Malcolm Gladwell defined on his book Outliers that to achieve extraordinary performance in a field of study, it takes about 10,000 hours of practice. This number came from research into the lives of very successful people in several areas, and the conclusion was about the same.
While this theory has been debunked (it’s not just mindless repetition that does the trick, you need to be actively engaged in the activity), it nevertheless “rings true” in several areas. For example, college degrees take 3-5 years to complete — about 10,000 hours. Similarly, when hiring an employee for a position with some responsibility, you usually look for someone with 3-5 years of experience. Doctors need at least 5-6 years, but often more, until they are allowed to begin to practice on their own without supervision. A PhD is also expected to take 3-5 years, during which the student is expected to learn how to do scientific research on their own. Even in the realm of Buddhist meditation, you’re only supposed to have a thorough knowledge of meditation practice after doing a 3-year retreat, where you will be doing nothing else for around 12+ hours per day — giving, once more, at least 10,000 hours of practice (and I’m pretty sure that the Buddha didn’t read Gladwell!).
After, say, some 5 years of driving around, you’ll do pretty much everything by instinct and really start to enjoy driving, as opposed to be constantly watching for what you should do next. In a sense, the same applies to many activities: imagine sports, or learning to dance or to sing. At the beginning, everything seems complicated, there is just so much to learn, and nothing might actually make sense, but you try very hard to go through the motions. Given enough time — several thousands of hours — and not only everything becomes easy, natural, and intuitive, but also enjoyable, and — here is my point! — you start to understand why those first steps you took make sense. ‘Making sense’ of your activity is also something that starts to happen when you have that experience.
No wonder that when you go through transition, doctors recommend doing the Real life Test for 2 years, or, at the very least, 1 year. Being a woman 2 years at 16 hours/day means a little more than 10,000 hours; you ought to be an ‘expert’ at being a woman by then, and do everything naturally, enjoying it, and get some insights of what it means being a woman. Again, the numbers might not be a coincidence.
I have blogged often about my earlier experiences, when I spent hours and hours doing my makeup, over and over again, thinking that I would never master it, specially because I have no artistic talent whatsoever, so ‘painting my face’ was something I could never really accomplish. Obviously, with plenty of practice — and no, I’m nowhere near the 10,000 hours; but I have certainly ‘clocked’ a few thousands — it becomes way more easier, even for someone without any artistic skills. It’s mostly because you start to understand what those makeup tips actually mean. You realize how different brushes apply pigments differently. You start to discard low-quality makeup, because you understand why it doesn’t work so well — not due to prejudice, or because someone told you to keep away from those Chinese products, but because you have learned what works and what doesn’t. Then you can start breaking rules, enjoying yourself doing your makeup, experimenting with non-standard ideas and concepts, and, generally speaking, have fun with doing your makeup: you have not only acquired the skill, but also the insight that comes from understanding how it works.
Gladwell seems to focus his ‘10,000 Hour Rule’ to specific activities, skills, techniques, and so forth, but I would pretty much apply it to all kinds of activities… and mental states. For instance, learning how to walk in high heels (and enjoy it!) takes hundreds of hours, but at some point, it ‘clicks’ and you will never think twice about things like your balance, how you should move your body, how you should place your feet on the ground, and so forth. People that learn that I’m a crossdresser (specially women!) are still baffled that I can actually walk in high heels, but I find that bafflement strange: it just took practice. But from their experience, it’s something ‘very hard to do’, specially if they just have tried it out for a couple of hours. Walk in them for hundreds of hours, and you won’t find it ‘hard’ — just enjoyable. That’s a definite skill, and Gladwell’s Law applies to that easily.
But other things are more subtle. ‘Being a woman’ — or rather, adopting the social conventions associated with the feminine gender — is not quite a skill, but certainly a mental state. And, as such, I claim that the 10,000 Hour Rule also applies to it. ‘You’re so femme!’, exclaim some fellow CDs when they see me for the first time on the webcam. I usually disagree — I watch myself all the time, and I don’t look femme. But for many years a lot of my gestures, expressions, and body movement has slowly become ‘second nature’ to me — because of so many hundreds or even thousands of hours doing them (I estimate about 4,000 hours). So I don’t need to act at ‘being femme’. I don’t need to do it consciously. It just happens because, well, I’m so used to do it, it just happens — although I’m still not an ‘expert’. I’m still self-conscious about it, most of the time. And that’s because I’m still missing lots of thousands of hours of ‘practice’ at ‘being a woman’.
