internet. Ironically, adjusting for inflation, I earn now the same I did back as a junior researcher in 1995 — but now I have to sustain myself and my wife (who is too ill to work), plus pay huge debts, as opposed to living with my parents with no financial worries.

There was just one thing left on my plans for this current life: build up on my crossdressing, eventually considering transition at some point. The problem is that, unlike in the pre-9/11 days, now I have no money to sustain myself, except through work — and there are no jobs for transgendered people. Also, back then I had more than enough for all kinds of plastic surgery, if the need arose. I could buy a new house in a completely different city if I needed to. I had no problems in buying clothes to stock up a female wardrobe from scratch. So, back then, I was all set up for the “transition scenario”, if I truly wished to go ahead; even if I had to move away from everybody and everything, and could even afford to hire someone to buy groceries for me if I wouldn’t be able to go to a supermarket (due to ostracism). Alas, all that is just the past, which doesn’t exist any longer, and it’s pointless to dwell in the past, hoping for a future that will never be.

So, sure, I still stuck to crossdressing as my “last plan”. But for me, time is running out. When I was 25-30, I would look great as a woman with enough cosmetic surgery. 15 years later, I need a lot more surgery. In another 10 years, no amount of surgery will be able to make me look good enough — and afterwards, as my body declines in vigour and looks, I will just be able to enjoy “life as an old lady”. That’s not terrible in itself, but it will mean moving away from elegant dresses with a lot of cleavage to show and dress in more “sensible” clothing with uninteresting dressing styles. As my wife remarked, after a certain age, there is simply no fun any more; the advantage is that, as you get older and older, males and female tend to become less distinguished in their appearance, so having the proper hairstyle and clothing is pretty much the only difference — there is less need for surgery with advanced age. Still, I guess you get my point: after a certain age, the urge to crossdress and feel female will be offset with the inability to attain a “perfect” image.

All of a sudden, thanks to all this, I sort of lost my purpose in this life.

Oh, don’t read me wrong; I’m not at the lowest levels of depression and considering suicide 🙂 I’m not even “depressed” in the usual sense. Disappointed, sure; sad, yes; but not more than that. I finally realised that we truly don’t live much time, and that all our available time disappears in an instant. And for me, that time seems to be over: there is little else that I can do in this life to be part of my “plans”, whatever they are. The least I can accomplish, for now, is to somehow be able to help others to lead better lives — I’m training for that as well — and this will definitely make my life worthwhile, if I can teach at least one person to be happy, and hope that they, in turn, will be able to use their time much better than I did to teach many others to be happy as well.

In a sense, it’s a strange feeling. But when one’s ultimate hopes and expectations get finally discarded, somehow life seems not to be so “stressy”. I can appreciate the little things much better. Without having a “plan” it also means that I won’t get frustrated or anxious because “things are not running according to my plan”; in fact, it seems that I have much more “freedom” than before, just because I don’t feel “conditioned” any longer — I just happily trod along, without fear of “failing”, but without needless hopes of “achieving” anything.

In the mean time, of course I will enjoy to continue to crossdress. I also look forward to be able to go out more, even if it requires a lot of grovelling in front of my wife. I even came up with a very devious trick. If my wife is so frustrated because she will never be able to visit the Italian cities she so much craves, and if I wish to stay a few days in a place where nobody knows me so that I can enjoy my crossdressing in peace — why not combine both? Thanks to some ads I’ve been selling on a few blogs I maintain, I have a little stashed away for emergencies. It’s not unreasonable to believe that I might be able to get enough, in a few months, to afford a trip to Italy. I’ve researched some of the cities that my wife would love to see, and there are LGBT-friendly hotels there (not many, but a few). All it takes is some recommendations from local groups — I wish to avoid going into a “rowdy” hotel where people are just there for a one-night stand having wild sex — but it’s definitely feasible. This shall be my next, small goal.

So instead of thinking about grandiose plans — like how to plan for transition! — I’m sticking to these very small goals. First of all, getting more comfortable in driving crossdressed. Maybe get authorisation from my wife to join a CD going-out night. Experiment with a trip to Italy and remain crossdressed in plain daylight for a few days, to see how I react to being laughed at in public. Desperately try to find further sources of income, because I need to get a new corset (the ones I bought more recently do not properly fit my long torso; and the old one, which I bought almost a decade ago, is literally ripping apart at the seams, and I’ve lost weight and it’s already getting too large — my waist is now slimmer than it was a decade ago!). The unexpected waist slimming also means that a lot of my dresses need the attention of a seamstress — specially my old faux fur coat, which is now some 2 or 3 sizes too large for me! I also need a pair or two of new shoes, some brown boots (I have a lot of brown clothes…), and possibly a few more basics and… well, you get the picture. All small things for getting a more passable image.

Then I really need to talk to a psychologist who is a specialist in gender issues. I’m not sure what exactly will happen after that, and most likely I won’t just take a single opinion, but listen to what two or three specialists have to say. The approach will be slightly different from what I had in mind: probably putting more the focus on dealing with the issue that I will never transition, instead of looking at the possibilities of eventually transitioning. Depending on what the response is, this might involve some hormonal treatments — I have read cases of crossdressers who were in similar situations than mine (i.e. unable to transition) and the hormonal treatment just diminished their “urge” to crossdress or even to think about it, by giving their bodies a slightly less masculine appearance, which would be enough for them to feel much better with themselves, but still present themselves as males in public. This might be a possibility. I regret not being able to get nice D cup implants in the future 🙂 — there is no way to hide that  under male clothes! — but it would be fun to have natural B-sized cups, which would be unnoticeable without a push-up bra, and I think that these are attainable with some hormones (I have enough breast tissue to classify as [small] A cup already; this is normal, it comes with age…). I would have to avoid the beach, of course, but I’m not a beach person anyway. So this is also a possibility.

At that stage, I would also probably “reveal” myself to some selected members of my family and friends, although I have not many options. Both my wife and myself agree that her mother might be tolerant; I’m thinking about the best way to approach this, because one plan — if my mother-in-law agrees — would simply to go out to the regular family dinner on Saturday evenings as Sandra. As said, these dinners are almost always restricted to just us three (very rarely, we get a few friends as well — sadly of the most intolerant kind, they’re right-wing extremists, and one of them a pious Catholic), so it would be a safe environment and add for variety. My wife just said that the decision would have to be mine. That requires a lot of thinking on how to deal with that, but it’s a good first step. Sadly, among the rest of my friends, few are tolerant persons, and it’s even worse on my side of my family: there are no friendships with LGBT people there. Strangely enough, nobody even has gay friends, so it’s a whole world that they simply  never got in touch with. (The only gay person I actually know is an old friend from my wife and her sister, and he’s absolutely accepted — they have been friends for decades, and his revealed homossexuality didn’t interfere with the relationship. But that’s the sole exception. On my own family’s side, as well as on the list of my friends, nobody has any contact with anyone remotely homossexual or bisexual…)

Small steps. Forgetting about the “grand picture”. No more hopes, no more expectations. No more “life plan” for me. No more dreams about the future, no more planning for a better future, just taking things along as they come, and be content with the little I get. That’s what I have to face now. It’s tough, but it’s all for the best!