Lynn Conway has a section on her marvelous website that speaks to the experiences of young children upon first entering their mother’s closets.
I started doing so at a very young age and don’t really recall why I did it at the time although today I know very well why...
"My mother's closest was both a sanctuary and a crystal ball, a place in which I escaped the world and a place where, through the scrim of my mother's clothes I envisioned my future self. In my mother's closet my senses came alive. The smells of perfume, shoe polish, wool, leather; the feel of satin, velvet, silk, chiffon - these things had the power to evoke dreams and fantasies and, although it was not forbidden, I always was afraid to enter it. Afraid of what? Being caught? More likely I feared finding something, some clue that would reveal the mysterious world I knew I would one day enter, the world of being a woman." - Eugenia Zukerman
Many people reading this page will assume that those words are the reminiscences of a trans woman. But they are not: They are the words of the prominent writer and TV arts commentator Eugenia Zukerman, and are taken from the back cover of her remarkable new book In My Mother's Closet: An Invitation to Remember.
In this wonderful book, Eugenia collects the childhood memories of forty-three women, centering on their powerful attraction to and fantasies about the world of womanhood as revealed by the secret things they found in their mother's closet. Many of the women describe almost magically powerful, sensual feelings while exploring and trying on the things they find there, amidst the warmth, the softness, the vivid colors and the sweet smells therein.
This book reveals for the first time how common these experiences are for little girls, as part of the ritual for becoming a woman. In their mothers' closets were the secrets to the women they would become.
"...For each of these women, opening the door to her mother's closet seemed to unlatch a floodgate of memories and musings that went far beyond clothing and possessions. There were tears and laughter during these interviews, along with insights, revelations, and loving resolutions. The resulting collection of memories taps into myths and rites of passage, and explores the sometimes joyful, sometimes painful intensity of the mother/daughter connection"….Eugenia Zukerman
From our understanding of transgenderism, we know that some little boys have the very same experiences, often even describing them the very same ways.
In the past, most people thought that only sexually perverted boys became obsessed with their mother's things, as if little girls never did such things. Now we learn that many if not most little girls experience the very same things, and no one is accusing them of sexual perversity!
Thus this book helps us see those little boys' experiences in their mother's closets not as sexual perversity, but as sensual longings and attractions to an adult identity that is compelling to them, just as it is to any little girl. This insight can be helpful to those who feel shame and embarrassment about doing such things when they were little, especially if they've been given stigmatizing labels by psychologists or called names by other people, just for doing what comes very naturally to little girls.
This is an important book about vision-quests for adult identity, and about the oft-secret rituals for attaining womanhood in our culture. I recommend it highly. The sad thing, of course, is that boys who need to be girls don't have access to their mother's acceptance and reinforcement of their longings. Instead they must find their own way, without any adult help, and in secrecy, silence and fear. Such is the childhood past that many transwomen bring with them into their transitional years."