By B. Sheffield Hunt
My accomplished book partner Dee A. Levy and I co-authored and edited The Cross Dresser’s Wife * Our Secret Lives for distinctly separate reasons. Obviously, she is the former cross dresser’s wife who founded the non-profit organization (NPO) Cross Dressers Wives back in 2006. Today, her NPO’s website http://www.crossdresserswives.com receives over 2 million hits per year, yet for years she thought she stood alone. Over the course of publishing this book, I have been awed by and can only guesstimate the vast number of women her website has helped guide towards a more peaceful level of existence. Every accolade coming to The Cross Dresser’s Wife * Our Secret Lives is due mainly to Dee and the four other women who bravely stood up to share their dark and compelling stories.
I am no cross dresser’s wife; nor am I a cross dresser. I write. I also grew up gay in Texas and had the prescience to recognize a rare and triumphal underdog story when I saw one. Like a dog with a borrowed bone, I ran as fast as I could with Dee’s heartbreaking story. What respectable writer isn’t continually on the prowl for juicy and unique new material to sink their literary teeth into?
The need to infiltrate the masses with new information and tell Dee’s untold story, and that of too many other cross dressers’ wives, became more and more evident as I shared the upcoming book’s title and premise with people I met. Without interruption, I was confronted with disconcerting responses such as, “A cross dresser’s… wife? He’s gay but married?” “That’s hilarious!” “What’s the big deal? It’s just clothes.” Reportedly, 85% of cross dressers are straight. Lies, deceit, gaslighting, and romantic betrayal are far from hilarious. And, a grown man’s all-encompassing inner need to don women’s clothing and hide it from the entire world is such a big deal, especially to a writer hungry for dramatic potential. What freedom awaits the villain who abandons secrecy at all costs and evolves into the hero who sheds shame and learns to tell the truth about himself? Ask anyone who has ever sweltered in the closet if their life is better now after opening up, telling the truth, and moving on.
Undeniably, cross dressing makes society pretty uncomfortable. It is confusing to see someone wearing clothing of the opposite sex. What do the clothes reflect about the person wearing them? Why the extreme? When did this originate? Where will it lead? Few solid answers exist, although most of us probably never bothered to care and have simulated easy, uninformed opinions. Now that I have contributed to the book and grown alongside these stories, I possess a far greater understanding of what so many heroines today are going through. I care. These women are mothers, teachers, and neighbors I pass in the street every day.
You will probably never know if someone you’re meeting is a cross dresser or a cross dresser’s wife. It could be anyone. Your best friend might have a wonderful personality, do anything for anyone, love his wife and family unconditionally, and hide a silky secret stash of bras, underwear, and dresses in the attic. Anyone who shares the struggles revealed in The Cross Dresser’s Wife * Our Secret Lives will come away a changed person. This is shocking, eye-opening material. After you read the entire book in one marathon sitting, talk about it with people. Share what you have learned. It’s how things will change for the better.
About Dee A. Levy & B. Sheffield Hunt
Dee A. Levy is the founder of the nonprofit organization Cross Dressers Wives, whose mission is to provide a safe environment for cross dressers’ wives everywhere. Since 2006, the website www.crossdresserswives.com has emerged as one of the top support sites designed to address the needs of all women who are (or were) involved in an intimate relationship with a cross dresser. The Forum encourages cross dressers’ wives from across the globe to reach out and anonymously share their experiences in an effort to learn from each other without fear of being judged or humiliated. Levy holds degrees in women’s studies and education.
B. Sheffield Hunt is a writer, producer, and artist living in Hollywood, California, who holds a degree in fine art and is also the cover illustrator of The Cross Dresser’s Wife: Our Secret Lives.
You can visit the authors’ website at www.crossdresserswives.com.
About The Cross Dresser’s Wife: Our Secret Lives
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, http://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!”