So I had this gender theory of self breakthrough. I convinced myself that the gender feelings I had were in reaction to things in my life that were extrinsically-driven vs. intrinsically-driven. That should have been my huge red flag, but I missed it.
Before I explain what I convinced myself those things were, let me first detail some of the results of this insight.
I purged most of the clothes I had acquired, including almost all my shoes. (Oh, the shoes! You, of all people, know how hard it is to find cute/sexy/comfortable shoes in women’s size 13/14 that don’t make you look like a hooker.) I did keep a small nucleus of clothes because all my readings told me that purge cycles were part and parcel of the transgender experience, and there were a few pieces that were too dear to me to part with. That should have been my small red flag, but I missed it.
I started to really enjoy the attention of women that I was attracting, and this reinforced the mental model I’d built.
I dumped the woman I’d been dating, hard, (I’m still sorry, really) after telling myself that she was a transitional relationship after leaving my wife. And then I started to date with gusto. I joined an online dating site and was going out on dates 2, 3, 5 nights a week. For someone who had never dated much because I had serially jumped from monogamous relationship to monogamous relationship, this was a tremendous experience for me to discover what I really was interested in with regards to a romantic partner.
My past history was mostly falling into a relationship with a woman who liked me and who I liked, without any thought to long-term compatibility. Ergo the failed marriage to someone whose temperament and interests did not intersect with mine very much. After much dating, I found someone who was awesome. She had a great personality, loved to be outdoors as much as or even more than me, was up for going running with me, was generally just hugely fun to be around, and we had an incredible physical connection.
And after three months of being truly happy in a relationship, I totally fucked it up, (I’m still really, really, really, sorry about that. I wish I could go back and change things. It’s one of the handful of things I regret in life.) While I knew a couple of months after I destroyed that relationship that I’d made a huge mistake, it wasn’t until a few months ago that I figured out exactly why I’d made that mistake.
You see, I had totally convinced myself that I had discharged my gender feelings and was so far down this path of self-deception I could have passed lie detector test after lie detector test. Since I was being self-deceptive, the reasons I bailed out of the relationship were self-deceptive as well.
I won’t go into the non-gender reasons I screwed that relationship up, but the self-deception around my cross-gender feelings came about by conflating other, real issues I had grappled with my entire life with my gender confusion. There were three main points that wove together nicely to “explain” everything. Each had enough of a kernel of truth in it that when taken together, reinforced my desire to try and move past and suppress my gender feelings.
1) Negative body self-image and low self-esteem around my attractiveness to women.
I’ve had few periods in my life where I felt attractive and wasn’t fighting body and mental self-esteem issues. This, despite always being labeled “cute” by women I’ve known, and being of generally slender, though tallish, build.
When I got in shape running, I had a singular moment when I was out running one day when a pretty woman smiled and eyeballed me as we passed each other. I had an, “A-ha!” moment, when I realized that I was in shape, I was feeling good, I was smiling more, and here, at last(!), was a proof point that at least one woman maybe found me attractive enough to look at me.
I thought, “Hey, self! Did you just see that! Hey, maybe this has been part of the problem. I just haven’t been in shape enough to be worth looking at.”
This led me to double down on working out and enhancing my outward male attributes of haircut and dress. I rejected my femininity, boxing it all up and putting it away. I got the attention I so deeply craved and this reinforced the behavior.
The truth: exercise in general is a mood lifter and has been proven to push depression back. I was feeling better about myself and my body.
The fallacy that tripped me up: having left my desire of having a female body far, far in the past, being a physically fit and more mentally stable male would take me to, and leave me at, a place of self-acceptance around body, attractiveness, and gender identity.
2) An emotionally distanced relationship with my mother.
This one was an emotional live wire that was a hard one to work through.
My parents divorced when I was a wee bairn and I have no recollection of my father ever living in the house. My brother is six and half years older and took the divorce quite hard, turning into the rebellious, angry teenage youth.
My mother and brother often fought and I learned that if I kept quiet and out of the way, I could pretty much do what I wanted to do without much fuss. That was the upside.
The downside was that my brother took most of my mother’s mental energy and she didn’t have much left over for me, including emotional support and involvement in my life. Pre-puberty, I didn’t really notice because I didn’t have any other experience to compare it to, but during puberty, I desperately could have used some more emotional support and it just wasn’t there, or what was there didn’t feel like much.
Puberty is when I started to crossdress, and it was just me and mom in the house, so you can imagine the shame, angst, longing, loathing, etc. that I went through wearing her clothes.
Our emotional relationship is still lacking in many ways, not through lack of trying on my part, as there’s a genuine disconnect on her end on a few things that I have repeatedly tried to engage with her on.
The truth: my mother and I have a distant emotional relationship because we really don’t understand each other very well.
The fallacy that tripped me up: that I was trying to self-soothe emotionally by crossdressing and feeling feminine as a way to fill a maternal emotional void in my life.
3) A persistent desire to have my romantic partner express or exhibit certain attributes of femininity.
This is kind of a variant of the second issue, but it’s separate because of it’s manifestation and expression.
Most of my historic romantic relationships were of a piece: I fall in love with someone who loves me, without me doing much evaluation for long-term compatibility because I just want to be loved, feel wanted, and feel like someone finds me attractive. (See #1 above.) Initially, part of me is always smitten by their femininity – I love exploring it and seeing how they express it. But over time, I’ve found that I project my own expectations of femininity onto them and start to crave seeing them meet those expectations. Yes, I know this is completely unreasonable and disrespectful now. I didn’t before.
In my marriage, what I found was that as I became more feminine and my wife felt her femininity threatened, I would push her to meet that unreasonable expectation I had. This caused her expression of femininity to change, usually in the opposite direction I wanted to see it go, and my own expression would shift to try and make up that perceived gap. This, in retrospect, was a recipe for disaster in a whole bunch of ways.
The worst part is that this behavior masked other relationship things that I was needing and not getting, and I was usually not getting these things because I couldn’t see beyond the gender stuff that overwhelmed me.
The truth: I wasn’t getting what I needed out of my relationships.
The fallacy that tripped me up: since I wanted more femininity in my life, I thought I was making up for the perceived lack of it in my partners by creating and manifesting it for myself.
I added all three of these things together, and came to this conclusion with myself,
“Wow, you really got yourself wrapped around the axle about this stuff, didn’t you?”
“So, what do you think?”
“I think that the persistent negative body self-image I had was more about not feeling attractive to women, and the crossdressing and gender stuff has been my attempt to put more femininity into my life because I’m emotionally estranged from my mom and my girlfriends won’t wear the clothes I want them to wear, so I’ve been wearing them for myself to try and empathize with my mom and provide for myself what my girlfriends haven’t provided to me.”
“Wow. No wonder you’ve been kinda fucked up about this.”
“Yeah. I feel like I have this gender stuff figured out. I don’t need it any more.”
“Well, I think that I may always have an affinity towards it, but I certainly don’t feel the need to dress anymore.”
“What about those feelings you had a long time ago about wanting to be female?”
“Misdirected feelings about body self image.”
“So why are you saving some of your women’s clothes then?”
“Just in case I’m wrong about all of this.”
“You think that’s likely?”
“Not really, but I trust the evidence in the books and personal stories I’ve read. But I’m pretty sure I’m the exception case.”
“OK then. On with life!”
“Yeah, it feels really good to finally understand this and move beyond it.”
To be continued…