Transgender vs. Crossdressing: A Response

500px Transgender yin yang


I follow a number of blogs by other trans people, it helps to read the thoughts of others who are in different places in becoming there true selves. Of course, as with anything so personal, there are things said which I understand and some I do not, there are opinions spoken I agree with or not, but in all things, it makes me think.

Ali Finds Herself is one such blog. She is thoughtful, insightful, and often funny and I find her posts to be interesting and often thought provoking. She recently wrote a post called Transgender vs. Crossdresser which I have been thinking about ever since I first read it a few days ago. I’m not going to recap the whole thing, you really should read it for yourself, but I will paste the last paragraph here because it so important to what I want to say;

“The answer I gave Nancy was this: “I think the line between crossdressing and transgender is when it stops being an event and just starts being normal.” And if I’m being honest with myself, I’m just not there yet. And cue the depressed sigh …”


I was bothered quite deeply by this post. It is thoughtful and thought provoking and in many ways spoke to my own struggles in defining myself… it carried the ring of truth on several levels, yet there was something about it and Ali’s conclusion which bothered me for another reason. 

Transitioning is a multifaceted aspect of being Transgender, yet it alone cannot define what it is to be Transgender. It goes beyond Gender Expression, (though it is part of it). It is not just a physical but mental as well. It must, and does include all of the ways a person changes in how they see themselves and the world about them.

Being Transgender is as shallow as your skin and as deep as your heart. 

In many ways I understand the confusion and doubts created when you cannot be yourself full time, when you must parcel out yourself in different packages for different occasions. Just as Ali does, I must maintain a male presence at work and for my children. I must think about everything I do and how it is being seen by those around me and sometimes it gets to be too much. Just as she wishes to be Ali all the time, I too wish I could let the world see Kira all the time, yet I know this just isn’t workable at the moment. The difference between us is how we view ourselves irrespective of outer appearance.

I am Kira full time now. Maybe not in how I walk down the street, but where it real matters in my day to day life… Inside. There isn’t a “him mode” and a “Kira mode”… there is only me behind my eyes. In my thoughts and dreams, in my emotions and opinions, in every way which truly matters to me as a person, I am Kira.

Don’t get me wrong, I would love to be seen as I truly am all of the time, but you know what? In the end it is the same; the world will only ever see the outside, not what’s inside. Not what makes me a human being and not just a body taking up space.

I guess what bothered me so deeply about what I read was the impression I require an external measure of who and what I am… That by making a big deal out of getting dressed up, putting on makeup and a wig; by seeing doing so as a personal adventure to be savored and enjoyed, I am then making a production out of it, turning what should be a normal, everyday event, not requiring any serious thought, into something separate and special, that I am in someway not being true to the “Transgender Ideal.” 

I simply cannot agree with this. Not for myself. Maybe getting “fancied up” is something special for when I have the time and energy, but I am at all times Kira. 

To me, this is what separates me from Crossdressers, they put on a persona. An almost separate identity from themselves, becoming something else while presenting as the opposite gender, yet inside, in their heart of hearts, they are the same person in a different costume. 

For them it as much about the presentation as anything. For myself it is only a outward expression of my inner truth. I do not “become” Kira; I am Kira, and this is just one of the ways I express myself.

47 thoughts on “Transgender vs. Crossdressing: A Response

  1. These differences are hard to distinguish sometimes, and many people have their own opinions. I often think that crossdressing is an activity, an event that someone takes part in, and then afterwards returns to normal. I think about my feminine side everyday, which I think represent something deeper than just crossdressing, but it’s still hard to describe. Some thought provoking posts for sure.

    1. I think there are as many answers as there are people to question… The main thing is to keep asking, to keep looking for what is right for each of us.

  2. I also read Ali’s blog post. When I read it, I kept thinking about how lucky I am in that I have managed to set my life up so that I can “cross-dress” basically all the time. I would be suicidal if I had to try to wear women’s clothing in public and at work. I respect how difficult it is for her to try to express herself – and how hard it is to feel authentic when you can not be “seen” as yourself and you can barely manage to see yourself. It is something I struggle with.

