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!”
Q: Thank you for this interview, Dee and B. Can you tell us what your latest book, The Cross Dresser’s Wife * Our Secret Lives, is all about?
B. – The Cross Dresser’s Wife * Our Secret Lives busts the myths by offering valuable and emotionally intimate social commentary on the often misunderstood and taboo subculture of cross dressing. At long last, this new collection of gripping memoirs pulls a forbidden topic out of the shadows and into a circle of understanding by giving voice to a corner of society that many of us don’t even know exists – cross dressers’ wives. Authored by five trailblazing women joined together on the Forum at http://www.crossdresserswives.com, these stories expose for the first time the shocking secret lives led by many cross dressers’ wives or partners who silently struggle with cross dressing in their marriage or relationship.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for your book?
Dee – I lived it for twenty years. For the first decade of my marriage to a cross dresser, I was clueless. Then, on a New Year’s Eve, the love of my life, my husband and father of my only child, exposed his secret to me: he was a lingerie-wearing cross dresser! For the next ten years, I lived in the shadows of his insidious, creeping secret, which became my own. I told no one, not even my own weekly therapist, and the toll it took on my physical and mental health was devastating. I was that woman driving too fast on a rainy freeway curve… ‘Will it happen tonight?’ After our child left for college and my nest was empty, I was gone. Emotionally battered and broken, I searched for help, answers, compassion, and camaraderie. However, my Internet search only left me feeling more invalidated and alone than ever. I was insulted, dismissed, and told I should not “miss out on all the fun,” embrace my husband’s feminine side, and go get manipeds with my “new girlfriend” every weekend. The onus was on me to accept cross dressing in my marriage, move on. In spite of my initial findings, my woman’s intuition told me that there had to be other cross dressers’ wives out there who, like me, felt betrayed, bewildered, and were struggling with this issue. Ultimately, in 2006, I created my nonprofit organization Cross Dressers Wives and its website www.crossdresserswives.com, which provides a safe haven for cross dressers’ wives and partners everywhere. I had already started writing my own book, My Secret Life as a Cross Dresser’s Wife, when women on the Forum, our anonymous oasis where women share and support one another, suggested we write a book of our collected stories. On that day, Labor Day 2009, My Life became Our Lives.
Q: What kind of research did you do before and during the writing of your book?
Dee – As a social scientist with a BA in Women’s Studies and an MA in Social Sciences and Comparative Education, and a cross dresser’s wife, I was compelled to research this topic. My website, www.crossdresserswives.com, offers a wide variety of resources and links. I’ve read every book and journal article that I could find on the topic of cross dressing. For the past six years, I have had the honor of interacting with cross dressers’ wives and partners from around the globe. Additionally, I have been fortunate to establish warm friendships with many cross dressers; they might have come to me with assumptions that were incorrect, but through dialogue and sharing, we now have a better understanding of both sides of this issue. Also, Cross Dressers Wives has been collecting comprehensive questionnaires over the years that shed shocking new light on this seriously unrevealed subject.
Q: If a reader can come away from reading your book with one valuable message, what would that be?
Dee – Tell. The. Truth. When a closeted cross dresser marries, he misrepresents himself. Give your fiancé the choice of whether or not she wants to be a cross dresser’s wife. It’s not just about clothing. Most often, lies, deceit, and romantic betrayal can become the monumental issues that poison a marriage and rip families apart, not cross dressing. Through sharing, discussing, and ultimately demystifying this issue, perhaps we can all eliminate that shame-filled yearning for absolute secrecy, which can take too high a toll on all involved.
Q: Can you give us a short excerpt?
From story #3, Gaslighting, by Shelly –
“I don’t consider myself a stupid woman… When I first discovered that my husband had a secret, I was ten years into a happy, deeply committed marriage. My children were two years old and three months old, and I had recently stopped working to become a full time mom. My husband and I had been together since I was fifteen and he was eighteen. I had known and loved him unquestioningly for over half my life… “Paul” was my hero, advisor, mentor, and best friend. I trusted him more than I trusted myself.
The pair of women’s panties was hidden under a layer of drying towels in the bathroom. I immediately knew they weren’t mine. The panties were large and stretched out, silky but cut for comfort, not attractiveness; definitely not something taken as memorabilia from an affair. I was calm but genuinely puzzled when I asked Paul about them.
He gathered me in his arms, turned me around, and sat me on his lap at the kitchen table. His voice muffled by my hair, he reluctantly began talking. The women’s panties were his…”
Q: In your own experience, is it hard to get a nonfiction book published today? How did you do it?
B. – Wanting to retain 100% control of how these stories were told, we decided to self-publish.
Q: What’s a typical day like for you?
Dee – Our website gets over 2 million hits a year. Therefore, no matter what, the first thing I do every morning is go on to the Forum at www.crossdresserswives.com. Checking in with these women has become a lifeline for me, one that I am eternally grateful for. I need to know that the Forum is maintained as a safe haven for cross dressers’ wives/partners. I really never have days off but I am thankful to be so busy.
Q: What’s next for you?
Dee – Cross Dressers Wives, the website www.crossdresserswives.com, and The Cross Dresser’s Wife * Our Secret Lives are taking on lives of their own. In short, they’re on fire! I’m trying to keep up!
Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Dee and B. We wish you much success!
Dee & B. – Thank you!