Introducing My Wife to BE ALL
or
Dorothy in the Land of Oz, Part II

by Nancy Cole (KS-2189)


"Sometimes this struggle to adapt (to the husband's
crossdressing), asks more of the couple than they have to give and
the pattern of growing apart is seen. For the others, the stress
of transvestism has been converted into an opportunity for personal
growth, and both partners gain individuality along with the
strengthening of the marriage."

-Richard Docter, PhD, from his book
TRANSVESTITES AND TRANSSEXUALS



Dealing with crossdressing and marriage is no easy matter. All
too often we find that when the issue is addressed in either a
study or a publication, the story falls into one of two categories,
both of which are extremes. The first is when the wife is Gung-ho
and believes that crossdressing has not only made the marriage
stronger, but helps keep the world safe for democracy. The other
extreme, the dark side of the force, is where crossdressing was
identified as the death knell of a long and happy relationship.
Serious efforts to address this issue are frustrated by a natural
desire of most couples to ignore the issue ("You can dress as you
like, just don't let me see you or expect me to help or
participate."), an effort to keep from "airing our dirty linen in
public," or, simple fear of the unknown ("If I see him dressed,
what will it do to my image of him as a man and my self-image as a
woman?").

The purpose of this piece is not to address the big issue at hand
or to provide a solution. I have too few brain cells to deal with
such weighty matters. Instead, this is a simple story, a true
story about my wife's introduction to Nancy and the paraculture.
The background to this story is the BE ALL gathering held in
Pittsburgh in June 1990. So as to give the illusion of being a
worthy effort, I'll pause throughout the story and point out where
I felt I did something smart, (don't hold your breath waiting for
these), and where I made an error in judgement (FUBAR).

BACKGROUND

Before we get into the main event, it is necessary to provide you
with a little history. I have been a crossdresser all my life.
Like many of you, I didn't know for the longest time what I was
dealing with, and kept "HER" in the closet while I sallied forth in
the world to be a man's man. Along the way, I met a girl who
became my friend, then my lover, and finally, my wife. At the time
of marriage, and for the first seven years, the desire to
crossdress never left me. On rare occasions, when I was home alone,
I would dress for a short period, but never went out and never
wrote or talked to anyone about it. I was as far into the closet
as anyone could get.

That state of affairs continued until 1980, when, for reasons I
have long forgotten, I felt the need to tell my wife. I'll not
bore you with that story right now. What is important is that we
went through two phases. In the first, my wife agreed to let me
dress at home, provided that the children didn't see me or were
told. I readily agreed to this. Fortunately, phase one lasted
only a few months. The reason it did is understandable. I fell
into the old pitfall that too many crossdressers do; I over did it,
and failed to consider my wife's feelings.

Now, I stated that it was fortunate that phase one was short.
What happened was that my wife and I renegotiated. In effect, she
respected my need/desire to dress, but she could not, at that time
participate. As a solution, she agreed to let me join an
organization for crossdressers. Enter Tri-Ess and phase two. This
phase has lasted nine years, with me going from organization to
organization as Nancy began to journey out of the closet to
develop, discover and grow. During this period, discussion of my
crossdressing between my wife and I was infrequent. I was careful
to keep things in balance, while my wife was careful to keep from
offending me.

These attitudes were slow to change. Key to the change was the
recognition by my wife that rather than diminishing me as a person,
my crossdressing had made me a better, more complete person. The
fact that I was more attuned to her feelings, could understand some
of the issues that women face, and developed a taste in fashions
and style that resulted in a better wardrobe for her, (and of
course me), helped a great deal. The final element that aided her
acceptance was her observation of the effect crossdressing, or lack
thereof, had on me. She told me on several occasions that when I
did crossdress, I was happier and more relaxed.

By the end of phase two, we were shopping together, discussing
fashions, and even traded and shared make-up and clothes, but my
wife did not see me dressed during this period. We kept our
clothes in the same closet and helped each other pick out outfits,
but there it ended; until BE ALL.

Starting in 1989, I began attending some of the national events.
The Texas Tea Party '89, was my first, followed by Fantasia '89,
The Tea Party again in February 1990, and the IFGE convention in
March 1990. That I enjoyed these affairs and was becoming more and
more involved with the paraculture, was becoming more and more
obvious to my wife. We discussed the events and crossdressing in
general. During the course of these discussions, I showed her
pictures of the events, including those taken of me while dressed.
It was my way of opening the door, a little.

