A little while ago, I found myself in a tricky situation. I came out to someone in my social circle, and after the usual chat about what it all means, she revealed that her boyfriend used to crossdress. "But he's given it all up now we're together, I'd have left him otherwise".
Difficult. I know they're soon going to be sharing a flat. And probably like many readers of this blog I know that crossdressing isn't something you can just give up like that. It never goes away. Trying to make it go away nearly killed me and no doubt it has had a similar effect on thousands of others.
So he's either still doing it in secret, or he's quietly going mad. If he's been secretly dressing he'll probably have a final purge before they move in together, try to give it up for good.
It ain't going to work, we all know that. He'll try, but it'll go horribly wrong somehow. It doesn't matter how he self-identifies, whether he sees himself as TS, TV, CD, TG or whatever from the alphabet soup of options, this doesn't go away. At some point in the future he's either going to take it up again, or implode.
So what could I do? I'd just come out to a friend, and suddenly here I was, the embodiment of everything she fears. Yet I couldn't mislead her, that's not what you do to friends.
Say "It won't work, you know"? "He's going to assemble a stash of clothing somewhere and keep doing it"? Obviously not. I have to warn her gently that it might happen, that we come in many different varieties, it's not about sexuality and it's not a blame game, but the full-on approach isn't going to help.
Instead of talking about her and her boyfriend I talked about the relationship my wife and I have. How she's tolerant rather than accepting, and how just like her boyfriend I told my wife about it as far as I understood it early on and tried to keep it under control for so long. I talked about the difference between gender and sexuality, how the community as I have encountered it has had almost nothing to do with admirers or sex in general. I told her about the support we've received, and told her that there is support from within the community for spouses or partners of trans-whatever people too.
And I offered an ear, either mine or my wife's, should she ever need it.
I have no idea what will happen. Whether he'll be able to hold it off, whether they'll stay together. But at least she now knows she's not alone, and it's not as far-fetched as she might think.
Which I hope will be of some help to her, after all, what else are friends for?