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Safe house

The beginning of the second half of the twentieth century saw the introduction of crossdressing social groups which catered to the needs of men who needed to express themselves as women. Society was such that there was no other recourse for these men to employ other than what amounted to secret societies where they could dress and behave as they pleased; far from the prodding and judgemental eyes of the general population and most importantly from their own families.

To the younger generation of today this seems like a strange concept but there was no other way to proceed. Consider that the drag balls of the early part of the century where homosexuals could express themselves in private had been subject to raids and arrests and in many if not most states it was a legal offense for a male to wear women’s clothing. Indeed some of Harry Benjamin’s earliest patients carried letters from the good doctor that they were under his care and supervision and were permitted to be dressed in such a manner. Many of the Jewel Box Revue impersonators (some of which eventually transitioned) were not legally allowed to wear their clothing outside of the performing stage.

Such was the state of affairs in the United States at that time and I suspect only marginally better here in Canada. Therefore it is not surprising that gender non-conformance on the part of heterosexual married men would take to the underground.

Some would attend these meetings only once a year perhaps for a few days. Most often they attended without the company of wives who were completely unaware of their husband’s penchant to behave and dress in this manner. It was a dysfunctional arrangement for all concerned as these men married with the intimate knowledge of something that was deeply entrenched in their psyche since childhood and yet they hoped could be done away with given the right level of willpower. Once having realised this was not possible the only recourse left to them was an escape hatch to relieve the pressure that the situation created. For many these societies were a saving grace.

I doubt today anyone under 45 has any firsthand knowledge of one of these groups. I myself never felt so compelled but I understand why someone would as the support structure they provided could be a great benefit to someone wanting to share this piece of themselves with like minded souls.

Yet there is something sad and depressing about this concept; that one's only recourse might be to join such a group as the only venue to express this important aspect of their personality due to fear of discovery.

These safe houses of the twentieth century are all but disbanded although I know that some people still swear by them. I see that the new generation expresses their gender variance far differently and much more openly than we did and that can only be seen as a good thing.

The other day my newest neighbour and I ran into each other in the subway and I broached the subject of my comings and goings as Joanna to see how he might react as I noted that his son had recently seen me dressed in front of our building. He said that he had also seen me and was glad that I felt comfortable enough to go out in a manner that made me feel happy.

I liked him before and but I like him even more now.


Comments

  1. Yes indeed "The Times They are a'Changing" (Dylan) and "It's Getting Better All the Time" (Beatles) but there is a certain sadness with the demise of some of the older institutions and practices that afforded a safe outlet to T folk.

    I joined Tri-Ess over 20 years ago and in all that time only made it to a small handfull of meetings. While I found the meetings to be somewhat blah I truly admired those who organized and kept the group going for the benefit of all. Back then secret groups with secret meetings were all that were available to many and even these outlets were either unknown or unavailable to many others.

    Today it really is much safer and much more acceptable to be Trans, anywhere from an occasional CD to a transitioned TS. Change and acceptance come on both a global basis and on an individual basis. My feeling is that if we want acceptance and tolerance of who we are and how we like to present that we need to show acceptance and tolerance of others.

    Pat

    ReplyDelete
  2. Pat they existed when they were needed and no doubt were a godsend to many. Part of me is glad they are gone in favour of a higher public visibility.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I agree that it would be nice if there were not longer a need for such places but I am not sure that we are there yet. CDs and the bi gendered and other part timers are starting to make some headway but we still have a long way to go. Take a look a today's posting by Terri Lee Ryan and Shades of Gender.
    Pat

    ReplyDelete

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