Originally, I had no intention of going to BE ALL. What changed
my mind was the fact that my family was going to be back east to
visit relatives in the Old States, to include Pennsylvania, at the
same time BE ALL was scheduled. Rather than stay at home by
myself, I decided to go. It was only after I had sent in my
initial registration and saw my wife's itinerary that I thought of
having her join me in Pittsburgh. After careful consideration, I
suggested that she leave the children with her parents while she
flew out and joined me in Pittsburgh for the weekend. Much to my
surprise, she accepted. Part of the reason she agreed to come was
out of curiosity; she wanted to see what I did at these things and
if she could handle being with me when I was dressed. Besides, her
sister-in-law, who was going through a messy divorce, lived in
Pittsburgh and my wife wanted to visit her and her baby.

With that acceptance came a feeling of both joy and apprehension.
Joy, that she was willing to try it again (i.e. being with me when
I was dressed), and fear that she wouldn't be able to handle me
dressed, BE ALL, or both. But we both were committed After nine
years, the issue was being brought forth again for another vote.

IN THE BEGINNING

From the start, I knew this wasn't going to be easy, especially
since my wife was not only going to have to deal with me, but also
all the other BE ALL participants.

SMART MOVE #1: To help her deal with this, I provided her with
some of the best information I could on wives and crossdressers.
I gave her Peggy J. Rudd's book MY HUSBAND WEARS MY CLOTHES, and
Richard Docter's book TRANSVESTITES AND TRANSSEXUALS to read. This
allowed her to prepare herself mentally. Rudd's book was
especially helpful, since Rudd was a woman dealing with the same
problem my wife was.

SMART MOVE #2: In arranging for the trip, we timed it so that I
would arrive on Wednesday and she on Thursday. This allowed me to
register at the hotel and the convention, review the program and
see who was there already. I was especially interested in people
who would be able to help me with my wife. That part of the plan
went well. This, however, resulted in the need to arrange for
transportation for her to the hotel. There were several options
available. I could have left her to her own devices (big potential
for FUBAR here). I could have had the BE ALL transportation pick
her up (more potential FUBAR, since it would be a stranger AND
possibly a crossdresser picking her up). Or, I could rent a car
and pick her up myself. Of the three, picking her up myself seemed
like the best idea. She readily accepted this option. This
decision, however, led into FUBAR #2.

On arriving in Pittsburgh on Wednesday night, I decided to scope
out the lay of the land at the airport for the next day's pick up.
This was, I felt, important, since A) she was arriving on another
airline, and B) I would be coming back to the airport dressed as
Nancy, a real TV first. I didn't leave the airport that night
until I knew where I would park, the door I would need to use, what
gate she was arriving at, etc., etc., etc.

The next day, I did my best, dressing and making-up so as not to
draw attention to myself at the airport. I also allowed what I
thought was plenty of time for the drive to the airport. FUBAR #1:
Rather than checking the time of my wife's arrival before I left
the hotel, I checked after I arrived at the airport. Therefore,
instead of arriving there ten minutes before the plane arrived, I
reached the gate with 55 minutes to spare! A momentary flutter of
panic struck me as I realized that I had almost an hour to wait
while every person who ever traveled to Pittsburgh had an
opportunity to inspect me. Finding the most isolated seat, I sat
for a moment and start to wait for either my wife or the Pittsburgh
vice squad to arrive.

After ten minutes of sitting in isolation, cautiously looking
about to see what everyone else was doing, I was overcome by the
urge to visit the necessary room. I thought about suppressing the
urge, but decided, "What the ____! You've made it this far". So
I got up, found the nearest ladies room and did what had to be
done. Having survived that ordeal, I went to the bookstand, bought
a newspaper and a Coke and went back to my seat. Throughout this
whole adventure, I never detected a ripple in the force, resulting
in a real boost to my self-confidence.

When the plane arrived, I moved to the gate and placed myself so
that I could see all the passengers coming off and they would be
able to see me (here's where the boost of self-confidence came into
play). It was only after I saw my wife, and she failed to
recognize me, that I realized that I had made an error. FUBAR #2:
I assumed that my wife knew I would be dressed when I picked her up
at the airport. She never thought to ask and I never thought to
volunteer that morsel of information (it's only at moments like
this that I remember what the first three letters of 'assume' stand
for). As she walked past me, I suddenly realized I needed to do
something to get her attention, and not everyone else's. As softly
and as sweetly as I could, I called her name. FUBAR #3: I was
wearing an outfit and a new wig that she had never seen in any of
my photos.