    1. It is a struggle and so often it is difficult to see the truth in yourself. I’m glad she brought this up, it’s important to think about.

  3. I could not agree with you more Kira. i am in a similar position to you in that i must maintain my male appearance for work and family purposes but the clothes i wear as a male are pure and simply for convenience. i do not become a different person when i am able to wear female clothes. i wear them not to fit with any brief fantasy i may wish to enact but i chose my female clothes according to what i am doing. The two days a week that i am able to be in my office alone as Roxie, i dress as any woman would dress for work in an office and when couriers or other delivery people come around they are totally unaware of my true physical gender because i identify entirely with my internal, mental or psychological gender (call it what you will). Whatever outer garments i chose to wear, it does not affect who i really am and my beliefs, principals and personality remain the same. To me, the term transgender signifies anyone who believes they are of the opposite gender to their physical birth gender whether or not they have undergone surgery and whether or not they have to maintain the illusion of being “normal” for whatever reason. We all have different lives with different circumstances and each of us is unique, the common denominator is that we all feel we are of the opposite gender to that of our birth.

  4. This is an excellent life topic to gain awareness. There is a difference between crossdressing and transgender people. People argue this topic from so many angles (sometimes, semantic) Empathy is the key 🙂 thank you again for sharing your heart!

  5. I have to agree with you. I don’t struggle with my gender nor do I wish to dress up as the opposite gender, so my appreciation of the anguish associated with each is rather muted. Cross dressing, to me, is about pretending to be something you’re not (for whatever reason), while transgender issues are associated with the dilemma of permanent change. Cross-dressing is about ‘playing’ – transgender is for real.
    (Duck and cover!)
    ps – I’ve not read the blog you refer to, nor do I intend to.

  6. I think that the analysis is somewhat misleading. The term crossdressing has gained the same connotation as Imbecile, Moron and Idiot gained after they had been introduced into the public at the turn of the century. At the time doctors were simply trying to define cognitive levels. The terms were misused or rather abused by the public and the these terms became associated with bigotry. The same is true with the term crossdressing. It has a negative connotation in both the transgender community and in the public at large. As if it is a sickness or perversity to occasionally stray from the defined gender lines of our society.

    The reason why it is often an event to go out and express oneself is because society makes it difficult for people who are starting out to bend the rules of gender. I wonder how natural, how easy it would be for people who at the moment view this as an event if they truly could express themselves without fear of reprisal. What we would see I imagine is a continuum of expression in the transgender community. Not crossdressers or people who occasionally stray from the rigid rules of gender. We would be people who express a whole range of what it means to be human.

    For the record I embrace every person that communicates with me. I am planning on transitioning and for what it is worth I will talk with a person who dresses up once a year at Halloween as quickly as I will talk to another post operative transsexual woman which is what I plan to become. I don’t care for labels, but interesting people; well they come in all shapes and flavors and I want to try them all God willing.

    I wish you all peace and acceptance,

    Nicki Sognara

    1. I agree there is a misconception regarding crossdressing, though I think much of it has to do with the way it is portrayed in the media where it is treated as a joke or illness, of which it is neither.

      However, I also believe there are some very real differences between someone who crossdresses and someone who is transgender, mostly having to do with the way in which we each see ourselves, our gender, and its expression.

      A simple example is while a male crossdresser still identifies as male, a male to female transwoman identifies as female regardless of her surgical status.

      That is not to say there aren’t those who may not identify as trans who also feel this way, but from my personal experience, this seems to be the case more often than not.

      This does make one form of gender identity or expression more legitimate than the other, nor does it mean one may be made the butt of jokes, harassed, or discriminated against. It just means we are different.

      Every person, regardless of any differences between us, deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, when and if the majority of people learn this lesson, then we might see a better society in which to live.

