Through the Looking Glass, Column 10

What Crossdressers Want to Know Part 1

Welcome back through the looking glass, my friends. This month I’m going to begin a series of articles on the most common questions I hear from crossdressers. Now keep in mind, folks, that though I’m a highly qualified psychiatrist/crossdresser, I am Alice Novic, after all, and I’m not always going to give you the answers you expect to hear—or want to hear, or what your wife wants to hear, or what your brave transsexual friend wants to hear, n’est-ce pas? What I will offer you is compassion and my best attempt at accuracy based on my professional and personal experience and fairly extensive reading. Carefully researched and footnoted answers? I’m afraid not. You provide the grant money, and we’ll talk about that.

So, when it comes to the most common questions from you of the cloth, the survey says . . . the number one question is Why am I a crossdresser?

To answer that question, let me begin by asking the more basic one of What is a crossdresser? or How would I know if I am one? I define crossdresser as a primarily straight man who is profoundly satisfied to imagine himself as a woman. Does is profoundly satisfied include is sexually aroused by? You betcha, with any luck, but it’s much deeper than just that, as many of you will discover with experience and age.

Why does an otherwise normal, healthy male become a crossdresser? Information from animal research and other sources seems to indicate that something happens as we’re developing in the womb that causes the brains of crossdressers and transsexuals to develop along female lines and be inclined to female behaviors later on. For instance, if male rats are exposed to extra estrogen during one particular week during brain development, then later in life they will show a tendency for lordosis, a female mating behavior that involves arching one’s back to draw attention to one’s buttocks—like a bird shaking her tail feathers.

Just like the intra-uterine environment, one’s childhood experiences can have nearly as profound an impact on one’s behavior and mental health. However, no particular childhood events or exposures have been consistently coupled with crossdressing. I once even worked with a Latin man whose mother used to punish him by making him wear his sister’s skirts. As an adult he had plenty of relationship and self-esteem issues, but 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 would any regular straight man find such pleasure in panties and be vulnerable to such a substance? Afraid not. Ask a few, in private of course, so you can be more confident you’re not just getting the usual BS. 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, personal and family history have a lot to do with it. Maybe just we estrogen-tweaked pups are at risk for such an addiction. After all, once a man “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 for that matter) 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 ain’t nothing and boils the whole thing down to a question like If you’re an orthodox Jew and you’ve started a family on a religious kibbutz, should sneaking some bacon be considered an addiction? I don’t know, though it’s no small matter just the same.

Because we live in a culture in which crossdressing is clearly not kosher, 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, at this point in time. 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.

Life’s rich, complex, and full of possibilities. Be careful and enjoy!

Alice Novic, M.D.

To learn more about me than you’d ever dare to ask, please see my smart, sexy memoir, Alice in Genderland: A Crossdresser Comes of Age.

Also, if you wish to eMail Alice with Questions, Comments or Topics for Future Through the Looking Glass Articles, feel free to send her an eMail at or to Post any Comments below.