Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Reader Request - Dealing With The Festive Season

With Christmas right around the corner, a reader has requested this blog.

No matter who you are or what you circumstance may be it can be very difficult to deal with the festive season. Ensuring you've bought sufficient gifts for those you care about (or don't as the case may be!). Deciding where you will spend Christmas; will it be with your parent(s)? Your partner? Their parent(s)? Do you host your own festivities? If you host your own, do you have enough plates? Chairs? Food? Do you buy all attendees a gift or is your gift hosting?! How do you ask for the gift you want without sounding like a brat? What if someone buys you a gift you already have? What if it's truly disgusting? What if the food is disgusting...? The stresses of Christmas are seemingly endless. Why not just throw a mental health in there too? Just for shits and giggles?! Of course, I jest. People often have a very strange outlook on mental illness. What do you do when your mum pipes up at the Christmas table with "Did you hear about uncle Keith's breakdown? Poor aunt Sally having to put up with him all these years...!" Oftentimes, people don't know how to respond to a mental health diagnosis. 

The best approach I find is to just be honest. Let people know how you're feeling if you're particularly down. Sometimes though, that doesn't work either! Everyone who knows me knows I'm not the most festive person. Some even call me a Grinch. I'm fine with that. Even though the Grinch eventually loves Christmas! I often get the same comments and questions: "oh you're so miserable" "how can you hate Christmas?" "You work with kids, you must love Christmas" blah blah blah! Why does it matter to you that I don't like Christmas? Does it stop, you from enjoying the festivities? Of course not! I don't like Marmite either but no one makes a big deal of that! I've written a few blogs including Christmas and I'm always honest about it. 

Let me tell you about a Christmas of mine. Please beware that it may be triggering; it was Christmas 2009. I was spending my Christmas Day with my boyfriend at the time and his family. This was the second year I'd spent Christmas with them. It was no secret that they didn't like me much. I never really feel much like celebrating at Christmas. This Christmas though I was especially depressed. Two months earlier my mum had been sent to prison for non payment of Council Tax. The family was torn apart. My mum loved Christmas. I remember how she used to make a big deal of it. She would tell us to stay in bed until at least 8am but she would be waking us up at the crack of dawn! My family wanted me to be at home with them for this difficult time. There were many reasons for me to turn this idea down. First of all, what could I possibly do? Whether I was at home or in London, nothing would change. Second, why would I want to be with everyone else in a collective depression? They say that misery seeks company but I'm not sure the company it seeks is miserable company. Finally, the family were postponing Chriatmas anyway!

I decided to go with my slightly better judgement and spend Christmas with the Mr as planned. I thought it would be nice to be away and thus distracted. The Mr had told his family that I wasn't feeling particularly festive this year owing to the circumstances and asked them to not make too big a fuss of me.  Unfortunately, being the type of people they are, they went all out. I got a designer purse and bag, various expensive toiletries and a few other gifts. I was, of course, grateful for their generosity but I just didn't feel like being around them. After present opening, I went upstairs to have a bit of quiet time. Every 5 minutes or so, someone came to check if I was ok or if I needed anything. Again, I was grateful for their concern but I just wanted to be left alone. Yes, to wallow in my misery as is my right. The rest of the day pretty much passed in a blur. I'd spoken to my mum and she sounded destroyed by the situation. She wanted to be at home with her children and grandchildren as anyone would at this time of year. Speaking to her made me feel much worse about things. I tried to avoid being around the Mr's family as much as possible. Unfortunately for me, this irked his younger sister somewhat. She definitely never liked me. I think perhaps she thought I simply wasn't good enough for her brother. The evening of Christmas Day we were playing "family" games together and every time I gave an answer the sister would sigh loudly or roll her eyes! I told the Mr about this in privacy and he said I was just "reading too much into things". Fair enough, I knew I wasn't but I didn't want to create an issue so I left it. 

The following day, the Mr had a house party. I really didn't feel like partying so most of he evening I sat outside by myself looking at the stars. One of his friends came out to see if I was ok. Pretty much the only person in his life who treated me with any amount of respect and human decency. I told him I just needed to be alone with my thoughts and he brought me out a cushion and a jacket to make me more comfortable. 