When she finally picked me out, there was a momentary pause.
What could have been a real show-stopping disaster passed. Going
up to her, I greeted her, took her carry-on bag, and proceeded to
lead her to the baggage claim area. SMART MOVE #3: I didn't touch
her or greet her as I normally would have (i.e., a hug and a kiss).
Instead, I let her set the pace, and followed her lead in
conversation and action. By this time, I had self-confidence in
presenting myself as Nancy in public. My wife was just out of the
gate, so to say, in being with her husband while he was wearing a
dress. (Two days later, during our postmortem discussion of the
weekend, my wife told me that picking her up dressed was probably
the best thing I could have done. She admitted that by my doing
so, she was confronted with the issue right from the beginning).

The drive to the hotel was uneventful. She talked about what the
kids had done, what she had done at her parents house, and how all
the relatives were doing. At the hotel, we went straight to the
room. SMART MOVE #4: We paused for a while in the hotel room where
I allowed my wife to mentally regroup and get used to seeing me
dressed. We did not go rushing off to meet people or to
participate in anything. We just talked, allowing the conversation
to slowly turn from the family news forum to the inevitable, "Well,
what's the program?"

As she had not had lunch, we decided to go down to the small cafe
at the hotel and have lunch. That she was nervous was obvious.
Again, by this time, I had been out in public as Nancy and was used
to going into a restaurant. As before, I allowed my wife to set
the pace and tone of conversation and followed her lead. As it was
mid-afternoon, the lunch crowd was gone, and mercifully, the hotel
staff was cooperative and courteous, conducting business as usual.
SMART MOVE #5: Since we were in the hotel, I had no doubt the staff
and other patrons knew we were with the BE ALL gathering. People
looked, but did not stare. We had our lunch and they went about
their business. The fact that we were in mixed company (BE ALL
people, hotel staff and regular customers), had a calming effect on
my wife, since nobody batted an eye.

After lunch, we returned to the room, where my wife took a nap.
I left her in the room and blundered about the BE ALL concessions
for a while. SMART MOVE #6: Sleep is a wonderful way of dealing
with stress. It allows the brain to sort out new data and
information, as well as to prepare for future input. In effect, I
gave my wife some time alone to deal with the new situation.
Besides, the time allowed me to indulge myself as I tried on
dresses (I bought two!).

"DAS BOOT"

Back in the room, more adjustment on my wife's part in getting
used to seeing me as Nancy. I needed to get used to being Nancy in
front of my wife as well. This last point, discovering that I need
to adjust my conduct, came as a surprise. I suppose it shouldn't
have, but it did. For the first time, I took the lead, showing my
wife what I would be wearing (one of the new dresses), and asking
her opinion. She took the cue, and had me try it on. She liked it
and complimented me.

That decided, we began to dress. During the process, there was
some light conversation, a few small jokes, and in general, an
easing of the earlier nervousness. Opportunities for humor were
numerous, since this was the first time we had to share a mirror so
we could fix our make-up. My wife found this especially humorous,
since, in the past, I had often bragged that the only prep a man
needed for an evening out was, "A s___, a shower, and a shave".

Ready, we went forth to the buses that would whisk us away to
downtown Pittsburgh. Here, new problems arose. I knew several of
the people. When dealing with new people and introducing her, and
to give her some reassurance, I like to hold her hand or put my
hand around her shoulder. This however, was not possible. It was
inappropriate, in her eyes, to do so. So, I had no physical means
of reassuring her in a new crowd of people.

And what a crowd! Before, I was the only TV she really knew.
Now, suddenly, my wife was faced with bus loads of TV's. The
closest I can come to describing her at this point is to compare
her to Dorothy when she landed in the land of Oz - wide eyed and
apprehensive. The only difference was that she couldn't cling to
Toto, for old Toto was dressed like Toto-ette.

She managed, however, to carry on. It is important to note here,
that throughout the weekend, my wife referred to me as her husband
and by my male name. She didn't feel comfortable referring to me
as Nancy or to herself as a significant other. SMART MOVE #7: I
didn't make this an issue. There was more than enough for her to
deal with without fighting over a trivial issue. After all, what's
in a name? The people who knew me and whom we associated with that
weekend picked up on the name issue and were very cooperative.
Besides, I have never cared for the term "significant other". Now
pause here and think for a moment. If my wife is the significant
other, does that mean that I'm the insignificant other?