      Best regards,

      Kira Moore

  7. A very well written response, and you say a lot that I agree with. I love a good dialogue about these things.

    I think you and I are approaching the question from two different directions, though. I was wondering when I wrote it if I should have provided a little more context for the question my therapist prompted. Maybe it’s time for a follow-up post …

    1. Well, it is always better to begin a conversation with the goal of reaching common ground from which to have a broader discussion, which I think we have done. 🙂

  8. Congratulations, Kira …. by all of these comments and responses, it’s clear that you have touched on a very important and interesting topic in our current society! No more taboo … no more hiding! Kudos for you …. everyday I learn more and admire you more!! 🙂

  9. There was a professor at my college who was a crossdresser. He was not homosexual; he was not transgender. He just liked to wear dresses (which he always paired with sensible, low-heeled boots and a matching bag). There’s such a broad spectrum of gender expression, sexual orientation, and sexual preference/fetishism. It’s misleading to conflate any of them.

    1. It really is. I just responded to another commenter and mentioned the fact many crossdresser identify as male as compared to someone who is trans as we identify as other than our assigned gender. It doesn’t make someone any more “right” than another, just different and we all should respect that.

  10. Hi Kira, I agree with you on so many levels. Yet like Ali I felt like I had to compartmentalise myself for a long time – when I was still living at home with my parents. There were so many reasins for it but it was mostly due to being a lesbian (in denial of my transgendered nature) that my parents did not agree with. This tesukted in muself being put in a box at the front door -as I began to think – when I come home. I would show my parents only what they agreed with. The student who studdied and loves music pretty much. Everything else was hidden from disapproving eyes. But once I moved out of home that all stopped. As I come to terms with being trans I did for a while feel like being a male was an act, like I was trying it on to see how it fit. But the further down this road I travel the more natural it became. Now – a year down the track – I am him all the time. Though not everyone sees that. It will be different for everyone I am sure. And I am not discounting anyone but rather feel like I have bridged experience from doning a character to the experience of being.

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences, everyones story is different and I think it one of the things which make us unique.

  11. Hey Kira…Just asking if you would like to send something to A4P. Whatever you would like to write or send a photo, anything about how we can bring peace to the world. The blog is made up of artists of all kinds who believe that art, blogging, wiring, painting, etc., can bring about change. If you would like to submit something send your work to: Love to hear from you. Check out the blog, if you haven’t already done so 🙂

  12. I have just recently reached an age of self-awareness and have realized that I hate how feminine my name is. I would much rather be called something more masculine. I also get offended whenever people refer to me as a “she”; however, I never express my discomfort in this. At a younger age, I didn’t particularly care if I sat with my legs together or if I slouched, and I merely did my hair as a convenience (I used to have long hair, and it got in the way often). Whenever I go clothes shopping with my mother, I always seem to stare at the men’s section with envy, and when I spotted the muscles of my male friend, I was jealous. I have repeatedly voiced my wish that I had been born the opposite gender, as I think my life would be much more enjoyable. At times, my feminine features (i.e. my figure, legs, and breasts) irritate me or cause me mental discomfort. I have also had repeated dreams at night in which I became a male, and when I see myself in the mirror, I am much more comfortable with my facial features if I thought myself as a boy. However, during elementary and middle school, I somewhat enjoyed the sensation of a ponytail, and I foster a moderate care for my complexion. Although my discomfort with my gender has been very recently accumulated (I had minor discomfort in my earlier years), I still wonder. Am I to be considered transgender, or a tomboy? I know this doesn’t align exactly with your topic; however, it would be nice to have an experienced opinion.

    1. First I want to make it clear I am not a gender specialist, nor have I been trained to counsel anyone. In fact, my first bit of advice is to seek out a professional who can work with you.

      My second piece is to avoid trying to label yourself. You might be transgender, gender nonconforming, or none of the above.

