Friday, September 18, 2009

Crossdressing and Relationships

The subject of this post is one that's been on my mind a lot recently. As I look to the future and begin to plan for my life after finishing my PhD, I realize that I don't want to be alone. It's going to be hard to dress full-time as a woman while moving to a new place, starting work at a new college or university and meeting new people. It will just make it even harder to do these things completely alone.

Now, the point of this post isn't to whine and complain about my lack of a love life; I am beginning to more actively seek out women, mainly through online dating at the moment. But as I take these first steps, I'm confronted with a recurring issue: how to approach my crossdressing in terms of dating/relationships.

I have made the personal decision to be open and upfront about my crossdressing. I want to find someone who will love me for who I am and who I can love for who she is in return, and I don't think that can happen if I keep the fact that I am a crossdresser hidden.

But is this the right decision?

I read an article this evening in the Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality titled "How Intimate Relationships Are Impacted When Heterosexual Men Crossdress," and the authors found that the main concern of women in relationships with crossdressers was that other people would find out. So maybe potential partners would prefer that I keep it a secret...

But that again brings up the issue of do I want to be with someone who accepts my crossdressing but wants to keep it a secret or do I wait for that special someone who embraces that side of me and encourages me to be who I am?

And I can't really blame my lack of success with women on my crossdressing. It's not like I was a lady's man who now can't get a date because I've decided to be open about being a crossdresser. It's been over 3 years since I went on a date and longer since I had sex.

I mentioned getting into online dating but of the women I have contacted, none of them have even responded. I feel sometimes like I don't even register for most women, like a "Mr. Cellophane" of sex. I'm a good friend and a good listener but there's a certain something I'm lacking, that spark of attraction.

Maybe I'm wrong, though, and I'm just not picking up on the signals. But at this point, I don't know if I can learn to be more aware of them...

Cosplay and Conventions

A couple of weeks ago I attended an anime convention in Dallas. It was my fourteenth convention and at every one, I have cosplayed.

Cosplay is an interesting topic on its own. It's a word borrowed by American anime fans from Japan and is originally short for "costume play." The idea itself was originally borrowed from America when a Japanese sci-fi fan attended a sci-fi convention in the US in the 80s and was impressed with the Star Trek fans walking around in their costumes but felt that Japanese fans could do just as well or better. So the concept was imported to Japan from American then exported back to American as cosplay.

Cosplay in Japan includes dressing in the costume of any pop culture character but in America, the term is still primarily used for anime characters and related Japanese pop culture characters, such as videogame characters, though you will occasionally see a Darth Vader, Batman or Harry Potter walking around an anime con. As an example, here is a picture of me cosplaying the character Tamao from the series Strawberry Panic at the con a couple of weeks ago:

Cosplay remains to this day a very important outlet for my transgender expression. Cosplaying at conventions was one of the first opportunities I had to crossdress in public. Conventions, for the most part, feel like safe spaces to me because crossdressing is accepted, to a certain extent (though I have had to deal with negative comments and reactions, these have been few and far between). The word "crossplay" is used to refer to people who cosplay characters of the opposite sex; an interesting side note is that the most common form of crossplay is women and girls cosplaying male characters, though my personal experience makes me feel that the response to female-to-male cosplay is different than the response to male-to-female cosplay.

Trying to explain my love of cosplay to others has often been difficult. People seem to want to reduce things to easily understandable levels, so they want to say "Oh, you do this just as a way to crossdress" or "It's not about crossdressing, it's about dressing up as a character you like, just like Halloween." The truth is a little bit grayer than that. While I do enjoy getting to spend a weekend dressed as a woman/female character, I truly love anime and appreciate the characters. I can't separate these two feelings. For me, it's the intersection of these to parts of who I am that led to me be a cosplayer. I wouldn't just walk around a con dressed as a woman, or at least I wouldn't call that cosplaying, and I don't really have any interest in dressing up as a male character. So if I hadn't been an anime fan, I don't know if I would be as comfortable as I am today dressing as a woman in public because I wouldn't have had this outlet for those feelings. Likewise, if I wasn't a crossdresser, I don't know if I would have ever cosplayed because I don't know how much dressing up in a costume would have interested me.

So I wouldn't really be who I am today if I had never cosplayed at a convention and I wouldn't have cosplayed at a convention if I wasn't who I am :)

I'm really excited about cosplay again, though. Because of money issues, I haven't been able to purchase any new costumes in over a year :( But now that I have a little more saved up, I'm looking forward to debuting some brand new costumes next year!