Monday 2 July 2012

Wants and needs

Here's a question: is crossdressing a want, or a need?

The difference is simple. I want a bigger TV. But I need to feed my family. OK, so we're not starving, but the point remains, that paying the bills is currently such that we can't just go out and buy a bigger TV. And the TV we have is fine: it even has colour, if you smack it just right. For any sensible person, you take care of your needs first, then you sort your wants, in order of priority. Do not grieve, Jim; it is logical.

Tied: hands
I think it is wholly reasonable that wants be set aside until needs are met. My father used to say that a good citizen says of society "If you take care of my needs, I will control my wants". The way he saw it going (before he died) was that too many people are saying "I must have my wants, even if that means someone else doesn't get their needs". I am not 100% sure he was right; people have been moaning about the deterioration of society since Mesopotamia. But I think it's a useful place to start the discussion.

In his wonderful book Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman argues that the ability to forgo instant gratification in favour of a long-term greater reward is the emotional skill which ranks above all others, and is more predictive of lifelong success than IQ. Boy, do I have this! I'm so good at this that I can forego gratification until it never happens!

I've been considering the place of crossdressing in my life for as long as I can remember. If crossdressing is merely a want, then it's reasonable that it be set aside when it isn't convenient. That is the model that I have hitherto applied: the time isn't right; I have something more important to spend my money and time on doing. So it can wait until next time.

On the other hand, if crossdressing is a need, then it is reasonable that it be met: that other things take a back seat. The consequences of not meeting a need can be substantial. Here's Helen Boyd, in one of the defining passages in her book My Husband Betty (Boyd's italics and pronouns):
Boyd: Perhaps the most important reason crossdressers offer is that, in some sense, they must: not must as in eating and breathing, but more like in bathing and sleeping well and getting enough exercise. Crossdressing is not necessary to a person's survival, but it does seem to be necessary to his wellbeing. Crossdressing is not, as some wives of crossdressers might wish, a selfish whim. Crossdressers as a group do not give it up despite the troubles it can cause in their lives. The phenomenon is stubbornly inexplicable, a cross between a compulsion and a wish.
I am beginning to think that crossdressing is a need. Perhaps it has always been one. If you deny a need, the compulsion becomes greater and greater. Imagine going without sleep. After a while, the urge to sleep becomes overwhelming. It dominates your every thought. Ordinary things which would normally give pleasure become meaningless. Eventually, the need to sleep becomes so overwhelming that you can fall asleep doing something really important: climbers have almost died falling asleep on narrow mountain ledges; and a lot of people have been killed as a result of someone falling asleep at the wheel of a vehicle.

I have from time to time found myself so consumed with thoughts of crossdressing that I have been effectively unable to function: don't want to see friends, don't want to go out, not interested in my kids, no interest in TV or movies or video games, moody and distracted at work. Part of the problem is that, occasionally in our marriage my wife has made promises: she promised we would go together to Transfandango, for example. At first, I believe her: she finally gets it, I tell myself! I just need to hold on a little longer. I start to plan it in detail. And that keeps me going for a bit. And then she gets stressed, and I think, okay, just a little longer. And then it eventually becomes apparent that the moment is never coming, and the disappointment is crushing. We never made it to Transfandango, and now we live in a different country. She doesn't mean to break those promises: when she makes them she is sincere. But the failure to make good on them causes tremendous inner damage, a damage which she just doesn't want to hear about. (In case you haven't read all my blogs, my wife regards crossdressing with loathing: she cannot condone any part of it, and can't bear the thought or the actuality that I do it).

Untroubled: Emma and Luisa
Another symptom of need is that I find myself deeply, almost viscerally, envious of people who crossdress freely and publicly. They seem so happy and untroubled. This is, of course, an illusion! They are just people, and therefore they have sad or difficult times too; they just don't post pictures of them. I hardly feel envious of anything else. In my post about envy, I spoke about a Lamborghini. I don't feel envious of people who own Lamborghinis. But men who keep their legs waxed? Phew! I think that envy is a clue to how deeply crossdressing matters to me. (A Lamborghini is merely a want, of course, and therefore it doesn't overthrow me).

