I remember being left alone at age 6 for 20 minutes, and finding myself trying to wash off Mom's lipstick before my ride arrived for school. I think I got it off, I don't remember anyone saying anything. Mom noticed that someone had been in her makeup case, however. I denied it, of course.
At age 7-9, 3rd & 4th grade, my family commuted between Kentucky and Minnesota during the school year. I had practically no friends in either locality - the neighbor kids in each place, but none in school. I shared none of their interests, after all. Wasn't in Minnesota long enough to become a good hockey player, and wasn't in Kentucky long enough to learn to play basketball decently. The school shrink in Kentucky decided something was wrong with me, since I didn't make friends. I liked it that way. I had a secret and I wasn't sharing it with anyone, least of all her. I remember her words echoing in my head 'You HAVE to make friends in school! It's just not normal."
Indeed, often the only words I spoke in school were if called on in class by the teacher. In fact, I was picked on for my silence and inability to play sports, and was beaten on my way home from school whenever someone needed a target. I was reminded of the time Mom had me trick-or-treat as a girl one Halloween, when beaten - my only known moment of public crossdressing.
I remember being left at home alone during summer school breaks at ages 8-10, because I was "responsible", didn't need a babysitter, and preferred being alone with my books and music and instruments, to being with other kids. A lot of that time was spent wearing Mom's clothes. I never got in trouble, because I wasn't out causing trouble with the other "boys." I had the house to myself each summer vacation until the end of high school. Just me and my stereo system, piano, and books.
I remember age 10-11 quite well. I had a 3-speed "English racer" (really a tourist-style) bike, and I rode all over the neighborhood on it, along with the shopping district about a mile from home. I was cutting lawns for money by now, and some of my allowance and lawn money was being spent........on makeup and the other accouterments of femininity at Woolworth's - for my sister, of course (I have no siblings, other than a 20-year older half-brother). I also discovered the "goodwill" store and the fact that I could buy castoff clothes for a youth's budget. I could also sell back what didn't fit and get other things. If they realized what I was doing, they never let on. I kept my collections above the suspended ceiling in the basement.
I remember the summer of my 13th birthday, like it was just yesterday. I had lawns to cut, but mostly did that in the evening. During the day, I'd dress up, a proper lady, and watched the Watergate hearings unfold, in the basement, or I'd ride my bike and get more provisions for my hobby, or more music. I watched my legs and body become large, tall, and hairy, to my horror. I knew Mother Nature was going to take the fun away. I'd knew it was coming all along, but still, every transperson thinks it'll never happen to them.
From 14-17, I put aside the dressing - oh, I'd return to it when I had time, but I had little time. I was active in a cycling club, began attending concerts, worked for myself and others, and rebuilt a car for myself. I tried to tell myself that such foolishness as crossdressing was something I needed to put aside and outgrow - but I also noticed that it was quite okay, even sexy, for David Bowie, Elton John, Freddie Mercury, Mick Jagger, and Alice Cooper to prance about the stage in makeup and/or feminine attire. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to get the girls like them, too. Little did I know........well, I guess Alice is kind of straight, but the rest are either gay, or have had alleged gay moments.
In my senior year of high school, I was asked to join a band - they needed a keyboardist, and could use a second vocalist. I had an ARP Odyssey, a MiniMOOG, and a Vox Jaguar organ, and could play them fairly well - I wasn't Elton, Rick Wakeman, or Keith Emerson, but I could do the '70s space drone arena rock sound pretty well. I'd taken classical piano for 7 years, and had to figure out how to play rock, but I learned. I had a pretty decent 1st tenor voice, I could sing high and hard, and I could hit the high notes on the last verse of "Stairway to Heaven", the "remember" (what the dormouse said) on "White Rabbit", or most of Geddy Lee's and Dennis DeYoung's vocal parts on Rush and Styx records. I can't get anywhere near that anymore.