My mum was released on 29th December. I decided to take a trip up home to see her and have a "celebratory" meal with the family. I didn't feel much like celebrating but I figured I had to make an effort. In honesty, I felt pretty numb about the whole thing. I guess I ought to have been happy or relieved that my mum was out but I wasn't. I just felt completely empty. I became concerned as it seemed to be the start of a period of flat affect. I don't like this feeling as it leads to pretty destructive behaviour in an attempt to feel something. I didn't stay with the family long. Just one day and then I headed back to the Mr to celebrate the new year. 

When I was on the coach back the Mr was texting me. I guess he was trying to show that he cared when he came out with "you know what, you haven't given me a blow job in ages!"... I didn't know how to react to this. Ordinarily I may have laughed at him but given the situation I found it incredibly insensitive. He wasn't kidding either. When I got back that evening we went to the local pub. He told me we were meeting his old school friend as he hadn't seen her in about 5 years. I wasn't bothered about him wanting to meet her. In fact, at the time, I couldn't have been less interested if I tried. When we got to the pub we ordered a drink and waited for her. Within 5 minutes of her arrival she was flirting outrageously. Ordinarily this wouldn't bother me but they had a history. A very complex history. I could feel myself becoming more and more irritated and uncomfortable with the situation. When she went to the bathroom I told the Mr how I felt and he told me I was "just being silly". I decided to deal with it the only way I could. I got very drunk!

I wanted to talk to the Mr about how I was feeling (or not feeling as the case was) but he was dismissive. When we got back to his I pretty much passed out drunk. The next morning we slept in given we were both hung over. By the time we actually got up and dressed it was time to leave for a New Years house party. All the while, I could feel things festering away. Bubbling under the surface. I just did what I normally do, I put a smile on and got on with it!

The house party wasn't too bad. There were enough people around that at least one of them would be willing to speak with me. The Mr simply left me to my own devices whilst he went outside to get stoned! Just how I like it, alone in a room full of people I don't know! (sarcasm!) I was drinking and dancing and just chatting to anyone who would give me five minutes. I have this incessant need to talk and it annoys people. I'm aware of how irritating I can be but if I stop talking for too long a period it's when the voices start. The only other thing that stops them is listening to ridiculously loud music on my headphones. That may well explain my hearing issues! 

We rang in the new year, from what I remember, with laughter, cheers and all round hugs and kisses. By this point I must have drank more than half a bottle of Bacardi. I'd now stopped adding the mixer and was just drinking it straight! The Mr had come back at the countdown to midnight and was now mingling with others inside. I was dancing. Suddenly he came over to me and whispered rather threateningly that I ought to behave myself as I was causing him embarrassment! Right there was the straw that broke the camel's back! I launched into a tirade of verbal abuse. Telling him and everyone else who could hear that he was a "selfish boyfriend who only cared about getting his dick sucked even though his girlfriend is in complete turmoil [sic]". Now that I'd started I couldn't stop! It all came tumbling out like verbal diarrhoea.  I was screaming at him and lashing out. Rather than stick around and talk to me, he simply walked outside and continued to smoke weed!  One of his friends was ushering me into the bathroom. To calm me down. I was screaming, yelling, crying. The floodgates had opened and I'd lost control. 

What happened next is pieced together by other individuals. I have very little recollection myself. I went downstairs to find him and to talk. Everyone was staring at me, whispering behind their hands with looks of horror and distaste on their faces. I found him, of course sat outside smoking as if nothing had happened. He was laughing and joking with his friends. This made me even more angry. He saw me approaching and stood up. His friends seemingly scarpered no doubt hoping to avoid this banshee going wild again! I grabbed the joint from him and took a long drag (bearing in mind by this point I'd never smoked cannabis). As I exhaled I said to him "Is this what you want is it? A girlfriend who smokes so much weed she doesn't care about anything?" As he started to reply I walked off. 

I had no idea where I was or where I was going but I needed to get away. The Mr followed me. He was yelling at me. Chastising me for embarrassing him in front of his friends. It was so cold. I was in a dress with no coat or shoes and there was snow on the ground. The Mr kept asking me where I was going and I just yelled at him "I want to go home". At some point during he row he over took me and continued to yell at me. Neither of us can be certain what happened but based on the pain on the back of my head the following day, I slipped and knocked myself unconscious. It took the Mr a bit of time to notice I was no longer yelling back and when he turned round he saw me lying on the floor. You'd expect at this point he'd pick me up and carry me back to the house. Instead he unceremoniously dragged me back then dumped me on the kitchen floor. According to some, my breathing was shallow and ragged. According to others I was choking on my tongue. Whatever the case may be, an ambulance was called and I was taken to hospital. 

