I first saw J in January of 2005 when we had a ‘Geology of the National Parks’ class together. It was probably March by the time we first talked, but I remember sitting in the row behind him during those first months and staring at the back of his head where a bit of his hair sometimes stuck out at a funny angle. Do you ever think back to when you first met a really close friend and wonder how that person could ever have been a stranger? I had wondered what it would be like to look at a stranger and to recognize him ahead of time. There was no real premonition on my part; I wonder the same thing about a lot of people. But that was the first time the possibility of something happening between us occurred to me.
So much goes into a relationship over time. I don’t mean effort, although that’s there too. It’s the shared memories from our time together, the way it’s hard to find a memory of camping, or cooking, or eating out at a new restaurant or greasy diner, without J being a part of it.
For all that familiarity, it’s still possible to be surprised by your partner, even years in. J and I had been together for nearly six years before he told me he was interested in cross-dressing. It took a week or two, but after I got used to the idea, I realized that I kind of liked it. Where in the past J had scoffed at clothes shopping and had shown a limited interest in appearance, suddenly we had another interest in common. Even today neither one of us is a big shopper, but it’s nice to be able to say to J, “Hey, will you look at some sweaters with me?” and to know that he will. Plus, he now has a better collection of clothes I can borrow from.
I had never spent much energy thinking about cross-dressing before, unless you count watching (the bloody awesome) Eddie Izzard on tv. I know a lot of people are strongly opposed to the idea. A short while back I made the mistake of looking at the reader comments sections on one of those Yahoo News articles I see whenever I sign out of my email. The article was about a grade-school kid here in the ‘States who was genetically male, but identified as a girl. The student’s parents let their child dress in feminine clothes, and there was a big fight with the school about whether this student was allowed to use the girl’s restroom or not. There are a lot of things one could discuss here, but I was dismayed to read the comments section and see so many people slagging on the parents just for letting their male child wear skirts and dresses. As a woman I found the comments offensive, because — let’s face it — girls ‘cross-dress’ all the time. Yeah, a lot of us wear skirts and dresses and makeup. But we also wear pants and men’s shirts, and some of us wear no makeup at all. Go back a few decades or maybe a century or two and that was not the norm, but women cross-dressers aren’t even thought of as cross-dressers in today’s society; they’re women wearing pants, and nobody pays attention to them. When people criticize men for wearing women’s clothing, the words that come out of their mouths may be, “Guys aren’t supposed to look like girls,” but what I hear is, “If you look like a girl, you’re not good enough to be a guy.” And that’s a sad double-standard if I ever saw one.