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Ask Jane, Column 8

A Note to All: I will be at the Exotic Erotic convention in San Francisco Friday afternoon, Oct. 27, from 2 to 6 p.m., manning ("womanning?") the booth for the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality. If you're there, please come by and introduce yourself to me. I'd love to meet you! (I'll also be at the ball on Saturday night, but it will be far more difficult to connect at that melee.) Now, onto this letter, from a woman.

Married to a Cross-Dresser

Dear Jane,

My husband and I have been married for three years, together ten. I am 29 and he is 37.

In August, I found a catalog called Secrets in Lace, along with a receipt (showing some things were ordered). I had gone out with a few friends that night and came home to him sleeping and I think he forgot to put it away. When I saw the receipt, I knew that he didn't give ME any of the items ordered so I assumed he was cheating.

I freaked out and said I was leaving, and taking our 10-month-old daughter. Well, I guess at that point he had no choice but to tell me. He said he has always had a fetish for nylon stockings, that he didn't know why, and just went with it. He said he has been putting them on since he was a kid.

Come to think of it, I do remember coming home once about 8 years ago seeing him passed out on the bed with a pair on but assumed he had been out drinking with the guys... I also remember his sister mentioning him being caught with stockings on as a child and his parent's yelling at him. I guess he used to take his mother's nylons and wear them and then hide them, but he'd been found out a few times.

After I found the receipt and he explained himself, he insisted on having intercourse...

The next day I snooped around while he was out and found Leg Show magazine, where I saw your column; I confronted him about that, too. After that he took the magazine & hid it in the attic (where I believe he keeps his female clothes).

He claims he kept it a secret for so long because he was afraid of what I would think (he read somewhere that 80% of marriages don't last after the other spouse finds out).

Aside from his "childhood antics," his family has nooooo idea about this! I promised I would not say anything to anyone and I haven't said anything (except to you now).

I guess I can say he is a good provider for us. Our private life - boring. Although, after I found out about this, he is way more open with me. He recently disclosed his obsession with girdles. He gave me a few, which I guess was kinda a turn-on for me. I told him I wanted to cross-dress him ... but that was to hear his reaction (and of course he said no).

I would be open to counseling, but I don't think he would be. I'm not sure where to go with this. At first I was very angry that he didn't tell me because I probably would never have married him. But now I just don't know ...

I am almost kind of jealous of the other person (the woman he is) and I am always afraid to leave him home alone because I know what he will do (dress). I guess one of my big questions is: Why would he need me sexually if he can do it all himself?

Please HELP! I worry that my marriage won't last. I want it to work (especially because of our daughter) but I'm not sure how to deal with this (especially since I have to keep it all inside me).

A.

Dear A.,

It can be enormously painful to find out that the man we married is "not the person we thought he was." But, as upsetting as it is to you now, this knowledge needn't tear you two apart. It could do just the opposite, in fact. And I think it will: you're the rare wife who is reaching out and trying to understand. So many women make a snap judgment about what cross-dressing must "mean," and they leave a perfectly good marriage because of it.

Cross-dressing is an activity your husband has a need to do; it has nothing to do with you ... he would cross-dress no matter to whom he was married. It appears the behavior became part of who he is sexually at a very early age; perhaps also he feels a need to "balance" his life as a male in our society. Even he may not know why he does it. He's not likely to stop, though; even if he wants to he may not be able to; it's a part of who he is. Having kept this secret for the past decade, though, has to have been difficult for him. He didn't want to risk losing you and probably has suffered a lot of guilt and shame over keeping the secret, as well as around the behavior itself.

If you do go to counseling (and there is value in going alone, if he won't go with you), please try to find one who is knowledgeable about and sympathetic to the behavior. Online you'll find a great deal of support for spouses of cross-dressers and there's tremendous comfort in talking with others who are walking in your shoes. Rachelmiller.info/link.htm lists quite a few support groups. Angelfire.com/tv2/cdwsos directs you to a Yahoo! group for spouses of cross-dressers. Also, please read My Husband Betty, by a woman who offers perspective, understanding, and wisdom.

Your feeling of jealousy is a common one among women whose men cross-dress. As is your question about why should he need you, if he can be both genders. Be assured that he needs you ... very much so. The life of a secretive cross-dresser is lonely, isolating, and largely unfulfilling when there's no one to share it with. No matter how he's dressed, he needs a partner with whom he can talk, touch, laugh, and connect.

Your husband is not a bad man because he cross-dresses. But only you can ultimately decide if you can stay in your marriage. My own hope for you is that you stay. And that you not just tolerate his proclivities but ultimately find joy with him in his love for dressing, as a shared experience. He has probably fantasized about involving you in his dressing ... and will probably do that, once he feels safe enough with you to reveal his alter ego with you. I see the transformation as an art form and I love playing with my lover like a doll (a very sexy doll ... but that's just me).

You mention being dissatisfied with his lack of foreplay; I hope you feel free in this newfound open communication with your husband to lovingly talk about ways he can make you happier in your lovemaking. And, who knows ... If you find you have an erotic response to cross-dressing your husband, you could also share powerfully sensual experiences that way as well, making the dressing up part of foreplay on occasion.

Some women complain that they don't want to be made love to by another woman ... and that's how they feel when they make love with their husbands dressed as women. To me, a man is even more manly when dressed ... surrounded by soft fabrics and framed by stockings and garters, it makes his manhood all the more striking ... and him all the more sexy as a man. But, again, that's me. You don't yet know if that will be your response. The fact that you're open to learning about him means that you're also open to learning about you. And, who knows, you may find a sexual animal within that loves marching to this very different, very special, drum.

Jane

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