I remember waking up in a blindingly white space. I could hear various beeps around me and I felt as though I'd been hit by a truck! I had a drip in one arm and I was attached to a heart monitor. As I sat up, I saw the Mr sat at the bottom of the bed in a chair. His head in his hands.  When he looked at me I felt the most intense anger and hatred I have ever experienced. I wanted to tear him apart with my bare hands. I removed the heart monitor and the drip and told him I wanted to go home. A nurse came and told me I couldn't be discharged as I was "suicidal". I told her if she didn't let me go I'd kill her as well. 

That, my friends, was the worst Christmas/New Year combo I have ever experienced! I often think that if I had just been able to speak with the Mr about my feelings and if he'd just listened to me, the whole sorry affair could have been avoided. My sage advice to those struggling at this time is to talk about it. Talk to someone you know will listen. Be as open and honest as you can be. Don't bottle everything up because when the time comes, the explosion with be catastrophic! Needless to say, my relationship didn't survive this nuclear meltdown. We separated and then got back together but things were never the same. 

If you feel you have no one to talk to, there's always The Samaritans. Also, Sane have a text care facility that really helps. If all else fails, feel free to message me. I can't promise I will be there immediately but my emails do come through to my phone and I will check them periodically over the next week or so. I won't have the answers for you but I will listen and advise as best as I can.  If you need to take some time out for yourself, please do it but I implore you not to spend Christmas alone. This year is my first Christmas in London despite living here almost 10 years and with the year I've had I wanted to spend it by myself. Fortunately, I have a wonderful friend who has informed me that I am to spend the holiday with her and her partner for which I am truly grateful. I may have wanted to be alone but no doubt if I was, I wouldn't be blogging next year. 

Please, take good care of yourself this holiday season. Be kind to yourself. Don't feel that you have to join in all the festivities. Remember, you're only human. 

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Lets all just take a moment

I have three or four blogs that I'd like to get out before Christmas but this one has taken precedence so please bear with me.

Yesterday I saw a story about one Lynn Cassidy, you may have seen the story. You may have scoffed at the story. I admit, upon reading the headline "Mum becomes suicidal before Christmas every year because she can't accept Santa isn't real" my first thought was "say what?" Then I read the story. Of course, this story was reported in The Mirror. I find The Mirror and other tabloid newspapers are terrible sources of news. Their manner of reporting news stories is quite irresponsible, especially in relation to mental health. Granted, there are worse news outlets, The Sun for instance or The Daily Mail.  I tend to avoid newspapers altogether. I do have The Metro on my iPad to while away my commute to work but more often than not I will read a book. (Most recently, I read Andy Behrman's Electroboy).

Today I saw the story floating around again on my Facebook news feed and I - stupidly - decided to read some of the comments. I'd heard that 2014 has been the year of the beginning of the end of mental health stigma and I found myself wondering if this is truly the case.

From personal experience, I have found that stigmatisation is still as rife as ever but now it's being deemed inappropriate to make remarks about "crazy nutters". Much like the condemning of black people becoming "not ok" and more recently homosexuals. Of couse, I'm using broad strokes here and I'm aware there is more to it but that would take up too much of your time dear reader and with Christmas around the corner there's precious little of that!

As I often do, I digress! What troubled me the most about this story was not the suffering experienced by Ms Cassidy, although I do feel some sort of kinship with her, it was the responses of other individuals who clearly have no idea what it's like to suffer the turmoil of mental distress. One such individual commented "I say let her kill herself". I wish I was kidding... Said individual then went on to state "I feel for the person who has to counsel her... This is exactly what is wrong with the west... This lady got paid for her story. I bet she uses this as an excuse for benefits and sympathy."  Now, nowhere in the article does it state that Lynn does, in fact, claim benefits for her issues.  This is classic "tarring with the same brush" mentality.