Another symptom of need is that crossdressing haunts my dreams. These are frequent; at least once per week, and for the Freudians among you they are simple, straightforward, wish-fulfilment dreams. I am in some situation where crossdressing is OK: out with my friends, speaking in public, in a job interview, meeting new people. In each case, I am lavishly and wonderfully dressed: I draw compliments and warmth and enthusiasm. People find it interesting and cool. And then I wake up, and that lovely warm rosy glow fades pretty sharply in the face of the alarm.

A final symptom of need is that, if you suppress a need, it will find its way out somehow. In my case, crossdressing finds its way out on the Internet, and I don't propose to go into any details here. But this blog is the positive, creative part. The denial of a need is unbearable and unsustainable.

Needs must be met; it's that simple. The question is how to meet my needs in a manner which is not going to cost me my marriage or my kids. You might think that is a situation which could be solved by a little negotiation: I have thought so too for over a decade without success.


(As a final amusing aside, when I typed Do not grieve, Jim above, it came out as Do not grieve, Kim. It would put a whole new spin on sci-fi's greatest bromance if everyone kept calling the captain Kim. It's life, Kim, but not as we know it. It's worse than that, he's dead, Kim! By golly, Kim, I'm beginning to think I can cure a rainy day! Live long and prosper, Kim.)

You can find the original location of the photo of the girls on the train here at Flickr. Emma regularly posts short videos of herself here on YouTube . She has received over 4.5 million hits, and I have blogged about her here and here.


  1. This is a good blog post. I ultimately disagree with your conclusions as you know. But it is helpful to try to sort out whether cd is a need or want. My one friendly thought of challenge is this. In what way would a harmful drug addiction seem like a need? Without it the addict would go through serious pain and withdrawal. And yet the real need is not to keep on the drugs, but to give them up. For many days, even months they will be completely consumed with thinking about the drugs. But eventually they can live a free life again without the drugs. Perhaps crossdressing is similar. Perhaps all those dreams, envy, thoughts, are part of the process that has to happen before giving it up completely.

    1. Thanks for your prompt response to my most recent post Thorin.
      You've used the template of addiction before in your own blog. It fits pretty well for crossdressing: the unending compulsion and the harms to the dresser and their family. It offers the prospect of rehabilitation and eventually cure. But I think that template is wrong, and it's reasonable for me to elaborate on why.
      I have never taken drugs of any kind (caffeine and alcohol apart). I have deliberately not gone near them, in case I get to like them and can't stop myself. I believe people start off clean and choose to take drugs because there is something missing from their lives; out of boredom, sadness, inadequacy or low self esteem. I don't have any of those motivations. But I have felt like crossdressing since my very earliest memories; I started out like this.
      If crossdressing were an addiction, then going cold turkey is especially long and cruel. For me it is nine months and counting. One would think the pangs would have worn off a bit: instead they are intensified. And you and I are agreed on the fact that it's harmful.
      My personal view is that no amount of abstinence or denial will make crossdressing go away: it never has, despite long periods of rejecting it. I feel I've denied it to myself long enough: it's time to start embracing it.

  2. Hi Vivienne,
    Some really good points here. Thinking back over time, I believe during my teens and early 20's, my crossdressing was driven by a need. There was this urge or compulsion to dress when I could and as you stated, at the expense of other activities (night out with the boys…na…I’m staying home to dress like a girl).
    More recently, after kids came about, I have had to “schedule” any full on dressing sessions. With my current job away from home most of the time, I have found the urge has become more of a want, to be done, if at all, as a planned activity and only when there is nothing more important to do. I believe the time I have spent reading others blogs and writing my own may be a substitute of sorts, but still not the same as getting dressed.
    I enjoy drink; wine, beer, spirits, (no Romulan Ale) but must remain dry for many weeks. When I get home, I don’t go on a bender, but enjoy it when I can, even skipping a drink now and then when I really would like one due to higher priorities. This sort of reflects my crossdressing these days.