Still, there are some ‘insights’ (deliberately between inverted commas…) that become manifest with these thousands of hours. One is that certainly there is a sense of relief, of ‘being what I am’, of excitement (coming from adrenalin rushes), common to all crossdressers, which is in-born, it’s somehow encoded in our DNA (or, more likely, in the way we developed as embryos, if current medical science is correct), and that aspect we cannot change: we are crossdressers since emerging from our mother’s womb, and, as such, we will always feel that exhilarating sense of freedom and happiness that comes from finally being able to present ourselves as members of the gender we identify with. This is somehow ‘wired in’, and that’s why crossdressing cannot be ‘cured’, like we cannot be brainwashed into thinking we’re not human (even if we try hard!).
But there is more. We male crossdressers spent all our time being ‘conditioned’ to adopt the social role of the male gender. How many tens of thousands of hours is that? Obviously, so many hours will make us very proficient in our male gender role, and it will come ‘natural’ to us (unless we are really transgendered and have fought all our lives against that role). When switching to the female gender role, all is new, and sometimes utterly complicated. We’re happy merely because we can finally discard our male gender role, at least temporarily, and that is what gives us such pleasure and relief and happiness that we keep doing it over and over again. But there is more to it. As we continue to spend more and more hours presenting ourselves as female, we’re acquiring the ‘skill’ to be feminine as well. It’s not a ‘skill’ in the sense that learning a trade is a ‘skill’ (although there are certainly a lot of ‘skills’ to learn — how to do makeup, how to walk in heels, how to pick a dress, how to do your hair, how to move around, etc. All these are, indeed, ‘skills’). Being feminine, however, is much more than the sum of those skills: the female gender role is much more than ‘merely’ putting a dress on and painting your eyes with garish colours! (It would be insulting to women to claim that!) I’m aware that this might sound insulting to some partial crossdressers — something which is perfectly normal, acceptable, and absolutely right to do! — but there is much more to ‘being a woman’ than to buy some cheap seamed stockings and perhaps some stilettos.
Now, what is that ‘something more’? Obviously the answer is different for each person, but I would say, roughly speaking, that it is an experience utterly impossible to get when playing the male role. And this is what is so fulfilling. Obviously, for most crossdressers, it’s the sexual experience: the idea of ‘feeling like a woman getting sex’, which you obviously cannot ‘get’ in the male role.
For many it’s the sensual experience of the wonderful feeling of female clothes, which are so much nicer and finer than male ones. So, again, we’re talking about pleasure of the senses — as a male, you cannot be pleased by what you wear in the same way that you can by wearing femme clothes.
For me, while obviously enjoying the luxurious pleasure of female clothing and attire (I even like the feeling of makeup on the face; or the delicate touch of nail polish; not to mention the smell of perfume; and, of course, nothing beats the whole feeling of long hair, brushing all over the uncovered parts of your skin; all these are very exciting experiences), there is also a mental thing going on, and I think that for me that’s what gives me everlasting pleasure.
It’s the attention I get!
Now, ‘narcissistic’ and ‘crossdressing’ are almost synonymous 🙂 To the best of my knowledge, there are no crossdressers that don’t enjoy looking at the mirror (unless there are some extreme masochistic subgroups in the crossdressing spectrum that I’m not aware of). Obviously, at some deep level, even if we’re not entirely happy with what we see, there is a lot that we like, and our brain tends to compensate by ‘downplaying’ what we don’t like.
We also buy clothes, accessories, makeup and so forth because we truly enjoy the way they look on us. Every crossdresser has a mirror. Many have webcams, too 🙂 and make movies of themselves for later viewing (even if most of those pictures and movies never go public; in fact, often some crossdressers are found out because their wives get access to their footage ‘by mistake’…).
But there is still something beyond that, and, I think, this will depend a bit on who you were as a kid.