The same article in the Express elicited comments such as "Have no time for nuts like her." and "arent there places called asylums that this lady could be housed in?" and even "how totally and utterly pathetic this dumb woman is,how on earth does the idiot cope with real life,i dispear [sic]  at humanity." This last comment is one of the reasons I myself despair of humanity. An individual's poor grasp of the English language and the fact that they have attempted to rationalise this woman's behaviour by calling her "utterly pathetic" is the reason I decided to write this blog. 

Yes, I decided to read the article and then the comments so the onus for my current feelings is entirely on me. I have become enraged by the response to Lynn's very obviously troubled mind, again, I accept responsibility entirely for my feelings as no one forced me to read the article. My point here is simply this;  had Lynn come forward and mentioned her distress at Christmas for a different reason, would people react the same? If she was troubled by cancer in her finger, would you lambast her for her woes because it's not, say, pancreatic cancer? No you wouldn't. Cancer is cancer no matter how big or small and mental distress is no different in this respect. You don't have to have suffered some great tragic event in your life to experience mental distress. The tiniest thing can trigger an already fragile mind. My reckoning is that Lynn Cassidy has other issues that she is either unaware of that contribute to her feeling of depression at this difficult time of year or that The Mirror edited her interview to cause a stir. I don't know. I'd love the opportunity to discuss this matter with Lynn herself and take down her exact story but I fear such a thing might not be possible. (Lynn, if you do happen to read my piece, please do contact me directly). 

Let's take a little look at this thing in broader terms; Lynn's distress appears to have been triggered by the discovery that Santa is not real. She made this discovery at the tender age of 10 when she received a second hand bicycle. Based on what is written in the article, the biggest fault here is with her parents. Lynn says of her parents response to her discovery; "They didn't even really have to answer, they just looked at me in a way that said it all. From there my world came crashing down." Why had her parents not addressed this issue for her? At 10 years old I imagine it must be incredibly earth shattering to discover that Santa isn't real. I can't say for certain from personal experience as I'm not entirely sure I ever really believed myself. I don't remember. At 10 years of age, we are not equipped with the tools necessary to deal with this type of trauma (because, let's face it, it is a trauma!). As we get older, we learn the tools necessary to deal with traumatic events for the most part. This is not canon of course. Sometimes we experience things that we simply cannot deal with and we cease to function at a "normal" rate.  The thing that I'm finding equally, if not more troubling is the typical scathing remarks of her being a benefits claimant. Nowhere in this article does it state Lynn claims benefits. In fact, not in any of the reports covered by various media outlets has Lynn been revealed to claim benefits. And what if she does, indeed, claim benefits? Why does that factor into her troubles? Do all those who suffer mental distress claim benefits? Are all benefits claimants "thieving, low life layabouts?" NO! No they are not. I had a period this year of unemployment and reluctantly claimed benefits in order that I could feed myself! I was actively seeking work. I was interviewing twice a week for the most part. I just fell on difficult times. I also have mental health issues. Does that make me "one of them"?

Lynn has a legitimate diagnosis which proves that she isn't faking it and if she really was "in it for the money" don't you think she would have opted for a story with better "believability"?
Everyone's suffering is relative. When I say "I'm starving" I don't mean I'm third world country, child with a distended stomach starving. No, what I mean is "I have experienced a full stomach, my stomach is no longer full, it troubles me and I have a great need for food". I suffer. I suffer a lot with my own mental distresses. I find a lot of my distresses more troubling owing to my knowledge of psychological development and the awareness that my thinking is flawed yet I'm incapable of changing it. That almost distresses me as much as the distresses themselves!  

In order to really combat stigma, we need to look to ourselves. Ask ourselves WHY we react in the way we do. We need to educate these people who believe that Lynn deserves her suffering and ought to be locked away or should kill herself. Just because you don't understand someone else's suffering doesn't give you the right to condemn them. 

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Let's talk about...

I have been meaning to start this piece for a while but it has been difficult to know where to start. This is one of those blogs that I fully expect to receive some level of negative response and I am ok with that. I am also working on a blog about the different types of sexuality as well as the difference between gender and sex and the genders that exist beyond male and female.

The issue I'm talking about is sexuality. The links between sexuality and mental health issues are numerous. Not to mention the fact that up until the mid 20th century, any sexual preference other than male:female was actually considered a psychological issue.  In some countries, homosexuality is still illegal.