Before we boarded the bus, she met Richard Docter and on the bus,
we sat near Sandra Cole, by a stroke of luck. This gave me an
idea. SMART MOVE #8: Once we arrived at the boat, I tried to
manage the seating so that my wife was next to a real woman. I
did. We had dinner with Mariette P. Allen and Sandra Cole, as well
as Jamie and a very nice crossdresser from the Pittsburgh area. By
being in close proximity to a real woman who was comfortable with
crossdressers, my wife was more at ease. She could follow their
lead, listen to their conversation, and share in it. In effect,
the real woman gave my wife the reassurance that everything was
okay, that I couldn't. The girl from Pittsburgh helped
tremendously by pointing out interesting sights and describing
Pittsburgh. In all, dinner was enjoyable and successful.

Once dinner was over, we excused ourselves and went out on deck.
SMART MOVE #8: Though we didn't see the show, I felt it was time to
give my wife a break. On the open deck of the boat she was able to
regroup and relax again. While on deck, we ran into Richard
Docter, with whom we started a conversation. As he and my wife
seemed to get along well, I slowly backed out of the conversation.
This was good, for my wife was able to enjoy an easy conversation
with a man whose book she had read. They didn't discuss
crossdressing. In fact, I forgot what they discussed. It didn't
matter, however. What was important was that she was becoming
comfortable with some of the people who belong to and work with our
paraculture.

The bus ride back was quiet and uneventful. The rest of the
evening in the room, however, was not. SMART MOVE #9: Once back,
we both washed the make-up off and went to bed as we normally do
back home, as husband and wife. For the first time all day, we
hugged, kissed and...., Well, she was gone for two weeks. But this
was important. By quickly reverting to our traditional romantic
roles (sorry, best way I could think of describing it), I was able
to reassure her that nothing in our relationship had changed.

DAY TWO: ON HER OWN

Day two started with FUBAR #4: Forgetting to move watches from
central to eastern time zone (Gee Toto, I don't think we're in
Kansas anymore!). We therefore didn't have time for breakfast
together. Instead, she got up, dressed, and went to the first
significant other session of the day. This left me free to get
dressed at my leisure and trot on down to the cafe for that all-
important first cup of coffee (some habits just transcend the
gender question). For the balance of the morning, I did not see
her as she went to the morning SO sessions and I flittered about.

Even at lunch, we missed each other. This concerned me. After
all, there was always the possibility that she heard something from
one of the other wives that upset her. Running back to the room to
pick up several outfits that I was to model during the luncheon, I
failed to find her there or along the way. Assuming she had
already gone to the luncheon, I picked up my outfits and rushed
back to the changing room. As I was anxious to confirm that my
wife was, in fact, at the luncheon, I went with the first group to
model.

It didn't take me long to discover that she wasn't there. Now,
stuck between the proverbial rock and hard place, I did two quick
changes, discharged my duties as a model as quickly as possible,
and headed back to the room. As I was en route, I finally saw my
wife across the lobby. With dresses in hand, I chased her.

As it turned out, instead of eating lunch, my wife had decided to
go to the local AAA club after the morning sessions in order to get
directions to her sister-in-law's house in Pittsburgh. This was a
great relief to me. SMART MOVE #10: Though they were holding lunch
for the models, I decided to go back to the hotel cafe with my wife
and have lunch with her alone. This gave her an opportunity to
tell me about her experiences and observations from that morning's
sessions. Though she didn't discuss details (code of silence was
in effect), she compared her views with those of the other wives'.
This was the first time she had ever been able to do so.

Like the day before, we had lunch in the company of a mixed
crowd. Unlike the day before, my wife was at ease. Her
conversation was open and normal. There were no fugitive glances
to the left or right, or sudden tenseness when the waitress
approached. My wife had become comfortable in my presence when I
was dressed.

The rest of Friday afternoon was quite anti-climactic. While we
enjoyed our late and leisurely lunch, we missed the first afternoon
session. That, however, did not matter to us. We were holding our
own impromptu session over lunch. We both did manage to make the
last session of the day, which was a combined husband and wife
discussion group. It was interesting for both of us, but the real
work of the day had already been accomplished.