Now I’m not going into the extremes of gender disphoria, but just to the level of what many crossdressers tell about themselves. They tend to like women’s clothes much more to their male ones from a tender age, even knowing that ‘it’s wrong’ and they are not allowed to put them on. Many also report having felt much more at ease playing with girls — which often involves storytelling, imagining things, talking a lot — instead of playing ‘boy games’ (which are mostly about strength and competition). And some, like myself, even go further and remember that they always felt that ‘something was not quite right’ when they were teens.
It’s not even about sex. It runs deeper. It’s the strange feeling of feeling deeply attracted to women (which is normal for a hetero male) but also to female things of all sorts (which is weird) and a sense that one’s performing a role, at which one’s not so good at. The result? Often it gets manifested as shyness, a general feeling of being uncomfortable around others, of not fitting in the group, of having to pretend to like certain things to be part of the group while secretly loathing them.
This runs deep. And no wonder that so many T-girls (not all, of course) are geeks and nerds. They were excluded, left outside all groups because they never managed to ‘fit in’, and turned inwards, finding their own entertainment.
One thing that went along with that (certainly that was my case!) is that there was a thorough lack of interest from the members of both genders. Girls don’t want to date nerds! (Things are slowly changing, though) But guys find us odd and strange because we share no common interests with them. So we’re subtly excluded, or victims of bullying, ostracism, or, well, most commonly, total indifference.
Well, that was certainly my experience. I mean, I felt things were mostly unfair. I fought a terrible battle against my shyness when I was 15, and I overcame it. But that clearly wasn’t enough. Girls simply ignored me, although I distinctly remembered that one or two were actually surprised when they decided to talk to me, often out of boredom, but then realizing there was ‘something’ worth talking about to me. Still, the ‘outsider’ effect was too strong, and they quickly lost interest. By the time I was 18 or so and moved on to college, I was pretty much resigned to the fact that I was an utterly uninteresting person to either gender, and, not unlike what I had done at high school, I was merely part of a ‘group of geeks’ — the group of members who didn’t belong to any group (a sort like the Groucho Marx paradox: ‘I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member’).
The truth is that I never really had anything that would make me interesting to any gender. During a short period of time that changed, thanks to the ultimate source of sex-appeal: money. That certainly helped a bit to turn me into an ‘interesting’ person, at least for a while; easy comes, easy goes, as the saying goes… and so, my sex-appeal was gone, too.
Ironically, when I present myself as a female — and not even a very convincing one! — all changes. Strangely enough, I become an object worthy of attention, and that’s a novel experience for me. I’m still stunned when YouTube says that my videos were viewed 1.4 million times. Sure, that’s for almost eight years of posting videos, but still, it’s a staggering amount. Why is there so much interest? It’s a channel for smoking fetishists who also happen to have no qualms about crossdressers. As such, it’s a niche market inside a niche market; I would expect a few thousand views from a hundred or so subscribers, but that’s not the case. Why?
My videos — as indeed my blog posts! — are anything but ‘attention-gathering’. I don’t wear sexy, slinky outfits. They’re not particularly sexy, unless, of course, you are a smoking fetishist. I don’t rant on video about all sorts of topics, which seems to be the kind of thing that creates Net Celebrities. I don’t sing, or dance, or do any kind of thing requiring talent. I don’t do makeup tips or cooking, another two sources of ‘attention-gathering’. I don’t post slapstick comedy, or Schadenfreude-inspired videos with people getting harmed. My videos are (mostly) low-quality, the plot is terrible, and they tend to be variations of a theme. So why do they appeal to so many people?
Interestingly enough, I keep stumbling upon my fans on webcam chats like Cam4 or xHamster. On those videochatrooms, popular for their (mostly) free amateur porn, I do a pretty boring routine: I just chat and smoke. Often I don’t even smile. When I chat, it’s always about high-brow, boring subjects. I entertain those who are up to some deep intellectual conversation (and who would imagine I’d find so many people interested in that kind of conversation on those sites!) and scorn (or ignore) the rest. Nevertheless, they’re tremendously popular. Why?
A certain article I read about the power of female persuasion gives some hints towards an answer. There is apparently an incredible strong appeal to the male gender about women who are both mysterious and hard to get. There is the instinct of the chase. Sure, guys love porn, and most get quickly bored if they cannot get them on porn sites. But many react very strongly to the appeal of the chase: the harder I refuse to strip down, the more interested they become — and that interest, surprisingly, means that they are quite willing to chat a lot with me, often for hours, just in the hope of getting a flash of a bit of flesh (a vain hope, though). The more I’m honest about my unwillingness to ‘show’ anything, the harder they try, and the longer they stay around.
