I have a clear memory of the first time I cross-dressed, but I have no idea of why I did. As far as I can tell, it was merely a matter of curiosity getting the better of me. I found some kind of personal satisfaction in the act, but I don't understand why.

I know that I fought with cross-dressing all my life, quitting and purging many many times, living as a woman for a time, and eventually just abandoning the whole trans* aspect of my life for years while I sought peace along other avenues until I was finally complete as a person first.

For a long time, I looked to cross-dressing as the cure for loneliness. Always having been an awkward youth with few friends (due to a disabling fear of being found out as a cross-dresser and being hurt for it) I felt completely out-of-sync with the world and couldn't find a way to connect with others - let alone connect with a romantic partner. I was exposed to pornography and other material that portrayed trans-women as something to be greatly desired and I embraced my own trans* tendencies as my personal key to being wanted, accepted, and maybe even loved by someone.

I only ever had one real relationship with another person, a fellow transvestite. It was a fast and furious affair that ended in a nuclear-level explosion of disaster and the fallout of pain and sadness nearly led me to suicide. There was a string of little flings and casual encounters, but even the most superficial meetings were few and far between and I remained alone for the most part.

In the end, I had to learn that I needed to make relationships with others as a person first, not as a specific kind of person. Going in with my trans* ID in front of me might earn me a quick roll in the hay, or at least a compliment on my looks, but it was never going to get me to a real connection that fed my need for meaningful companionship and made me valuable to others beyond being an object of variable interest.

I have to be me first, as I would be if I were nothing but energy and thought. I can adorn this physical self any way that pleases me for my own satisfaction, but I am someone behind the paint and the clothes that always exists and is always me regardless of what I look like in the mirror. This fundamental person that I am supersedes the physical, it is the truly real me - the me that can connect in meaningful ways, that can express love honestly and be loved truly, that exists where paint and coverings have no power.

I'm not sure that anyone ever truly achieves being their fundamental selves on this plain of existence. I try but I am still limited by the trappings of this flesh and blood I occupy. I strive diligently to be more than the photos on a page, expressing my heart and mind so that others can see past the image. I have mixed results, but I am free from being a parody of myself - from being a one-dimensional caricature of the whole person I am.

I dress this way because I like how I look this way. This is the satisfaction I am satisfied with - if that makes sense. But I am not just this expression, I am a total human being.