As proprietor and chief hostess of the Emerald Fantasy, I do realize that I'm part-therapist, which is a role I didn't expect, but enthusiastically embrace. I feel that I have deeply experienced, and considered, many of the nuances and ramifications of this phenomenon, and I'm happy to pass on what I've discovered to those who are interested. Interestingly enough, many of my clients are totally uninterested in the deeper aspects of what they are actually doing. And that's OK... girls just wanna have fun! Yet it is affirming when someone comes along who has the need to understand their own self better. And the true gift of this activity is that it opens up all kinds of questions about the true self... as well as society itself.

    My overall goal is to send my girls away feeling better about themselves than when they arrived. At the very least they had a fun day. But sometimes, perhaps I have given them a little key to unlocking a part of their own self that they have been unaware of, or hiding from, or actively suppressing. Each of those things is potentially limiting and damaging, whereas awakening to our true feelings can be very liberating and healthy.

    And yet, this too can hold some perils. What if we don't like what we find? Or we like it, but others who we care about, and care about us, don't like it? This is often precisely the case with those who would play with the great and sacrosanct "gender divide."

    Culture-at-large makes both of these scenarios precarious for the "gender explorer." Perhaps the worst situation is the person who wants to cross-dress, and maybe has tried it out, but is wracked by guilt and shame over the whole desire. They know society, in general, says that it is bad, even a sin, so they fall into a form of self-loathing. And what is really worse than hating yourself? To my clients that seem to be leaning toward this attitude, I ask, "So what would your feelings be if you were all alone on a desert island, and could do anything you want? Would you still feel that way?" And usually their answer is, "No." They would have no feeling of guilt or shame if they could be assured that nobody else was watching. So then I ask, "OK, so you're on this desert island with a dog. Can you cross-dress with the dog around?" "Of course," they say. What about kicking the dog? No one's around to see you do it. Would you do it? "No," they say, that would be wrong. Oh, so kicking the dog is wrong no matter what, but cross-dressing is only wrong when someone might find out? Hmmm, we're on to something here.

    Whereas not harming another (even an animal) is a universal value, condemnation of cross-dressing is simply a "traditional" value. And "traditional" values have a tendency to be overthrown eventually. Alone, in their own world, most people feel free to ignore them. Remember, at one time the divine right of kings, slavery, women's abject subjugation, child labor, etc., etc., were "traditional" values. In our times, the age-old condemnation of homosexuality is the latest "traditional" value to topple.

    So what about the gender explorer who likes, even loves, the activity, and has no qualms at all about it: no guilt, no shame, no self-loathing? This is a much healthier and happier state than the alternative… yet they still live within a society that remains mostly disapproving. And there are those members of society who are VERY disapproving, especially if it involves someone close to them.

    Sometimes the gender explorer is so excited and happy about their new-found activity they want to tell everyone. This is where I advise caution, and offer the mantra: "Need to Know." Do they absolutely NEED to know? And need to know NOW? Usually the answer to at least the second question is, "No."

    Here's a factoid that should be kept in mind by all of those who are thinking of "coming out" to anyone in their life: you never know how that person is going to take the news. In the transgender community we hear over and over again, "(this person) was so accepting, and I figured they would reject me," and conversely, "(this person) rejected me and I really thought they would accept me fully." The take-away is that you simply cannot be certain how anyone will take your "great" news. Even those who at first seemingly accept you (because most people do not like confrontations) over time may distance themselves from you. "Yeah, Bob was all supportive and everything, but hardly ever calls anymore."

    So coming out to anyone involves a lot of risk. This is not idle information you are bearing. You're not saying, "Hey, I've decided to dye my hair green." You're messing with perhaps the most sacrosanct divide in all of human culture: the gender divide. That's radical, revolutionary stuff! It undermines their worldview and messes with their minds. The relationships that you had WILL be irreversibly altered by this news. This could result in a net positive or negative… the Las Vegas bookies would probably set the line 10-1 (at least) favoring the latter. So remember when you come out to someone, that may be the beginning of the end of that relationship... no matter how close you thought they were. Transgender people and cross-dressers have lost spouses, parents, children, friends, jobs, churches, you name it... all because they were trying to pursue happiness and spoke the truth. So, by our very nature, we reveal the true beliefs and quality of character of those who encounter us. Sometimes it's not a pretty sight. So take care before you open that Pandora's box!