A whole study could be written about what drives the male gender just from those videochats. It’s quite interesting to see how the male psyche truly believes that showing a female their cock is enough. It’s even more interesting to see how they believe that masturbating in front of a camera is the best way to attract a partner (gosh, are they wrong about that). But, on the other hand, it’s quite true that nature has conditioned the two gender roles to have completely different behaviours. Women don’t need to do much of an effort to gather attention; men fight for a tiny fraction of their attention.
This, as you can imagine, is totally the complete opposite to what I used to experience during most of my life. Suddenly, in spite of having nothing worth showing, I become the centre of attention, just because I present myself as someone of the female persuasion. Interestingly, it matters little how good I look, or what I’m wearing. All that matters is that I look vaguely like a woman and play hard to get. There’s nothing else I need to do!
Obviously, my ‘field study’ is a bit flawed. On Cam4 as well as on xHamster, people know that I’m not a genetic woman (although a lot get easily confused 🙂 ) beforehand. This means that most males are interested in having sex with a T-girl, and since the percentage of available T-girls is not so high, they’re easily drawn to the few that show themselves on a webcam. Still, I can say that about 90% completely ignore the channel’s information about my gender, which is even more baffling. Of course a few get annoyed (most often, they’re either very young people, still struggling with their own gender, or elderly Puritans) when they find themselves ‘cheated’, but these are rare events.
I’m generally open about my gender, though, and always honest in saying in advance that I’m happily married for 16 years and not looking. But sometimes I can play the ‘mystery’ card a bit. When asking me directly, ‘are you a guy or a girl?’ I usually answer, in typical female fashion, with another question: ‘can’t you tell?’ Most people can, of course, but males like to get positive feedback on all their actions, and they get a bit confused when they don’t get it. My favourite questions are always: ‘Are your boobs real?’ to which I honestly answer, ‘No, they’re 100% silicone.’ I don’t get into further details, though — letting them imagine what exactly that answer means is part of the ‘mystery’. The same about my hair: ‘is your hair real?’ gets usually answered with ‘it’s definitely real human hair’ (just not my own!) and further questions just get a laconic: ‘it’s as real as the hair from Beyoncé, Oprah, Lana Del Rey and other celebrities’. Males are really not familiar with the technological advances of cosmetics 🙂 but I’m being honest with them; withholding essential information is part of the ‘mystery game’. Still, I’m fond in saying ‘all my beauty gets washed away with soap and water’ or ‘I’m actually all fake, worthless to look at without any makeup or padding’. Surprisingly, this most honest and truthful answer almost always raises skepticism. And after many years I understood why: they might have doubts about my boobs and hair, but there is no question that my lips are really the ones I’ve been born with. It’s so ironic that I spent half my life frustrated by them, because I thought they looked too feminine, and that was the reason for girls shunning me, but now I consider my lips one of my biggest assets — mostly because, except for lipstick, they’re the only ‘real’ part of me that looks great!
Anyway, this side-rant was just to show that I don’t really need to do an ‘effort’ to capture attention. Just by presenting myself as a female is more than enough. And I think that, in my case, this is what makes crossdressing so enticing, so alluring, so intensely interesting for me. It’s because, unlike what happens when I’m in my male role, I become the centre of attraction, without any effort whatsoever. And apparently I have been craving for that attention for a long while, because I guess I’m addicted to it.
The twist in my mind is that this is the kind of thing that is so absurdly easy to get — but which I can only get when dressed as a female. Now please don’t get me wrong: I do have a wonderful, long-lasting relationship with my wife (having learned the secrets of long-lasting relationships, which is never to argue, never to assume you’re right, never try to impose your views or ideas, never oppose your partner in the slightest thing) and I’m definitely not interested in anything else. But I always loved to flirt. The problem is that I hardly ever had any opportunity to do so, because, as a male, I’m an outcast, without any interesting characteristic. By contrast, even looking ugly as a female, just because I look as a female, I immediately switch over to become an object of desire! Such a contrast is so overwhelming, that even if there were a ‘cure’ to crossdressing — say, some kind of medicine that would stop the urge to crossdress — I would still continue to do so, just because of the attention I get as a woman.
