True Confession

June 2006 would mark the 15th anniversary of my creation of Rachel Miller and my journey to understand and accept my propensity to cross-dress. In the beginning my only goal was to feel better about my desire to wear a dress. After nearly a year of frenetic activity of reading about the subject, corresponding with other cross-dressers, and a great deal of introspection, I came to accept it as just one more facet of my personality. I came to believe that, in and of itself, it was neither good nor bad. It was just another part of me. Knowing that made me feel better.

The most consistent advice I had received from other cross-dressers was to never tell anyone because I would likely lose everyone and everything that was important to me. Sadly, that is often what happens to many cross-dressers. But, my wife Marsha was my best friend and our relationship was built on being able to talk about everything. Despite the risks, how could I not tell her? Remember this for later.

Besides that, hypocrisy was one of the things that I despised the most. How could I justify being hypocritical about this aspect of myself? Remember that too. So I knew that regardless of the repercussions, I had to tell Marsha the truth.

What ensued was a prolonged set of conversations that helped her to understand and accept this part of me. It also enabled me to reach a deeper understanding of the issue by seeing it from someone else’s perspective. That’s one more thing to remember.

After months of intense discussions, Marsha observed that what we were discovering could be valuable to other cross-dressers and their wives who faced a similar situation. Eventually those ideas morphed into a book, The Bliss of Becoming One! Integrating “Feminine” Feelings into the Male Psyche Mainstreaming the Gender Community that became a significant resource for members of the cross-dressing community, their families and friends.

When the book was published, I began speaking at gender conferences, launched a fledgling newsletter and created a small web site. Over the years those activities to help others expanded exponentially into many new venues and significantly more writing and speaking engagements. There were many difficult times and many difficult decisions to make along the way. But Marsha had become my active partner and major supporter, and she often gave me the strength and insight to continue. Together we took many carefully chosen steps. That’s the last thing you’ll have to remember.

About two years ago, things began to change for me. I found that I had nothing new to say to the cross-dressing community. At the same time my own desire to cross-dress was diminishing. Being attuned to the impact that discrimination had on cross-dressers, I had become increasingly aware of other forms of discrimination. I was especially concerned about discrimination as expressed towards gays and specifically discrimination in regards to same-sex marriage. Over time I became a strong advocate for gay civil rights, and now I wanted to speak out on these issues as Rachel. I wanted to become much more visible and greatly expand my speaking and writing activities in that arena.

Previously, once a next step materialized, it had been relatively easy to move forward without constantly looking back. This time as I started planning and implementing my expanded activities, each step seemed tentative. I found myself continually going back and rethinking and re-planning. For the first time on this journey, I began to have doubts about what I was doing. For the first time, thoughts of abandoning the effort crept into my consciousness. I assumed that the source of these doubts was my own failure to be fully committed. I tried to push past those doubts by intensifying my efforts. Somehow, no matter how hard I pushed, my comfort level remained low. Yet, for all my discomfort, I still didn’t share my feelings with Marsha.

Finally the reality of what I was feeling began to sink in. The long and winding path of Rachel Miller might not have reached just another fork in the road. It might have reached the end of that road. I found that some of my early efforts to speak as a cross-dresser on behalf of gay issues had compounded the problem. People who had difficulty with gays and same-sex marriage also had difficulty with cross-dressers. My actions were adding more baggage to an already struggling cause. But, if I stopped speaking out on issues that really concerned me, and if I lacked the passion to focus on the issue of cross-dressing, then Rachel’s journey had probably come to an end. Even with that realization, I still didn’t want to admit that it might be over.

Since childhood, religion and spirituality have been extraordinarily important factors in my life. I have always been intrigued by spiritual questions and could never just accept on faith what “the church” told me. My desire to explore and question had led to a series of difficult encounters with organized religion. While I took issue with many of Christianity’s dogmatic positions, their blanket condemnation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people was on the front burner and at full boil. I determined that the only possible spiritual home for me would have to be a church where the denomination was gay-friendly.

This thought process led me to conclude that I needed to affiliate with an open and affirming congregation of the United Church of Christ. I had participated in several special “gay-friendly” services with such a congregation a few years before and felt quite comfortable there. Marsha and I started attending services with the expectation that I would most likely become a member. Even though Marsha is Jewish and attends a local temple, she always attends churches in support of me. I thought that this would be the perfect place for Rachel to spread her wings and soar over all of the doubts that had plagued me. Surely this would be the break through that I was seeking.

