Straight But Cross

Masculine, Feminine and many more.

Understanding sex, sexuality, and gender is very interesting once you start to dig deeper out of curiosity. Every step then becomes more interesting and strange, something, we would understand with time. Personally, I fought for years to understand who I was, the kind of feelings I had and to identify with my gender. It’s only over the years of maturing and learning through experiences, looks, feel, touch, act, fight, struggle and living that I figured who I am.

Are you wondering why I am talking about gender and sex? Like you do now, I too had many questions, curiosities and anxieties about gender and sex. I hope this story breaks some myths surrounding the secretive yet colourful life of a cross-dresser for you as it did for me. I have tried to reel out every single thread from the entangled colourful saree like a needle on a haystack.

A few years ago, when I started using social media to meet new friends, on one such text conversation, a few of them suddenly questioned, “Are you a Cross-dresser?” I was both shocked & surprised by the question and I couldn’t reply to them as I did not know much about it, myself. This curiosity led me to explore and know more about the cross-dressing community and their historical and cultural significance.

During one such acquaintance, a cross-dresser, shared his knowledge and answered all my eager questions.

He began by telling me his definition of crossdressing.

“Crossdressing is when a male is attracted to female dressing attire and adorns the same.”

My mind then ran in 20 directions, wanting to know more.  That’s when he (The storyteller preferred to be called a ‘he’ in that moment) mentioned that many of them, are straight men wearing women’s clothes, but one couldn’t comment more since they all lived a secret life.

This took me back to my childhood – when I was a boy who loved to dress up too.

As my mind wandered, he caught my attention narrating his childhood experience of when he would experiment dressing up in his mothers and sister’s wardrobe merely at the age of 12. He began by observing all the attires of girls in his neighbourhood and the variety of dresses they wore.  “Ah they looked so beautiful” he exclaimed.

Since that day, he would dream about wearing those dresses, being and behaving like all the girls from his neighbourhood.  His face would light up even in deep sleep, when in his dreams they would praise him for his beauty.  From then, his journey of dressing up as a girl to now as a woman has been memorable.

I knew exactly what he meant by this happiness. Through the last 20 years of my life, I have held on to this sense of happiness. Today I identify myself as a Trans woman, but what does he identify as, I wondered.

I felt he read through my silences and knew exactly what I was thinking. Before I could ask, he specified that he likes to be called both a man and a woman, depending on what he’s wearing and feeling. Specifically, as a cross-dresser, he feels the need to balance between both the sexes.

Wow! I wondered. Being a Trans woman in the society is so complex and there he was wanting to feel different genders at different times.

“Oh, of course, it’s not easy” he answered.

We both then drew comparisons to our years of challenges and experiences.

He spoke about how he and other cross dressers were viewed often as being from the Hijra Community, something they found totally bizarre and unrelated.

“I live in two souls and move from one to another from time to time. This requires a lot more love and effort.” he said, casually.

He had just defined my sense of space and courage and that line will stay with me forever.

Courage, how did we discover this word in life?

Either we are at one end when we have found the courage to fight over something or we are at another end where we are lacking the courage to stand up for ourselves. And then we keep oscillating like a pendulum.

Now, I have a few questions to ask you.

Who decides on what one should wear?

Who decides my freedom of expression?

Who is anyone to question my sense of gender and identity?

I draw one thing from all the learnings about cross-dressing.

We are all just trying to live and love whoever and however we want to.

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Shanthi Muniswamy

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