It's bizarre really as before the High Middle Ages, no one really cared! Or if they did, they didn't make a fuss about it. From the tail end of the 12th century, attitudes towards homosexuality became hostile. It was branded as "unnatural". Studies have shown that all sexuality is embedded in our genes, it's not a choice, yet people still seem to condemn those who engage in such relations. 

When people ask me about my sexuality, I clam up. Almost as much as when people say "...so what kind of music are you into?".  There is no simple answer to either question. 

As far as sexuality and/or sexual preference, I don't define myself as having a "preference". I like people. Human beings. 

To me, it does not matter if you are male, female, transgender (either way), intersex, none binary, gay, straight, bisexual, pansexual... The labels are endless. I don't feel that I subscribe to any. I find intelligence sexy. I guess if you want to define me in this respect, I'm a sapiosexual.  If you can make me laugh, that's sexy. I also find confidence very sexy. Don't confuse this with arrogance. There is nothing that turns me off more than arrogance.  If you have blue eyes, you're in with a better chance than your brown/green eyed counterparts... But that's about it for me. I don't care how you identify yourself. 

I'm also not strictly monogamous. There is always a collective gasp whenever I reveal this. As if polygamy makes me some sort of monster. It doesn't. Monogamy is not natural to humans. Contest this all you will but it's a fact. People may choose monogamy but it doesn't come naturally. Monogamy, like many other things, is a very new social construct. I would argue it's down to the church but that's another subject for a different time!  Is there a label for this? I don't know, probably. It's just not important to me at all to define it. 

When I speak to people about sexuality, I often pose the question "how do you know if you're straight if you've never tried anything else?" The response I usually get is "I just know". I don't believe this for one second. You can't "just know". If you gave that as an answer for anything g else you'd be an idiot. Imagine if in a maths test where it states "show your workings" you wrote "I just know"... Such an answer wouldn't suffice. I'm not saying everyone should try it but you can't "just know". You can believe but that isn't the same. The world isn't black and white. We're not in Kansas darlings, it's technicolor and we're all in Oz! People "just knew" the earth was flat until Christopher Columbus went and ruined that! 

The life that I live brings me into contact with a wide array if people. I'm incredibly lucky to have some seriously open minded friends, it's a quality I value above most others.  That's not always the case though. I do know some people that are so narrow minded, so singular that it hurts. If they identify with the sex they were assigned at birth and are attracted to someone of the opposite sex, that's fine. What I dislike is the way they respond to those who don't fit with their idea of "normal". 

Normal is one of those terms that I dislike. I often put the term in inverted comas as that's where I believe it belongs in the context I use it. However, normal does exist. For me, it is only within the confines of science. Like it or not, everything fits on a bell curve. This bell curve has ranges either side. If you are "normal" you are in the middle of the normal range. The 95% if you will. You can deviate either side of "normal" as long as you don't go too far. That will put you into the "abnormal" section outside of the bell curve. As I say, in science, this is ok. I still don't like the term but it has it's uses. In psychology the's days the terms used are "typical" and "atypical". These terms are not desirable either but I guess somewhat more preferable. 

Even with science in mind, normal varies. In one community, it may be deemed normal to have six wives, that's not accepted in the society I grew up in. This is known as "cultural norms

I have long since given up on trying to define and/or defend my sexuality. I have no issue with people not liking my choices. They're mine to make and I would never force my choices onto anyone else and it's their choice to disagree, just because they disagree though does not make them right. It's one of the things I will never understand about human beings. Why do you even care?! Is it really affecting you if John and Jane Doe down the street were actually born Jane and John? If it does affect you then I am afraid to break this to you but you are the one with the problem. I have encountered a lot of negativity surrounding my sexuality. As a teen, I was verbally bullied for being a "dyke" "rug muncher" "lesbo"... You name it, I've probably been called it. In my younger years this bothered me. I'm sure it also contributed to my mental health issues. However, it's now something I choose simply to not deal with. If I'm asked directly about my sexuality, I will try to be as honest as I can but I often find myself talking to a blank face! 

I had an issue with "coming out" a few years back. I use inverted commas here as I didn't actually consider that coming out. I figured everyone knew I had sexual interests in men as well as women (I didn't even dare to venture further than this...! I have also been in a polygamous relationship which I didn't exactly keep secret but I wasn't shouting it from the rooftops!) I remember so distinctly the look on an individual's face when I victoriously announced to a friend that I'd snogged a girl at my birthday. She asked and I told. The individual in question didn't seem to grasp what I was talking about. She asked if I meant a girl. I explained, of course that's what I meant. She paled. This "revelation" clearly unnerved her. When she asked why I would do that, I responded simply "because I like women (duh!). Said individual didn't speak to me for quite some time after that! 

