Dilemmas: I'm a transvestite looking for a wife

Paul's wife had just started to accept his transvestism when she died. Now he can dress `en femme' as much as he wants - he simply can't give it up - but he wants to meet another woman. How does he broach the subject?

VIRGINIA'S ADVICE

Transvestites are a funny bunch, because the vast, vast majority are heterosexual. Indeed, a big proportion of them comes from the armed forces or engineering background; they are far more likely to be sexy tattooed lorry-drivers than Julian Clarys.

I remember going to an army party in Munster, Germany, at which the theme was a change of sex. Hardly any of the wives dressed as blokes, but their husbands arrived with hairy skin bursting out of low-cut evening gowns, smeared lipstick, and grapefruits strapped to their chests, staggering about on high heels. Most had moustaches. They all had a hell of a time.

I don't think Paul should worry too much. I have no doubt at all that if we were to ask all the men at The Independent to strip (and if they were to comply) we'd find at least three or four pairs of silky female panties and even maybe the odd pair of stockings hiding under the wrinkly jeans and pin-stripe suits. I've had at least two lovers who've expressed a desire to wear my nightie in bed, and oddly it's never turned me off. The request has always rather touched me, flattered me and even turned me on. Women just don't mind that kind of thing nearly as much as men think.

Why not? Is it because we're always looking for the feminine in men, and rather relieved when we find it, even when it's presented in such a bizarre way?

Certainly, I did nothing but roar with laughter and affection when my son, aged about four, would come tottering down the stairs with a friend, both dressed up in my clothes, hysterical with laughter, lipstick on their noses, cheeks, everywhere, tiny feet in huge high-heels. However, for some reason that I cannot rationalise, were I to have had a four-year- old daughter, and had she come downstairs wearing her father's Y-fronts and suit and a painted-on beard, having stuffed a banana down her crotch, I would have freaked out.

However, women have a much easier time of it. We can wear sexy evening dresses when we want; we can strap ourselves in tight bras; we can put on trousers and be one of the boys when we want. We can wear make-up or not. We can have short hair, long hair, hair up, no hair, whatever.

But men, no. It's trousers, trousers, trousers all the time. Never any make-up. Only very long hair if you're quite brave or unemployed or incredibly successful or in certain professions, such as the music business. Never high heels, never being able to switch between hard and soft - having to be hard all the time. You may be a new man, and live in corduroys, but if you went to a party in a frock and lipper would you cause a stir? Yes.

Paul should relax. If he wants to go the whole hog and to go to TV parties and discuss his problems, he can ring the Beaumont Society (01582 412220). Otherwise he can just go it alone. When he meets a nice woman, he should start dropping hints: "I wish I could wear make-up." "I sometimes like to wear a caftan around the house because it's more comfortable." "I'm wearing tights under my trousers because I'm frozen but also because I love the feeling of them next to my skin."

If she's not completely clueless, she'll quickly catch on to what's up. And, with any luck, they'll soon be out at M&S choosing his undies.

READERS' SUGGESTIONS

Amazed and impressed

My first boyfriend was a transvestite. We'd been going out for several months before he plucked up courage to tell me. When he did finally appear before me in a dress, I was amazed - and very, very impressed.

Every fictional medium from comic strips to TV drama presents a woman discovering her man's transvestism as a shocking event for her. Well, it ain't necessarily so - for a woman who is eager to experiment, to discover new ways of making love, the revelation can come as a delightful surprise. And a woman who loves her man will only love him more for every side of his character he reveals to her.

I'm withholding my name and address because I respect my ex's right to privacy, not because I am in any way ashamed of him, or of myself or of the things we did.

It's no longer taboo

Why does your writer think it is such a terrible thing to wear women's clothes? It is no longer taboo for men to expose their feminine side; Jonathan Ross has been photographed wearing a Gaultier skirt, David Beckham wears a sarong and Eddie Izzard dresses as his fancy takes him. Nobody regards them as perverts; in fact, nobody cares.

DR DAVID CRILLY

Cambridge

Don't conceal the true you

I can feel very much for Paul, after the agony of learning to accept myself as I am.

I often wonder about the situation in which Paul finds himself. What would I do if my wife were to die? I am strongly heterosexual (as most TVs are), and certainly couldn't exist by myself. If I were going to form a new relationship, which I would hope would become permanent, then I would have to be honest. Trying to cover up the true person in such a situation could be a recipe for disaster.

JANET (IAN)

Next Week's Dilemma

Dear Virginia,

My godmother, who I've always been close to, is wheelchair-bound at 80, but entirely compos mentis, and still lives at home. We visit as much as we can, but she gets lonely. However, her district nurse is very good and often takes her out at weekends, and even has her for Christmas, all entirely off her own bat, but, it turns out, at a price. My godmother has to pay for everyone on all these jaunts and she recently said she'd lent this woman pounds 500 and when she asked for it back the nurse said she couldn't because it had been stolen. She's very upset about this, but says she'd never speak to me again if I got involved, and still goes on outings with her. What should I do?

Yours sincerely, Sonia

Anyone with advice quoted will be sent a bouquet from Send letters and dilemmas to Virginia Ironside, `The Independent', 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL, fax 0171-293 2182; e-mail dilemmas@independent.co. uk, giving a postal address for a bouquet

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