Are you as confused as I am between sexual orientation and gender? Are you clear on what the difference is between transvestites, transsexuals, transgendered, or cross-dressers? Me too, I can’t figure it all out, but perhaps the story of Andrew and Kate Ratcliffe will help us out.
Andrew and Helen married when he was 22 and she was 17. Although nobody thought the marriage would survive a year, it flourished, producing three children and 28 years of married bliss ( or a reasonable facsimile of same!) However, at year twenty Andrew confessed to Helen that he wanted to be a woman. She, of course, was shocked and angry, as any spouse would be.
Andrew reported that even in his teen’s he yearned to wear women’s clothing, but upon his mother discovering female underwear in his bedroom he repressed those feelings and threw himself headlong into the macho male world of motorbikes and cars. As a young married couple in Britain, Andrew and Helen immersed themselves in the “goth” scene, where Andrew could legitimately paint his face with black eyeliner and lipstick. Once their children arrived they abandoned this pursuit and he got a crew cut, along with multiple tattoos and body piercings.
Life carried on, but along the way, Andrew ran into some old friends who he discovered were cross-dressers and his new journey began.
After he told Helen, but not their children, Andrew and Helen spent their date nights as two women on the town. Six years later he began to explore a sex-change operation, but was advised he needed to live openly as a woman for two years. It was at this point that Andrew changed his name to Kate and let their teenage children know of his situation and plans.
The new couple experienced a set-back when Andrew/Kate learned that he would have to divorce Helen before he could finalize his transition. Helen balked, couldn’t cope and they separated, but only for a time.
They reunited and Andrew/Kate had her surgery, paid for by Britain’s National Health Service. Their happy ending concluded with a white wedding, each of them wearing wedding gowns, as Kate was escorted to her bride, Helen, accompanied by her father.
Kate, still called “dad” by her three adult children, remarked that if she had known how easy it would be, she would have made the change sooner.
So, the question is “Do cross-dressers generally feel they are in the wrong body?” Apparently not. The research says that most men who cross-dress simply like to dress up in women’s clothing because it makes them feel good and right with the world. They are not gay, but rather straight men who have an intense desire to put on makeup and wear jewelry.
Social scientists don’t know how many men cross-dress because many men only disclose their behavior to their wives. In earlier times, cross-dressers were called transvestites. Cross-dressers can be like Andrew/Kate, men or women who are born male or female but feel they have the wrong body. These persons are called transsexuals and usually take hormonal treatments and have surgery to transition from their biological gender to their psychological and emotional gender. Researchers often say that it is not really a “transition” because their brains are born female, while their anatomy says they are male.
But transsexuals are not necessarily transgendered, according to most authorities on the subject. Transgendered persons are those who have any form of gender identity issue that causes them to be criticized, discriminated against, or even shunned because of their appearance, mannerisms, or voice.
Gender dysphoria, as it is referred to by psychologists and psychiatrists, was once considered a mental illness, but modern research and studies tell us that the basis for it is much more complex with biological, hormonal and neurological factors.
Thankfully we are becoming better educated and hopefully, more tolerant of people who are different from us.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang