• Stephanie Ashton

Going Blank Again

Ride, Going Blank Again, 1992

For those of us who remember the “shoegazing” UK indie music of the late 80s and early 90s then the band Ride typified it. Along with bands like The Charlatans, The Milltown Brothers, and Inspiral Carpets, the band Ride produced music that had different vibe and spoke to the youth culture of the day, much more so than the naff pop era stuff that immediately proceeded it. Ride managed to produce a layered sound of guitars and vocals that even today is unique. In particular, the song “Going Blank Again” always seemed to speak to me personally. Not only was the title appropriate to the times I tried to purge myself of dressing, but the vocals are as confused as the thoughts were in my head about translife.

Today I shall write about the dreaded cross dressing purge that many of us have felt as a necessary at one time or another. This is the process of attempting to stop cross dressing by throwing everything away to do with that activity including personal belongings, pictures, contacts, and anything else to do with it.

Before starting on what is quite a sad subject, I will lift the mood by saying there is no way I will ever purge again. To imagine me as a sphere, I am now 97% female by volume and only the outer shell remains male. So Stephanie is here to stay and there won’t be any more idiotic ideas of throwing away all my beautiful things. There is another practical reason why I will never purge again…it would be too much effort ! It would involve clearing out an overflowing apartment and a rammed 5 metre cube storage unit containing enough “stuff” to sink a cargo ship. In fact, I am so in love with all my sparkly things, when I die I want to buried pagan style with all my precious goods alongside me. I wish to be buried clutching my weapon too my chest, or in my case, clutching my favourite Zoeva make-up brush to my bosom.

From a position of total safety, I am therefore quite happy to reflect on purging which has been the pinnacle of some truly unhappy moments in my life. There are many reasons why we individually chose to purge and hopefully, this blog will cover themes that will resonate with some of my dear readers, maybe offering something new to consider.

Steffie is bedded in now...more chance of flying to the moon that giving this up !

The "I Want To a Be a Normal Man" Purge

I am sure that any number of us have consciously decided at one time or another to simply give up dressing, without any real external pressure or self-imposed stress. It is not uncommon in moments of lucid thought that we may conclude that dressing is a really bad idea. We may feel it is isolating us from friends and family, or simply leading us in a direction we do not wish to go. As with all things in life, none of us have unlimited resources, time and energy. So, it may come down to very practical matters such as realising it is costing too much, it is too risky in our current environment, it is occupying or distracting thought that needs to be elsewhere, or it is hampering efforts to find a girlfriend or maintain a healthy relationship with an existing partner.

As a number of these situations are essentially to do with the lack of the right conditions for dressing or uncertainty in ones' own identity, it is not uncommon that this type of purging is most common with young(er) dressers. This was certainly the case for myself. I gave up at one stage when I met a nice genetic girl whom I thought would help "straighten" me out.

For mature dressers this type of purging is less common as in many cases they have the resources and personal skill sets to free themselves of many practical constraints. With money and wisdom, the mature dressers are better equipped to create the situation and free funds to enable them to dress at least once in a while, even if in secret. The people in this category have also typically accepted themselves even if they cannot claim to understand it. The gender and sexual desires are no longer something to fear but an accepted part of who they are. Who says that age doesn't bring wisdom? :D

Away from practical reasons, a change in mental attitude may lead to voluntary purging. I openly admit that in my mid-20s the veil of feminine beauty that we feel as cross dressers fell off completely. No matter how good looking a dresser was in any picture, I simply did not see anything except a man in a dress; myself included. The beauty of femininity had evaporated in my mind and could only be realised through being with a genetic female. Fortunately, I became deluded again and full Stephanie service was resumed. Hurray!

So, for those that give up dressing of their own choice, either temporarily or for good, this is the best option from a mental health perspective. Why? Because it is a conscious choice that you have arrived at in your own time and you then own; it was not forced by any external pressure. Where it becomes unhealthy again is if you realise purging was a mistake, miss dressing, but stop yourself from going back out of some vague hope you will stop thinking about it. Still to this day I do occasionally think, god I wish I was not trans and could just be happy as a mundane man. But dear readers that will never happen because there is barely a minute now that my mind doesn't cycle back to the thought "but why aren't you Stephanie right now?" The female twin inside my Gemini head has definitely won.

The "Forced" Purge

Many dressers, myself included, have at some point or another been forced to purge after facing an ultimatum from someone who wields power or influence in their lives. This is truly the saddest type of purging in my view as it is not done by the choice of the individual, but by coercion. In addition to the fact that most people do not enjoy being forced to do anything against their will, dressing is for some people "their only escape" and if stopped suddenly, can leave the dresser dangerously sad and depressed.

So how does this situation occur? Well, in the most severe case it may come to pass that a supposedly loving partner, parent or guardian finds out about your dressing and demands that it stops immediately. This may include being beaten down with social, religious or trans phobic dogma. In this case the only option to continue dressing is to remove yourself from the environment or people who are preventing you living your life. However, typically in these situations there is no opportunity to escape, even if the individual has the massive strength and willpower that is required to stand up for themselves. For those in this situation you have my undying love and support because you have it worst.

Moving away from the extreme case to more familiar territory, it is not uncommon for cross dressing to be revealed inside a traditional relationship with a genetic female. Assuming that the wife or girlfriend does not immediately demand that it stops, the female may be initially supportive or at the least, will tolerate the practice if not made public to friends and family. Dressing, the partner may say, must never be shown at home and kept within the private rooms of a cross dressing service, or such like. Some women in this situation may be deeply upset and unhappy with the idea of their man cross dressing but play along, secretly hoping it is some sort of fad or mid life crisis that will pass with time.

However, the "tolerant partner" situation frequently goes wrong in my experience.

The first reason why this situation frequently fails is that the dresser is often at a more 'advanced' stage of dressing and trans-thinking than they communicate to the partner. It is often the case that the dresser is trying to 'soften' the blow or provide an easy way into the conversation. In practical terms, they decide to tell the partner about dressing but don't want to scare her with the fact they have dressed for years, and have an online following of 10,000 ! Of course, this sort of falsehood will lead to trouble unless the dresser very quickly builds up the conversation with the partner so that the reality becomes understood.

Another fundamental problem with the tolerant partner situation is the failure to understand human behaviour. Whether you agree to some limitation or are told you can only dress within very tight constraints, the truth is that it feels immediately restrictive and is simply setting everyone up for failure. Why? Well as the dresser becomes more familiar with dressing in private, it is only natural that they may want to expand the feminine experience, venture outside, go for nights out and maybe more. However, this desire in turn demands more time away from the partner and maybe family; either of which will not be well received. You are away having experiences without the partner and family which are ultimately taking you in a different direction to the family 'unit.' The dresser will also need to redirect money, time and attention away from home life in order to continue expanding the experience, again which may put stress about domestic affairs.

It is therefore very easy to see how the dresser can very quickly exceed the boundaries of the contract made with their tolerant partner. The fundamental problem is that the contract in the first instance is ridiculous; in practical terms it is like being told you can go to Vegas for an evening but are not allowed to step outside your hotel room.

I never advocate a course of action but please recognise that if you are in such an agreement with a partner you need to do one of the following:

(1) Be honest at the outset, and then have the decency and respect to live up to it, or

(2) Communicate honestly and openly with your partner if the contract no longer works and that you want to explore more of your feminine self. You owe her that much for having shown tolerance towards your situation.

If you feel you cannot stay within the limitations of an agreement with a partner and opt to take option 2, then well done. Know that regardless of the outcome you will have your self-respect, knowing you have done the right thing by yourself and your partner. There is of course a third option and that is to be an incredibly good liar; about cross dressing, your evenings out, social media, the works! But please, does anyone think that is any way to treat loved ones or for that matter, yourself long term? Even assuming you are a master of lies...we all know that sooner or later you will get caught, and Karma will enjoy biting a big chunk out of your behind for having failed to tell the truth when you had the chance.

Faced with an ultimatum... I chose this option :D

The "Survival" Purge

The final type of purge I will talk about is the experience I had in 2010 after suffering a sequence of self-inflicted and unfortunate events, as described in the blog Come into my World.

As a result of the pressures and stresses in my life at that time I managed to reach a point of such utter exhaustion that I realised things needed to change. Many aspects of my life were falling to pieces and it was clear I could not continue my highly demanding and complex dual-life. Despite being reasonably certain of my transgendered nature, at that time in my life I never saw myself transitioning so had also become jaded with the experience and even questioned why, where was dressing going anyway? In the end I concluded it was a "rogue element" in my personality akin to a drug addiction; I dressed even although I no longer enjoyed what it was doing to my life.

So, in a dazzling moment of self control, I chose to purge the "abnormal" cross dressing to give myself some free head space and a fighting chance of survival. I took the approach; "I think dressing is damaging me - I am not in denial about this fact - I need to stop it - so for Gods sake be happy about making a decision even if it feels awful!"

The purge that followed was extreme and almost instantly regrettable. All my dressing "stuff" was sold, given away or thrown out. Every scrap of data online that I controlled was deleted. In what appeared to many friends to be an extreme move, I opted to change job and relocate to another part of the country with the express purpose of getting away from the area, "bad influences" and memories of what had gone before. For reasons not clear to me now, I took on an almost religious zeal in my purging that would have made any 11th century crusader proud. In deciding to stop dressing I applied a scorched earth policy and a level of self-righteousness that was off the scale.

Reflecting on that decision today, I can honestly say some of my thoughts and intentions were right, and some were completely wrong. It was true that I was mentally and physically exhausted and I needed to change my life, which I did. I moved back closer to friends and family that helped me reconnect with them to some degree, and that helped improve other aspects of my life. Once I had de-stressed and had a calm mind my life did improve. And, taking a very holistic view, I have returned to dressing by choice so was ultimately a good outcome.

What I got wrong however was that dressing was the problem. I chose to make a villain of cross-dressing, an act or practice, rather than accept it was my base nature and decisions as a person that had got me in trouble. You see by nature I am a very inquisitive soul and love experiences, even if those experiences nearly ruin me. In fact, I would almost go so far as to say, the experience is not really fulfilling for me UNLESS it nearly ruins me. The adrenaline joy of living on the edge. The downside of this personal trait is that uncontrolled it can lead to total burnout which is the point I had reached. We only have so much time and energy and simply cannot do everything, all at once, all the time.

Since that time, I have come to recognise and manage this aspect of my personality and with it, concluded giving up dressing saved me at that time, but I could have just as easily burnt out with any other obsessive pursuit. Stopping dressing was not the villain and was never the right long term solution. Which leads me nicely onto my final remarks.

Final remarks...

So, my final comments on this subject are that if, for any reason, you end up purging in the future then make sure you have someone you can talk too openly and honestly about your feelings. If not a loving and understanding partner or friend, then please seek a trained counsellor. Stopping dressing suddenly can lead to very dark and upsetting moods, and it can lead to very severe depression. In the situation where you are forced to stop you must explain to the person dictating the situation that it may still damage the relationship long term through detachment and resentment. It is always better to try and find some sort of compromise where everyone gets a bit of what they want. It is often not easy for a man to discuss his feelings and desires to be a woman, but please try and speak to someone and do not go into a state of isolation. Troubles shared are always troubles halved.