      This is a long, difficult, and often confusing journey. The answers you seek are there for you to find, but you must do so yourself.

  13. Dear Kira, I am pleased to have found your page tonight and I like how you write. After many years I have eventually accepted who I am and this year I have spent virtually all of the days and nights as Sophie. I try to wear as little makeup as possible when going out, but beard cover is still important until laser treatment this year. For me it is a need to be Sophie and not suppress that part of me any more. My fear still is letting the world at large into this world and I’m not at that point just yet. I go shopping and have plans to extend my outings as soon as the winter begins to fade including some concerts and whatever interests me. I live i a rural part of France where I may be considered quite an anomaly and without any support too. I would like very much to be more of a woman physically and mentally but know that would very difficult to realise at my age, I am at retirement age this year!

  14. Kira: Glad you are having this discussion. I just googled “cross dresser versus transgender” and this popped up. I like you have kids who do not know. I have a wife who doesn’t understand and doesn’t want kids to know. In my mid 50s I am totally comfortable with myself pretty much all of me. For me the definition is transgender is anyone who is not cisgender. Period. Period. Period. In my book, right or wrong that means that you are transgender if you are the occasional cross dresser or the full on ready for sex reassignment surgery transexual. Literally Trans means across or crossing and gender means those artificially created gender borders. If you cross dress then you have crossed that border. If you are androgynous you have crossed that border, if you are bi- or pan- gender you have crossed that border, if you take hormones without surgery you have crossed that border and if you have the surgery with hormones you have crossed the border. To try and limit the word transgender to exclude anything other than cisgender in my view just makes no sense.


  15. Hi Kira. AMAB, non-binary trans here. Your article deeply resonates within me. There’s so much stuff you wrote I agree with, even if our experiences are slightly different, and perhaps only in the outer shell of labels. At work, my presentation is strictly male, you’d say, although I wear coloured nail varnish and earrings on a regular basis. Out of work I dress almost exclusively with skirts, and I like a bit of eye make up every now and then, this is what in trans* circles is called ‘trans-femme’. I don’t consider myself a man or a woman, but I love a feminine presentation as it is a true reflection of my heart and feelings. Cisgender, hetero-normative people may think of us whatever they wish, or more precisely whatever their ignorance and bigotry allows them to think. For us is our lives, day and night, regardless of the physical aspects. You are Kira, I’m Eola. Thanks for your honest, so well-written article. x

  16. The extract you reposted illustrates a very key point I believe. I struggled most of my life to live the way I had been brought up, feeling that the inner me was wrong. I dressed from around the age of seven and continued through my life purging and rebuying more times than I care to recall. My turning point was discovering an article about loving yourself 100%. Something I doubt if I had acheived at 25%. Without that ability to love yourself completely, it would not be possible to love another fully. This changed my life. I had searched for years for information that would allow me to understand myself and why I was different from most of the people I knew. I felt that the article had been written about my life, I could identify with the text more than anything else I had come across. As a result I was able to change my perspective on myslef and accepting who I was finally. I understood so much of my earlier life too.That day changed my life forever.
    As in so many cases I cross dressed for many years and in secret. One of the few things that I regret, but had to do. In the latter years I almost broke free of the secrecy but backed away to keep my life intact supporting my wife and child.
    After my 3rd long term relationship disintigrated, the concept of dressing being ‘normal’ entered into my life. Living as a woman became something I needed to acheive for my own peace of mind. My identity is now as 100% a woman. Due to my age I was content to live the life and accept the daily change of living as a woman the best I could. I had already begun taking medication to develop breasts. However, I since discovered that I am capable of further transition here in France where I live. in March next year I meet the surgeon, for the first time, who will explain the procedure for my physical transition. This has become a very important part of my life and future. I never expected to be able to get this far. Even without this event I am already the happiest I have been in my life. My family and close friends have accepted my lifestyle and I have built a new life here over the past three years. Life can only get better from this point.

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