Simply Awesome

Dressby Rich I always knew, on some level, that I supported women’s growth, empowerment, and rights. Despite being a man, even from a young age, I felt connected to women in a much stronger way than I am to men. Emma Watson’s words ring true—gender is a continuum, not a set of opposing ideals. Since I was about 7 years old, I have been a secret cross dresser.

On the rare occasions when I would go out in public “dressed up,” I’d get negative reaction from the people who saw me in malls and on the street. I’d hear the giggling and ridiculing cat-calls, as well as see the mobile phone cameras being used to grab pictures of me. That’s unfortunate, because expressing myself meant humiliation. Related to pride, my shame kept me in the closet for many, many years.

In June 2013, a friend mentioned that someone had posted hate speech on his Facebook page about his homosexuality. As an ally, I outed myself to him privately, saying that I was a “cousin” of his gay community; that I was a cross dresser, myself. He let me know that I was more than just a cousin: he said that I put the “T” in the community. He identified me as transgender!

That hit me hard. I realized that I was now an unwilling member of this group. I even tried to deny it! Yet, I spent a lot of time thinking about it, visiting websites that gave me more information. I even looked up LGBT to get more of a handle on this label didn’t even know that I had!

Society still isn’t entirely warm to “the guy in the dress.” In fact, that image is more of a comedic stereotype. Audiences frequently laugh when they see a man in women’s clothing (again, something that reinforces disgrace). I don’t dress in women’s clothes 24/7. It’s a part-time activity, largely because of society’s demands. In a perfect world, I’d probably do it all the time. But I have personal and business identities that (probably) would be damaged. Hey, people judge—it’s a fact of life.

Over time, I’ve grown more in self-acceptance and understanding of my place in the world. Being dressed as a woman makes me feel authentic. In women’s clothes, I am the most true and complete version of myself; me at my most honest with others. Cross dressing is one of my most favorite things to do, along with being a husband and father, adventure motorcycle rider, and cigar smoker (yes, I’m quite the diverse gender-bender!).

Because of this newfound increased self-acceptance, I’m less aware of the giggles and cameras when I’m out and dressed up. By being more genuine, I’ve gotten away from some of the embarrassment that has blocked my progress and never would have permitted me to write this blog post!

My favorite feminist moment of 2014 was when I accepted the invitation to join a friend at Cosmopolitan’s Fun Fearless Life conference in November. She and I went together. I “came out” (showed up to the two-day conference in women’s clothes) to 2000 women at once! The remarkable thing is, I got a lot of positive reaction – acceptance and love. The women I met and spoke with didn’t even seem to notice. They treated me as I want to be treated – as “one of the girls.”

The conference was phenomenal! There was such great information for women, but really, it’s applicable to everyone. I walked out of that event with such a high, and such a sense of being empowered because I fulfilled one of my goals – to go cross dressed. As we were leaving, an attendee followed me across the lobby and stopped me. She welled up as she said that she thought I was “simply awesome.” She was moved by the courage she saw in me, going to this event dressed up, and without apology.

Because of these recent experiences, I’ve gotten more involved in feminism and feminist groups. My approach is as one who identifies (sometimes) and also as an ally. I bring a unique approach of being a man who enjoys many feminine things. I stand, ready to serve our feminist community, grateful for its acceptance, and confident that I will provide value in return.

Your StoriesErin Bagwell