That night, I probably did the smartest thing of the whole
weekend. Rather than go to the BE ALL dance that night, which
might have been awkward, I decided to change from dresses to male
clothing and take my wife out to dinner in Pittsburgh. Now, it
wasn't much of a date. We ate at Houlihan's, a chain we were
familiar with, at a shopping mall in Pittsburgh and then walked
through a store named Horn's. But this action rates as SMART MOVE
#11: Again, I provided immediate reinforcement to the fact that my
crossdressing wasn't changing our roles or me as a person.

At this point, one might ask the question: After knowing about
the crossdressing for ten years, why harp on the need to reinforce
the fact that the relationship hadn't changed? The answer is
simple. While it is true my wife had known for nine years, she had
never been confronted face-to-face with it physically. For nine
years, she had only seen and lived with him. The crossdressing was
something that she was able to ignore. In her mind, the times I
went out and dressed, or attended group meetings, didn't concern
her. During the BE ALL gathering, she couldn't ignore the issue.
Hence the need to be gentle with the introduction and to reinforce
the fact that the relationship she had married into was healthy and
still in place.

THE LAST DAY

On Saturday, my wife went to Pittsburgh to visit her sister-in-
law while I flittered about and conducted business, attended
sessions, and visited friends. In effect, my wife gave me the day
off, freeing me to slip into my normal convention mode rather than
hovering about, being concerned for her mental well-being.
Besides, she got to see her sister-in-law, her niece, Pittsburgh,
and do some serious shopping (three dresses worth).

That evening, as we prepared for dinner, we had a lot of fun
playing with our make-up, dresses and jewelry. In three days, we
had come a long way. My wife had now seen me in all stages of
dress and preparation, and it didn't bother her. While we had
shared things before, we were now able to really enjoy it, for I
knew she accepted me completely and she knew that I was me, her
husband, regardless of how I dressed.

That evening at dinner, I was able to get some good seating
again. We ate with Linda Buten and her significant other from
Cincinnati, another girl and her SO from Linda's group, Kathy G.,
a TS from my home group, and Richard Docter. Richard Docter sat
between us and was a perfect gentleman. Linda, her friend, and
their wives were also perfect company, providing a natural, easy
going and supportive atmosphere. Had I planned this for months, it
couldn't have been better.

As the next day was going to be a long and busy one, my wife
retired early, insisting that I stay and enjoy myself. With
amazingly little arm-twisting, she talked me into it. So ended my
wife's big adventure.

CONCLUSION

All the books I've ever read on writing state that you need a
conclusion. Rule of thumb is: the conclusion is the point where
the author gets tired of writing. Well, I'm tired.

One may ask, what can I gain from this story? Like any history,
and this is a rather simple history, there are lessons that can be
learned. But you must be careful to draw the proper conclusions
and lessons. To begin with, the above was a story, not a cookbook
recipe for how to introduce your wife to the wonderful world of
crossdressing. Furthermore, no one can ever replicate the
conditions that we operated under. The above story describes a one
time, unique set of occurrences.

What I hope you glean out of this is the need to understand who
you are and to understand your wife. I invited my wife to join me
in Pittsburgh because I felt she could deal with it. This feeling
was intuitive, not analytical. I could have been wrong, but
wasn't. I had judged the time correctly.

Concerning the mechanics, I have attempted to point out those
areas where I believe I erred, or did something good. I didn't go
into the weekend with a grand strategy, plotting every move and
contingency (hence, numerous FUBARs). Again, I trusted my
intuitive judgement. Some of what I did might not work for someone
else. A different woman might have reacted entirely differently
seeing her husband dressed as a woman at the Pittsburgh airport
(and you know something, I wouldn't blame her if she had stopped,
turned and walked away). Some things, like the Friday night dinner
at Houlihan's, might be necessary. What I am trying to say here is
that you have to do what is right for you and your wife. Advice is
great; knowledge and your gut feeling is better.

This brings up the final, and perhaps most important lesson I
would like all you married crossdressers to walk away with. Be
sensitive to the needs of your spouse. Consider for a moment that
you are working hard at looking like, and acting like a woman.
What better way to develop your feminine self than to adopt a
caring, giving, open and empathic attitude toward your own spouse?
All I ask is that when you do, approach the problem as the woman
you are trying so hard to look like would. The results might
surprise you.

Till next time, take care.

SOURCE: INTERNATIONAL FOUNDATION FOR GENDER EDUCATION (IFGE)
P.O. Box 367, Wayland, MA 01778
Copyright 1990 - IFGE


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