We started playing gigs. Someone mentioned that we ought to dress better onstage than the usual 70s Led Zeppelin t-shirt and jeans thing. For me, as a crossdresser, that was like waving the red cape in front of a bull at Pamplona. I had a job, was in college, made good money and had my tuition paid. Where do you find snazzy stuff to wear onstage? Yep, in the girls' department. I'd buy synthetic women's tops, shiny, with feminine patterns - loud flowers, or in bright colors. Wore those first. Then, my girlfriend mentioned, after we'd played a dance in a school auditorium with stage lighting, that I might look better if I wore "just a little" makeup when playing such a gig.
Didn't have to suggest it twice.
From that point on, if the gig took place in a dark venue with stage lighting, things got a bit stranger. I didn't try for a full feminine presentation; no. But the jeans soon switched to black women's leggings with black hose. I wore fingerless gloves, elbow-length, I'd found at Goodwill, with bracelets over them. The tops got brighter and shinier and in louder patterns. I was wearing powder and mascara, then I added foundation and conceiler; and a touch of blush; it made me look better onstage, at least to her perception - and the perception of some of the female members of the audience - I kept tranquility with my girlfriend by crediting her when asked "Who did your makeup? You look great!", even though I was, by now, doing her makeup when we went out. Then, I started wearing eye liner and eye shadow, to match my tops, and quit wearing glasses onstage.
I came out to my girlfriend at that point about crossdressing. She thought it was cool. She attended college in another town, where nobody knew me. Anyone who's met a transperson knows what follows this. One Saturday afternoon, I was visiting her college, and she asked if I had my stage gear with me; I did, in my trunk, and got it out. She looked it over, we went to the local mall and KMart.......and that night, we went out on the town, both wearing matching black miniskirts, black stockings, stillettos, her in a silvery teal top of mine, me in a royal blue top, with a stuffed bra on underneath - and both of us wearing smoky eye makeup and red lipstick a'la Pat Benatar. I learned firsthand about the pain of walking in heels, how women get rid of guys on the make, that walking back from the club in heels hurts less after a few daiquiris, and that I rather liked the way I looked as a girl - and that it came naturally to me. She liked it, too. Too bad she wanted kids, and I didn't - and I wanted to take advantage of a year at a big Eastern university on exchange basis. Haven't seen that girl since I left for that college.
Suffice to say that I got my degree, couldn't find a job in it, settled for a job I hated, moved around the country doing said job in towns I knew nobody in, accumulated a collection of clothes and such, and occasionally went public late at night to a 24-hour store, or movie theatre. When in Florida, I accidentally stumbled upon a "dive' bar that hosted the local crossdressers' club, but was being transferred again at the point where I got the coveted "secret handshake" to join what I later learned was an early chapter of Tri-Ess.
I purged my sizable collection in a hotel dumpster in Atlanta, when moving from Florida, but I soon replaced it. I was living in Cincinnati when I saw a small advertisement for a "club" called CrossPort, for crossdressers, but didn't have anything to write the info down with at the time. My parents took ill, I changed careers to stay home to care for them, and I had to go "fishing" every few weeks to keep my sanity - I'd drive out of town, get a room, and get out the clothes. But not often enough, always alone, always scared that I'd get caught, and less and less feminine, due to accumulated injuries, weight gain, and aging, with each passing year.
I'd see people like Riki Wilchins, Phyllis Frye, and Kate Bornstein on the talk shows from time to time, but I knew I couldn't do what they did - I liked being a guy, liked doing some guy things, but I needed to be a girl at times, as well. I liked girls, and still do. And there never was anything sexual about dressing for me, never a charge - the current term "autogynephilia" has never applied in any way, shape, or form, to me, so I never went to gay bars or porn palaces, never made that mental connection.
I'm a bit unique here. Most of those who post here who are gender-variant (as compared to their genitalia at birth) identify as transsexual. I'm not - I considered transition at one point, but had an adverse reaction to hormones and backed off. But my story's not strange at all. Probably most here who identify as TS can compare my story to theirs and find similarities.