I suppose most (genetic) women are already so used to getting all that attention that they are weary of it. In fact, ‘fighting off’ all those pesky guys is probably a major source of frustration and tiredness. But, for me, it’s a completely novel sensation, to which I’m not (yet) familiar with. It’s incredibly exciting to be ‘on the other side of the field’ — not merely in terms of gender roles, but also in terms of not being shunned by everybody but quite the opposite.
And I also think that at some point this would become bothersome. I mean, one thing is to feel to be in the limelight for a few hours. But the other thing would be to have to endure that 24h/day, 7 days a week. It would soon become a nightmare. But I’m certainly not at that stage yet! I’m still at a stage where I enjoy all the attention I get, because it’s still something new and welcome for me!
Some years ago, I wrote about some books I read about the deep reasons for crossdressing, and how scientific research has tried to explain it. One thing I still remember (even without googling for it!) is the crossdresser’s incessant search for a ‘label’ or an explanation for their condition, and that we crossdressers tend to find one explanation that satisfies us and remain on that plateau for a long while, until something pushes us towards the next level. Some of us never experience that; most will remain at some level they’re comfortable with, and be happy about that forever. Others still will realize that there is just one way to go, which is towards the ultimate level: stop being a crossdresser and embrace your desired gender role full-time.
The mechanism that ‘pushes’ people from one plateau to another was never sufficiently explained (the reason for staying, by contrast, is explained by finding a certain equilibrium between one’s needs and expectations, and the happiness derived from that particular ‘level’ we’re currently in). I now tend to believe that this ‘mechanism’ is tied to the 10,000 Hour Rule. We can read a lot about our condition as crossdressers — nay, as transgendered people to a degree — but we need to thoroughly experience the consequences of that condition at a specific level in order to achieve some insight or realization of why we’re on that level. Then, eventually, we might strive for the next level, or, by contrast, attain deep satisfaction from the level we’re currently in.
In my case, although it should have been obvious years ago, I think that one of my most powerful drives is the attention I get as a woman, contrasting it to the attention I don’t get in the male role. As I’ve explained before, we crossdressers tend to exaggerate the positive aspects of the female gender while downplaying the negative ones. ‘Attracting attention’ is something I now see as extremely desirable, rewarding, and fulfilling. Sure, there is a lot of effort put into it: it took me time not only to learn how to present myself as a woman, but to allow that knowledge to become ‘natural’, in the sense that I don’t need to do an effort to do so (well, except for the hours spent in arranging myself), but just reap the benefits of enjoying the consequences of (remotely) looking like a woman. This causes some sort of pleasure feedback loop: the more I present myself as a woman, the more effortless it becomes, the more I enjoy myself, the more I understand what is so enticing for me in the female gender role, but also the better I understand the contrast to my male role (which becomes, over time, so much less interesting), so that crossdressing isn’t merely a ‘condition’ (which it certainly is!) but also acquires the characteristics of an addiction.
I mean, I think that the last time a girl made a compliment to me in my male role was back in 2002. As a female, however, I get hundreds of compliments every day. It matters little if they’re just flattery, or comments made with other intentions (e.g. the wish to have sex with me). The whole point is that, as a male, I get no comments whatsoever — I just get indifference. It’s a bit like I’m sort of ‘invisible’ as a male — like the paint on the wall, you just notice it when it flakes and crumbles to the ground. In my female role, I’m just a locus of attention (even if it’s by all wrong reasons).
No wonder my wife doesn’t want to go out with me in my female role. She very correctly said that I would attract (unwanted) attention, wherever I go. And because she absolutely loathes attracting any kind of attention whatsoever, she doesn’t want to bring with her an ‘attention magnet’, shining like a thousand lighthouses, with a huge arrow in glowing neon pointing at me and saying: ‘Look! Here goes a crossdresser!’
I guess that she very correctly figured out something that took me years to understand.
Now I’m obviously wondering what else I’ve overlooked when examining my female gender role. Probably quite a lot. The good news is that the more I dress, the more likely I will experience what I have so far completely missed. The bad news, of course, is that it will become harder and harder to pack away my things, discard the female role I adore, and have to grudgingly adopt that revolting male role again…