“A man dressed up like a woman?? Why… he MUST be crazy! This man needs help! He should be institutionalized! Hurry – get him off the street before anyone else catches this terrible mental disease!” Oh please. This attitude and severe lack of knowledge is so pre-1950’s. Crossdressing is a mental illness, babies come from storks, and the world is flat, right?
Myth: Crossdressers are mentally ill and that is why they have the urge to crossdress. Fact: Although it is possible for a mentally ill person to also be a crossdresser, crossdressing is not the result of a mental illness, but rather one of many personal traits that some people have genetically woven into them. This particular trait just happens to be widely misunderstood and have a social stigma attached to it.
In discussing this myth, I am reminded of an old TV show my father used to watch when I was much younger: M*A*S*H. This very popular TV sitcom of the 70’s and early 80’s was set in the Korean War. The character of Klinger regularly dressed in women’s clothes in order to display that he was “mentally unfit” for duty (i.e. crazy) in an attempt to gain (Section 8) discharge from U.S. military service. Although many found this character’s antics and attire amusing, the notion that crossdressing makes one “mentally unfit” is far from reality.
Crossdressing falls outside of what is currently socially acceptable. What is socially accepted and what is not, does not draw the line between sane and crazy. It pains me to no avail that much of society thinks terrible things about me because I am a crossdresser, but I am most certainly not crazy or mentally ill.
In regard to my own mental health, I’d like to share an interesting story. Long ago I was diagnosed with having severe chronic depression, which is classified as a mental illness. I grew increasingly dysfunctional and suicidal to the point where I was placed in a psychiatric hospital against my will. It was a truly dark and painful time for me. I tear up even today when reflecting back upon it.
Although I managed to function and survive on my own after a period of hospitalization, living with constant depression was just the status quo for me. It took more than 20 years after my initial diagnosis to figure out what was at the heart of my long-lasting struggle with chronic depression. Most of my troubles stemmed from the fact that I was living my life as a great big lie. In other words, I was a crossdresser trying my hardest to live my life pretending that I was not. Any trained psychiatric professional will explain that it is not healthy to live one’s life pretending to be something that they are not or denying themselves perfectly normal and healthy experiences (even if those experiences may not be considered socially acceptable).
I find it ironic that a lifetime of trying to suppress this integral part of who I am and pretend to be a “normal guy” would be at the heart of my mental illness. Once I finally accepted who and what I am, the great burden of confusion, guilt, self-hatred, low-self esteem, and a plethora of other emotional difficulties that contributed to my severe chronic depression all but faded away.
After figuring myself out, I went back to see the psychiatrist that had me institutionalized 20 years prior. I explained something I could not bring myself to confess years before: that I am a crossdresser. Over a series of sessions, he saw the connections between specific problems in my past and my trying (pretending) to exist as a non-crossdressing or “normal” guy. In essence, trying to live my life in a way that society might see as mentally healthy, is the very thing that lead me into my dark years of mental illness.
Although I still deal with reoccurring bouts of depression from time to time, it is a lot more manageable now that I have accepted and become comfortable with who I am. I now love rather than hate myself. The difference is truly night and day.
The pretending thing is a pattern I’ve noticed in many others in online crossdressing communities. The specifics are different, but the general stories are very similar. Crossdressers routinely try to live their lives pretending not to be and it causes some pretty serious negative complications in many of their lives.
It would be so refreshing if society would stop treating us so poorly and be more accepting of differences in people. There would be no need for such confusion among otherwise very normal, well rounded and completely sane people.
Crossdressing is not a mental illness. It is not a sickness, perversion, disease, affliction, condition, the work of the devil, or any of that other garbage many people seem to associate it with. It is simply who we are, and the only real problem with that is in how we’re treated by much of society.
I think that a lot of crossdressers do end up dealing with mental illness though, for many of the same reasons I did. Trying to suppress who I am was truly maddening and a terrible waste of so many years of my life. Never again though. This is who I am and love being a tgirl (if only part-time). I’d be crazy not to.
Related content: Crossdressing Myths