A few years ago I went to World Pride in London. Boy George happened to be performing - he's a guilty pleasure of mine - and I called this person to let her know (given that she was a fan). She asked me where he was at and I told her Pride. She asked what that was. I said " you know, gay pride...?" Her response was "eugh, gays!" I had no response for this! This particular individual is very close to be but I realised there was no point in saying anything back. She has also chastised me on many occasions for saying out loud how attractive I find a woman. Sometimes, I will say stuff just for the reaction because it amuses me no end! No matter how many times I do it, the response is always the same. 

It is human nature to fear the unknown. It is a survival instinct that has evolved with us to help us learn to run from something with sharp teeth and powerful jaws. We would do well to maintain this instinct as we don't want people climbing into lion enclosures at the local zoo in order to pet the big friendly kitties. What we can stand to change is our response to the unknown. Again, it is innate to fear the unknown but these days, with the "information superhighway" at our fingertips we can find out pretty much anything about anything!  The fight or flight response developed way back when is no longer necessarily the best response method and if you need to know about something, just ask!

To that end, I am going to start a small series of blogs in relation to sexuality and mental health. If you have a story you would like to share, come on over to my Facebook page or drop me an email and we can knock something together.  

Until Next time, 

Keep Smiling :): 

On a sidenote...

Before I post my next blog, I would like to invite any London readers to Cabaret Roulette's next event on 19 January. This day will be known as Blue Monday and is said to be the most depressing day of the year. Therefore, we are holding this event to raise money for Mind.  Owing to the tragic closure of our beloved Madame Jojo's, the show will be held at Bethnal Green Working Men's Club Tickets are pay what you can.

Please give me a shout if you're interested in coming and showing your support!!

Kids say the funniest things!

I love working with children. Their thirst for knowledge knows no bounds. They question everything. Why is the sky blue? Where does the water from the tub go? What are clouds made of? I always endeavour to answer questions a honestly as possible. A few weeks ago I was asked "What happens when you die?" These sorts of questions I will defer to the parents as my ideas on such matters may differ from theirs and I wouldn't want to step on any toes.

Recently whilst working I dropped a mug of tea. My trousers got wet so whilst the children were playing I took them off and hung them on the radiator to dry. I was wearing boxer shorts so I figured if the children saw me it wouldn't be as much of an issue as they looked just like shorts. The older child came into the kitchen. She looked at me for a moment considering what I was wearing. She didn't ask me why I wasn't wearing my trousers like I imagined she might. Instead she asked "Why are you wearing pants like daddy's, are you a boy?" I was somewhat amused by her question and endeavoured to give her an honest answer. Given that she is three years old, this question is a genuine curiosity as oppose to being a hate filled accusation that one might expect. 

For as long as I can remember I have been more comfortable in jeans. I have never been a girly girl. Dresses make me feel incredibly awkward for the most part. Most of the jeans I own are, in fact, men's jeans. I also have more men's t shirts than women's and I own an array of men's underwear. 

I told my charge that sometimes I felt more comfortable in "daddy pants" but I am, indeed, a girl. She didn't question me any further however her line of enquiry lead me to my own thinking about my dress sense. 

I have always been more comfortable in men's clothing. I don't really "do" sexy well and women's clothes often cling in all the wrong places for my liking. As a female, I have a very ample chest. There is no disguising that fact. Sometimes I will wear a low cut top to show off some cleavage. Other times, tops that I buy simply don't keep my cleavage in check! As far as my personality is concerned, I'm definitely "one of the lads". I like beer, football, cars, ogling hot women... (Not that this is all men think about mind you!). I've never been one for wearing makeup. I didn't like barbie dolls as a youngster and I would have sooner sit and read Goosebumps than some girly magazine. I guess it's rather safe to say I consider myself to be more masculine than feminine. 

I started thinking more and more about this and it raised an interesting question; am I a cross dresser?  Having since conducted a little research, I have come to the conclusion that yes, I may well actually be a cross dresser or even, if you will, a transvestite. Cross dressing is defined thusly;

To dress in clothing that is usually worn by the opposite sex.

