Book Review: The Cross Dresser’s Wife: Our Secret Lives by Dee A. Levy & B. Sheffield Hunt
Title: The Cross Dresser’s Wife: Our Secret Lives
Author: Dee A. Levy & B. Sheffield Hunt
At long last, valuable and emotionally intimate social commentary on the taboo subculture of cross dressing is revealed in the pages of THE CROSS DRESSER’S WIFE * OUR SECRET LIVES. Culled from the nonprofit website www.crossdresserswives.com by authors Dee A. Levy (the website’s founder) and B. Sheffield Hunt, this international collection of stories exposes, for the first time, the shocking secret lives of cross dressers’ wives or partners who silently grapple with the issue of transvestism in their marriage or relationship. This is the duo’s first literary collaboration.
Levy was married to a cross dresser for 20 years, a secret she hid from everyone in her life. Instead, she eventually tried seeking help online, which for her proved to be an exercise in frustration. “I found thousands of sites on cross dressers, although some wouldn’t allow me to post as the wife of a lingerie-wearing cross dresser. Other religious sites would refer you to their clergy, who would refer you to an immediate annulment. Many sites were critical of ‘unaccepting’ cross dressers’ wives, sending a message that we were selfish, reneged on our wedding vows, and should just enjoy it and go shopping for matching outfits. Finding nothing online that applies to how you feel only makes it worse and when you feel alone, it’s too easy to slip into invalidation. I kept thinking, I can’t be the only cross dresser’s wife who feels this way! I needed to talk to another cross dresser’s wife trapped in a situation similar to mine.” Ultimately, in 2006 Levy created the oasis she could not find: a nonprofit organization, Cross Dressers Wives, and its website, www.crossdresserswives.com. The site, she reports, now receives over two million hits a year. “No one knows how many of us are really out there.”
Originally, the book was meant to be an article about Levy’s own experience. However, while she was writing it, some of the women on the website’s Forum posted suggestions that they write a book of their collected stories, and Levy agreed. Naturally, to protect personal identities, all names, dates, and identifying details in the book have been altered. (All women on the website’s Forum post anonymously and utilize pseudonyms.)
Levy and Hunt invited the women on the Forum to tell their stories as they wished; once the stories were submitted, Hunt communicated with the writers to flesh out the details. Then, from the www.crossdresserswives.com Forum, they selected posts to sprinkle in between the stories. “The posts pages are meant to illustrate the powerful ‘emotional speakeasy’ sense of camaraderie, caring, and support that is evident on the Forum on a daily basis, each enhancing the themes of the five stories.”
Hunt describes the stories:
1. The Queen of Denial examines denial, a self-defense mechanism utilized by many cross dressers’ wives;
2. The Golden Nugget explores the significance of desire in helping a relationship remain intact;
3. Gaslighting exposes the lengths one cross dresser will go to cover up his secret;
4. His Favorite Woman asks if cross dressing hints that he really wants to be a woman, or is merely a doorway to other sexualities? and
5. Mr. Wonderful – Levy’s own story – ponders the ramifications of a woman’s choice to stay in the marriage.
“Multiple thorny issues can surround cross dressing. Often, it involves some sense of romantic betrayal at its deepest, messiest level. These relationships are operatic in scale and shake these women to their core,” Hunt contends. “Why else would a sound woman consider leaving the love of her life and disrupt her family if this issue was merely about ‘scraps of clothing?”
The book’s prospective audience, Hunt believes, includes “cross dressers; cross dressers’ wives; gender counselors; therapists; anyone in a relationship where someone is harboring a shame-based secret; or the avid reader / armchair psychologist eager for a penetrating peek into the human psyche.”
The authors hope that readers will gain a deeper understanding of the issue, and that the book will help bust the myths and eradicate the need for such secrecy. “In the little we do see about this issue on TV and entertainment, the women accept it,” Levy points out. “But what about the ones who don’t? These women are marginalized, minimized, and are a subculture that no one knows about. I want people to start thinking – and start thinking twice!”
If you are experiencing someone in your life who cross dresses and wanted to read about someone else’s experiences and perspectives so that you can see that you are not alone, The Cross Dresser’s Wife: Our Secret Lives by Dee A. Levy & B. Sheffield Hunt is the ticket. Before I started this book, I knew what cross dressing was but had never had it actually happen to anyone in my life (unless they never came out of the closet with it) nor did I know anyone whose husband cross dressed or at least anyone who would talk. So what I knew about cross dressing was simply that men liked to wear women’s clothes and that was it. I never thought of what it could do to a family. Much like anything “non-acceptable” I can imagine what torment the family goes through. The Cross Dresser’s Wife left no questions unanswered in that respect and what I liked about it was that it was told from the wife’s perspective. God knows what the husband’s perspective would be if he were to write a book, “I’m not causing anyone any danger. It’s for fun.” Give. Me. A. Break. Sorry I might be from the old school, but this isn’t normal. In fact, by the time I finished the book, I hated men and started to wonder who in my past, present and future might delight in wearing my lingerie.
But saying that, it proves that Dee and B. Sheffield did a marvelous job writing the book because they bared all secrets. Anything you ever wanted to know about cross dressing from the wife’s perspective is in this book. I felt really sorry for Dee. It was like she was wearing a sign “If you cross dress look me up” because she tells the story of all the men who were in her past life who cross dressed and it was like one after the other. The woman got no break whatsoever.
One particular passage she wrote was “I’m mad at myself now for not putting my foot down and sticking up for myself more. Again, I was trying to be an accommodating wife.” How many wives are stuck in a situation like that? And I know women’s liberation has been around since the 60s and a lot of women wouldn’t put up with it but well you fall in love and try to think it’s either going to get better or there will be a point where it all makes sense and you know where to go from there.
Dee went on to join a forum of wives of cross dressers which helped her tremendously and she knew what she had to do. I won’t give away anything but I will end it with another passage she wrote: “Secrets create prisons, solitary confinement for feeling the way you feel and knowing what you know. I want cross dressers’ wives who are in silent closets to get support and know that they are not crazy and definitely not alone. I want cross dresses to imagine our pain and try, try, try to tell the truth to those you love. I want human beings to read this book and refuse to live in a world where transvestites, cross dressers, and transgender of all stripes are in danger of falling victim to bullying hate crimes, or even death for daring to tell the truth and be authentic to themselves.”
A definite must read for those wives who are in similar situations so that they know there is help out there.