    The general rule of thumb is this: the likelihood of their acceptance is inversely proportional to how much they buy into conformity. Thus, more conservative people, who are more conformist, are less likely to accept your "great" news." More liberal people, who are less conformist, are more likely. More religious (especially fundamentalist) people, who are more conformist, are less likely to be accepting. Less rigidly religious people (or agnostics, atheists), who are less conformist, are more likely to accept. However, remember that even this guideline is no guarantee, either way.

    Now, I'm not advocating never coming out. I'm not saying you should never be fully truthful to any or all. What I am saying is you should be certain there is a strong "Need to Know" component. That's a determination that should force itself upon you after much consideration; it should not a snap decision you make in the throes of gender euphoria.

    There are a couple of other aspects of this decision to carefully consider:

    Say you just want to come out to a few people, those you think will be very accepting. First, you may be very wrong about that. Do you want to gamble on losing that relationship, right now? Second, what exactly are you asking of that person? He or she can't talk about it to anyone else? You want them to keep your secret? Will they need to lie to do that? What kind of non-virtuous web are you ensnaring them? If it needs to be a secret, so be it. Society is coming around, but still not there yet. Better to keep your own secret than trapping others in the web.

    Also: If you are rather new to the whole cross-dressing or transgender reality, then you have a lot to learn, a lot to experience, a lot to contemplate. Don't let an emotional high carry you up and into a cloud of ill-considered decisions. Take your time, grasshopper. Even if you are on the transgender track, and can't wait to race forward: "hasten slowly."

    And then there's this: The cross-dressing and transgender experiences are mostly physical and emotional based. Yet you are not just your body and emotions. You are way more than that. You are also a mind (rationality) and spirit (spiritual capacity), which have little or nothing to do with gender. You also (probably) have a life rich with other components: parents, spouse/partner, children, extended family, friends, pets, career, hobbies, etc., etc. In the scheme of things, dressing up in girl clothes is just a fun thing to do... not who you are. This goes for women, too, many of whom do just fine being a woman without ever wearning girl clothing, makeup, etc. Try to keep the whole picture in perspective, and place the highest value on that which truly deserves it.

    And remember that true and lasting beauty and virtue is inside, not outside. While you are practicing your makeup and fashion skills, don't forget that your inner virtues are the only pathway to true happiness!

    So find a place for your girl self. Let her out to play on at least a semi-regular basis. Relish being her when you are in that space. Don't fall prey to the stupidity of society by feeling guilty or shameful. You are doing nothing wrong, not breaking any laws, not hurting anybody. Remember that desert island: dress up and be happy; don't kick dogs.

    As always, there's really only one rule that matters: Love. That certainly includes yourself. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. So do unto yourself what you want to do... as long as it harms no others. Love yourself. Your girl self is part of you... probably always has been. Keeping her imprisoned, shackled, subjugated is not love. But then you probably have others in your life you also want to love, and protect from harm. So seek a balance that serves both you and them. You can't serve them as well if you are stiff and unhappy.

    The good news of our evolving society is that you can do this. You can dress up, fully, safely, discretely, and have fun with it... without being burned at the stake, thrown in prison, or taken to the asylum for electro-shock therapy. You can be a rank beginner and there are allies out there to help you. There are transformation services here, there and everywhere that will get you going, and out in public you'll find store clerks, waiters, waitresses, bartenders and others who won't blink an eye.

    One thing you know: f you happen to be in Seattle, you have friend.

    Take care and good luck on your amazing journey!

    A. Russell
    Copyright © A. Russell. All rights reserved.


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