A transvestite is defined as such;

A person, especially a male, who assumes the dress and manner usually associated with the opposite sex.

This bothers me somewhat. I am uncertain as to why this dictionary definition singles out males.

For all intents and purposes, these definitions make me a "cross dresser". I was unfazed by this discovery. As I have previously written, I don't define my sexuality in any sort of "conventional" manner. I am attracted to people, plain and simple. When it comes to clothing, I wear what I feel comfortable in. This attitude has caused me no end of problems growing up. I was more than happy wearing second hand clothing or "unbranded" clothing and often wore my brother's cast offs. It has never mattered to me what the label says on my clothing. When I wear something I ask myself "Do I like it? Do I feel comfortable? Do I look good?" If I answer yes to those three questions then I'm happy. Unfortunately for me, children can be incredibly cruel! However, this part of my life is being reserved for another blog. 

Cross dressing has been around since time immemorial. In Greek and Norse mythology there are examples of cross dressing. Historical figures have been known to cross dress to some extent for various reasons. Cross dressing can be found throughout the history of folklore, literature, theatre and music. This list is by no means exhaustive.

Women would pose as men in order to undertake a male oriented job. Joan of Arc wore male clothing. Some say this formed part of the reason she was burned at the stake. Others cite that she wore men's clothes in order to protect herself from the sexual advances of guards.  Bonnie Prince Charlie dressed as a maid servant to escape the Battle of Culloden.  William Shakespeare was very well known for using cross dressing for female characters who would wear men's clothing to carry out actions difficult for women. Twelfth Night features a lot of cross dressing. The main female protagonist disguises herself as a man and thus becomes embroiled in a love triangle. There are many movies that look at cross dressing including those featuring Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel.   

The term transvestism was coined back in the 1910s. The etymology of the word is from Latin trans-, "across, over" and vestitus, "dressed".  When German sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld originally coined the term, he used it to describe a person who habitually and voluntarily wore clothes of the opposite sex. These people included both males and females with heterosexual, homosexual bisexual and asexual orientations. To "transvest" means to wear clothing of the opposite gender. (There will shortly be a blog dissecting the differences between sex and gender). 

It is important to note that transvestism must not be confused with transgender or transsexual which defines an individual who lives as the gender opposite to the one they were born as. It should also not be confused with the term drag queen/king which refers to an individual who dresses as the opposite sex for performance purposes.

Whilst conducting my research, I came across an interesting piece about the history of transgenderism in the US.

Unfortunately, through the bastardisation of language, the term "transvestite" has since become a derogatory term and some would argue it is outdated despite it's literal translation. 

Despite the wealth of information available on the subject of cross dressing, most of what I have found refers to men dressing as women. Some of the articles I have read over refer to sexual gratification gleaned from cross dressing but this is not finite. Personally, I don't get any specific sexual gratification from wearing men's clothing. Mostly it's down to comfort. However, sometimes it might feel a little "naughty" if I'm wearing a guy's underwear. Especially if he's wearing mine too.

To me, being an apparent cross dresser is a moot point. Am I really a cross dresser? I guess in the very literal sense, yes I am. I predominantly wear and feel more comfortable in men's clothing. Would I call myself a cross dresser or transvestite? No. Not because I feel any shame about the manner in which I dress nor do I feel shame at the possibility of being associated with "those kinds" of people (please note I use that term incredibly facetiously!). I simply wouldn't refer to myself as a cross dresser because it doesn't matter at all to me. I wear what is comfortable to me. I don't have enough fingers to count the number of times I've actually been called a "Tranny". This typically makes me laugh because I know plenty of transvestites, transsexuals and transgendered people and for the most part they are stunningly attractive. 

Sex and sexuality fascinates me. As a youngster, I had very limited information supplied to me about sex. What I knew I learned from school. Everything else I know has come from my own curiosities and self discovery and I think it would be safe to say that in this respect (as well as many others) I am incredibly open minded. This whole subject ties in nicely with my recent interest in mental health and sexuality. I have limited knowledge about transvestism in particular and little to no interest in defining myself as such for the satisfaction of others. If you have anything to add here or a personal experience you would like to share, please do let me know via email or Facebook