  3. Hi there! I found you by way of Thorin's blog, and right away I see an interesting discussion afoot. No wonder he recommends you on his site!

    Here's my take on it: In the middle, the line between want and need is a bit blurry and it doesn't really matter which side crossdressing fits on. From Maslow we know that some needs take priority over others -- as you said, the difference between feeding yourself and getting enough exercise; in the same way wants can also be structured as a hierarchy. I want to go to Paris, but I also want a pizza. Which one am I going to get first?

    So there are times when a want comes before a need. This becomes a problem if fulfilling the want interferes with your ability to fulfill the needs. If you spend so much on clothes that you can't afford to pay your bills, or if you are so focused on the dressing that you can't maintain a stable relationship with others, etc.

    Now that I've gotten this far I'm not sure where I was going with it :-) I guess what I'm saying is, whether crossdressing is a want or a need it still has to fit in your priority list. How much are you willing to give up in order to crossdress? How much are you willing to do without crossdressing in order to achieve goals that the crossdressing interferes with?

    I understand that for some, it's such an irresistible need that even doing without for one day makes life unbearable; I read countless stories of depression and suicide. Thankfully for me it is not so unbearable, so I can put the dressing aside when it is inappropriate (basically any time I leave the house). I'm a little uncomfortable in t-shirts and jeans, but not so much that I'd die if that's all I could ever wear again. Maybe I'd feel differently if I didn't have a safe home where I can dress as I please and an understanding wife who puts up with my weirdness.

    Reading the above comments it looks like Michelle has reached the same point in life that I have (and said in a couple of paragraphs what I have been trying to say for seventy pages here).

    1. Hi Ralph,
      Many many thanks for dropping by. I am already an admirer of your blog, as you will see if you read my post "Just like me?" I hoped that you would stumble across this blog and add your insights to it.
      You make some very interesting points. One of the problems is that it's hard to make a definitive order of priorities. Not only does sometimes a want come before a need, but the amount of wants and needs fluctuates. I know myself that if I am in the store and see something I really want, which I then don't get, the sensation of want fades. Tomorrow I don't want it so much.
      I've said before, quite explicitly, that I am trying to have my cake and eat it too. The questions "How much am I willing to give up in order to crossdress?" and "How much am I willing to do without crossdressing in order to achieve something else?" are the ones I am struggling to answer on a daily basis. But there are some absolutes: my marriage and my kids are more important to me than crossdressing, and I won't allow crossdressing to get in front of them. But where exactly does it fit in my priority list? Still not sure.
      Best wishes,

  4. Grok here. Considering the references to Star Trek, I have to wonder if Vivienne has seen "The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra"? Much of the story takes place at a cabin in the woods, or the surrounding countryside. It occurs to me that a similar setting-due to privacy-might be suitable for a small CD group. Which might be the closest one's dreams can come to reality.

  5. Grok again. With my last post I actually mean "closest one's dreams can come to reality-consistent with privacy. That is, a small group may be the most expansive setting possible consistent with anonymity/privacy.

    1. Hi Grok. I haven't seen The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra, but I can see how an isolated cabin might be the perfect place for a cross-dressing get-together.

      On the other hand, I am pretty tired of hiding in the closet. Travelling out into the wilds to an isolated setting is tantamount to admitting that what we do should be hidden. Why should crossdressers not meet up in a nice restaurant in a town centre?


  6. Grok again. The idea I like best is meeting at someone's house. This can be an enjoyable setting for a party.

  7. As long as I can enjoy dressing at home, I dont feel to bad about not going out dressed up. I would never pass, and look funny as crap!!! There is also such great underwear to wear at any time.
    Been dressing up all my life, that I can remember, love it.