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Doctor Richard Novic is a psychotherapist, based in Southern California. As Alice, she has a website, Alice in Genderland, with information on her book and a series of essays, Through The Looking Glass, that, in her words, "...explore issues like crossdressing, transitioning, relationships, and sexuality from the special perspective of a fun-loving transvestite psychiatrist." Links to the essays, below.
I'm honored that Alice has agreed to do a guest post for our T-Central series on crossdressing.
Why am I a Crossdresser?
Well basically because it’s been the most fun, fulfilling way for me to live. After all, what are the options: Be a man who holds back from crossdressing? Be someone who makes it her life? These paths are great for some folks, but I’ve found happiness walking right down the middle.
But let’s take a step back and ask a few more fundamental questions. What is a crossdresser? I define crossdresser as a primarily straight man who is profoundly satisfied to imagine himself as a woman. Does profoundly satisfied include sexually aroused by? You betcha, but it’s also much deeper than that, as many of you will discover with experience and age.
Why does an otherwise normal, healthy male become a crossdresser or transsexual? One explanation, derived from animal research, I call the intersex brain. It suggests that something happens as we’re developing in the womb that causes the brains of CDs and TSs to develop along female lines and be inclined to feminine behaviors later on. For instance, if male rats are exposed to extra estrogen during one particular week during central nervous system development, then later in life they’ll show a tendency for lordosis, a female mating behavior that involves arching one’s back to bring attention to one’s buttocks—like a bird shaking her tail feathers.
An alternative, more disturbing, explanation of why someone becomes a crossdresser is that of autogynephilia. By this theory, crossdressing or MTF transsexualism occurs when a heterosexual male’s attraction to females (his gynephilia) gets directed at himself (auto). The main evidence for this so far is that we crossdressers tend to be aroused by the image of ourselves as women and that pattern bears a close resemblance to the auto versions pedophilia and amputee-philia. Yes, there are men who are attracted to the image of themselves as children or as amputees, strange as that might sound. (For more, see the writings of Ray Blanchard, Ph. D.) As far as when or how a male’s normal attraction to females might turn itself inward, no one knows.
Just like the intra-uterine environment, one’s childhood experiences can also have a profound impact on brain biology and behavior. But whether we’re talking about autogynephilia, intersex brain, or a yet unknown mechanism, no particular childhood events or exposures have been correlated with crossdressing or transsexualism. As a psychiatrist, I once even worked with a Latin man whose mother used to punish him by making him wear his sister’s skirts. Subsequently as an adult, he suffered relationship and self-esteem problem, but bore no predilection for petticoats.
Can crossdressing be acquired like an addiction? Yes, I first feared. No, I later learned. Yes in a way, I ultimately came to see. Yes, lingerie can feel like a tempting, euphoric thing. Once you break the ice, and reach into the panty drawer, you may never be able to stop.
But no, no regular straight man would find such pleasure in panties and be vulnerable to such a substance? I’m afraid not. Ask a few, in private of course, so you can be more confident you’re getting the truth. Most wouldn’t even be curious enough to try on women’s underwear. The experimental few who would, might experience a different kind of fabric and feel but not the euphoria that keeps us coming back.
Okay, I say as an M.D., but not everybody is at risk for alcoholism, yet it’s still considered an addiction. Maybe crossdressing is one that only we estrogen-tweaked pups are prone to. After all, once a one of us “borrows” his first bra, he may bring on a habit that can spiral out of control and jeopardize his marriage, job, and reputation. And that, my fine, feathered friends, is what defines addiction.
I must add two important caveats, though, that I believe keep crossdressing or transitioning from sharing the same category as cocaine. 1) Aren’t our people usually more stable and content after they’ve developed a crossdressing habit? 2) And if not, isn’t it more due to the harsh reactions wives and others might have to the habit, rather than the activity itself? Which is still very serious, though, and means that a person like me might find a few more lovers, but compromise my career, lose my wife, and still not find a husband, if I went woman full time.
Because we live in a culture in which crossdressing and transsexualism don’t put you on top of anyone’s wish list, most of us, at least at first, want to know Is there a cure? No, there isn’t, I must report, not at this time. I’m sorry, but there isn’t a cure for being gay or albino either.
Sure, with enough will power, support, and spirituality, you may suppress your more femme impulses, but then again, you might be able to go through life resisting your favorite sport or flavor of ice cream. There’d better be a great heaven, or you’d better get tremendous joy in living to please your loved ones, to make that worthwhile. Otherwise, I’d recommend getting as comfortable as you can with something others may find uncouth and casting your own small vote for change. You’ve got a lifetime to work on it!
Alice Novic, M.D.
To learn more about me than you’d ever dare ask, please see my smart, sexy memoir, Alice in Genderland: A Crossdresser Comes of Age (available now on Amazon.com).