The pastor’s sermon one Sunday seemed to portray the perfect situation for LGBT people. He was preaching about the need for being truly open and welcoming to everyone. He also described how difficult it was to welcome those who are different. Recognizing the difficulty, he acknowledged that it was necessary to welcome everyone nonetheless. What better message could be taught from my perspective? His message was setting the stage for me to be accepted as Rachel in the church, yet I still felt uncomfortable. What was wrong? Isn’t this exactly what I wanted?

No matter how reluctant I was to face it, the full force of what I felt subconsciously came rushing in. No, it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. Even though this congregation was truly open and affirming, I didn’t want to just be Rachel talking about cross-dressing. Even with the pastor’s blessing, I couldn’t be Rachel talking about same-sex marriage. Even though they professed a liberal theology, I still had many other personal spiritual issues that would prevent me from being a member in good standing in any church. I could no longer hide from the truth and knew that I had to stop the Rachel Miller journey right now. The pastor and I had been exchanging emails in an effort to better understand each other. We had been trying to set up a meeting to discuss my potential role in the church. I knew that I had to let him know that I couldn’t proceed, so I sent him an email letting him know that I couldn’t meet regarding my membership but didn’t explain my reason.

There was another step that also had to be taken promptly. In recent years one of my most popular and satisfying activities had been a college program called “Meet a Cross-Dresser and His Wife.” This program had been widely acclaimed by students as an eye-opening insight into the transgender world. We had been scheduled to conduct another session at a nearby university in about a month, and I couldn’t leave that event hanging. I contacted the professor saying that I would not be able to meet my commitment to speak. Once again, I did not share my reason.

With the two active events stopped, all I had to do was to tell Marsha. Before I could, however, she discovered the email correspondence with the church pastor. To say she was upset doesn’t begin to describe the situation. Repeatedly in our college program the question had come up, “How did you feel when he first told you about his cross-dressing?” Her initial reaction then was much the same as now – angry and betrayed. Eventually she understood why I didn’t tell her about my cross-dressing sooner. She came to understand that it was my love and trust in her and our relationship that finally gave me the courage to tell her when I understood my cross-dressing better.

This time there was no such explanation. This is the time to start remembering what I said earlier. We had a relationship built on being able to talk about everything, but I didn’t talk about this issue. Hypocrisy is one of the things I despise the most yet here I was being a major-league hypocrite by pretending that everything was progressing normally. Knowing the importance of seeing things from another person’s perspective, I had only considered my point of view in this matter. Marsha had been an active partner and major supporter of my efforts, but I had gone through the entire process and made the decision without ever consulting her. While the same decision would have resulted if we had talked, the path of getting here was totally wrong, and I was left with no defense for my actions. Our past conversations had always brought greater clarity to situations, yet this time, I had stubbornly tried to bulldoze through on my own.

I had thought that the most difficult thing I faced was to decide what to do about Rachel. It turns out that the most difficult thing was repairing the impact that my actions had on my relationship with Marsha. The most difficult thing was soothing the hurt that I caused, rebuilding trust and taking steps to ensure that something like this didn’t happen again. That is the process that we have been actively engaged in. While we are getting back on track, this has been an unnecessarily traumatic experience. Much of the trauma could have been avoided if I had opted to discuss the issues as they came up. I didn’t and, more than anything, my actions were terminally stupid.

One good outcome from this experience is that I finally reached a point of resolution regarding religious/spiritual issues. I have struggled with the Catholic Church since my years in a Catholic grade school. As an adult I have had similar struggles within the Protestant church. I finally realized that I would never be able to reconcile my views with the institutional church. Rather than continuing this fruitless struggle, I have recorded my own personal spiritual beliefs and will look to them, not the church, for guidance.

Meanwhile, one of my past activities continues unabated. That activity is the maintenance, enhancement and expansion of the wealth of LGBT support resources that have been cataloged on my web site. It is one of the very best sources on the Internet with over 1,000 societal resources and another 400 spiritually oriented resources. It has been successful beyond my wildest expectation, and the level of activity accessing these resources has expanded enormously and continues to do so. The listings obviously serve an excellent purpose in helping others find the resources they need.

Although the saga of Rachel has come to an end, the issues that concern me still persist. I am greatly concerned about the erosion of the separation of church and state. Conservative Christians continue to try to litigate their views of God and morality. The dangers are extraordinarily high in regards to gay rights and abortion/birth control. Besides violating the Constitution, these efforts do not reflect the Gospel message that these zealots purport to believe. Ironically, the God they claim to work for thought it more important to provide us with a free will than attempt to coerce us to follow his will. I don’t know what form my efforts will take, but we clearly cannot sit idly by.

Finally, I thank you for your support over the years. It has been a great journey, and I will carry many of your thoughts with me where ever I go.

Best wishes, Richard