Was the story, the secret he shared, true? Or false? I simply will never know. However upon hearing the story, the response expected of me was laughter and amusement. My life had just changed. I had in some ways awaken to my true self. The first time I ever considered crossdressing and saw it as a pathway to a happier life, I was also forced to laugh at another who had been caught dressed as a girl. I also learned he had been scolded by his parents upon being caught. When the seed of my new life first came to me, it came bundled with the awareness that I would be subject to ridicule and punishment if anyone ever came to learn of my plans, much less what I was doing once I acted on those plans. I was ten years old and on the verge of puberty and the ramifications of that shared secret ensured that my remaining years would be years of lies and secrets.
I cannot recall any incidents over the next several years which requred that I laughed at myself by laughing at those who were like me. I do however recall an from my second grade school years, an incident from just three years before. It was the start of the new school years and there was a knock at the door. When the door opened, the room soon filled with all the freshman boys dressed up as girls. It was part of a hazing tradition at our school. No one ever considered having the girls dress up as boys to subject them to ridicule. However this hazing traditon was not unique to our school. As a class, as a member of the class, it was the expectation that we should laugh at them. Boys dressed up as girls! How funny!
Several years later, when I was attending Spokane Falls Community College, I found a group of friends that was roughly divided between let’s call them men and women. One of them was a young man who was small in size. Some might even suggest petite. He also had a very effeminate face and his mannerisms were less than manly. The women in out group would often suggest he should try dressing up as a girl, even offering to help him do so, expressing their certainty that he would make a very pretty girl. He was always adamant in his refusasl to do so. Whenever this experiment was suggessted, if I was present, if any other guy was present, we would always chuckle and exchange glances communicating that we would not be surprised if he was privately doing just what he was so adamantly refusing to try. At a time when all I really wanted to say is, “What about me? Help me be pretty,” it was expected that I would find amusement in his effeminacy. [Several years later I would be out at Spokane gay bar on drag night and one of the perfomers on stage I recognized as my friend from SFCC. I will never know if how he came to find that stage and whether the dares presented by our mutual friends from SFCC had played a role.]
A few more years would pass and I am now married to Ann. She is working as a waitress. On of her co-workers is gay. They are great friends and on the occasion of his 21st birthday, it was not surprising when Ann agreed to help him celebrate. They ended up at a local gay bar and as it turned out on that evening there was a drag show. Watching the show, Ann started to laugh. I am not talking about a quiet chuckle, more smile than laughter. Her laughter became so oblivious to everyone that at one point the emcee of the show asekd her to be respective of the performer or leave. We were in their space and if was going to laugh at them it was suggested she should just leave.
The next day this is first story Ann shared with me considering her night out with a gay man. I had to smile when she came to the part where the emcee all but asked her to leave. It was the key of the story. Her laughter had been that loud. Her ridciule of men who dress up as women had been noted. She may have been laughing at the performers on the stage, but she was also laughing at me. But she was not laughing alone as I also had to find amusement in her story. I would hear her tell that story often to family and freinds. It was always my role to join in the amusing nature of her situation.
In a not unrelated story, one night Ann and I were at her parent’s home. A rather controversial movie was airing and it was starting Robert Reed (I think this is right) and it was the story of a husband who except for the boldness of his choices and the courage of his conviction could have been me. Ann’s mother found the idea of a man who wanted to live as a woman disgusting. [One of the first compassionate portrayl of a transgender woman I had seen on televsion and I could not speak my mind about what the show had meant to me. ] There was however one transgender woman at our school and I once saw her assisting her in finding information about being transgender. As she was doing so many of us watch in amusement. How funny he looked. Life a girl but not a girl.
Throughout this period it also became increasingly common to see characters, men and boys, in television shows and movies and performing stand-up comedy dressed up as women or girls. Whether it was a live broadcast or there was a soundtrack, whenever a male character would emerge from a bathroom or dressing room fully dressed as a girl, there would be laughter heard. You never saw crossdressers until later in dramas. They were always to be found in comedies. Anytime I saw anyone engaging in the act of crossdressing on the television or the movie theater, it was always meant to generate laughter.
I lived a secret life for decades and when I did start exploring my feminine identity I lived a double life. For close to fifty years of my life, as a male, as someone others saw as a man, whenever I saw someone crossdressing as a woman — and working retail this became increasingly common over the years — , I had to tell a lie, a lie of laughter, laughing at them and laughing at myself.