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The Edmonton Sun - Friday May 31, 1999

Temporarily Transformed

TORONTO (CP) — Most days Jackie spends juggling his roles as husband, father, and night club manager. But at least twice a year the darkly handsome family man likes to unravel his silk stockings and walk on the wild side. "There-'s a little bit of a wild spirit inside of me that's enhanced when I'm dressed as a woman," the mild-mannered crossdresser explains with the nervous exhilaration that just talking about his feminine side seems to unleash

Descending the stairs from the "transformation room" above the Take a Walk on the Wildside boutique in the city's downtown, Jackie is a desperately provocative vision of hot pink spandex.
His wrinkled blonde Dyan Cannon wig and weighted prosthetic breasts add to the illusion. Black fishnet gloves mask his strong hands while generous makeup, luxurious false eyelashes and pencilled brows soften his masculine, thirty-something face.

"I feel great when I put on a suit — like a real man. But I also like how I look in a dress," Jackie purrs, instantly flirtatious in his bad-girl attire.

That Jackie fears rejection from his family and friends should his real name be published is more than a secret sinner's paranoia.

When he tried to tell his wife of his fancy for feminine finery, she assumed he was gay and he was forced to pass it off as a joke.

"She asked me if I wanted to sleep with men. I told her definitely not and then we never talked about it again."

But at the Toronto Crossdressers Club, Jackie can let his Y-chromosomes be dominant.

For $100, members can be laced into a merry widow corset and dressed in anything from a white wedding dress to leather micro-mini.

Instructions on how to make their thin lips look pouty and how makeup can disguise their five-o'clock shadow are another $100, with a professional photo shoot and bed and breakfast ranging from $50 to $100.

"Many crossdressers will get a hotel room, spend three hours dressing and putting on makeup and then, if they really feel daring, call room service for a glass of wine," says the downtown club's founder, Paddy Aldridge, 35.

'They may watch television and then undress and go to sleep. The club gives them somewhere to go where they feel its safe to be seen in a dress," she says.

At the Saturday-night social, about a dozen of the club's 50 members mingle in the basement party room. Some take turns being photographed in suggestive poses on leopard-print barstools. Others can barely sit still, repeatedly excusing themselves to check their look in a hall mirror.

"I consider what I do the art of impersonating a woman, more than crossdressing," explains Jane, 32, a strikingly beautiful redhead whose taped chest is sprouting cleavage beneath his flesh-colored bodice.
"I'm trying to put on a costume and be as convincing in it as possible.

"There's no difference between that and Michael Keaton putting on a Batman suit."

Like Jane and Jackie, Caroline, 24, says he does it to relax. Only Amanda — who like the others says he's heterosexual — admits he finds wearing a bra erotic. "I'm a transvestite," the 32-year-old artist says while fingering the double-strand pearl bracelet peaking out from the sleeve of his black Chanel jumpsuit.
Unlike crossdressers who occasionally "transform," transvestites make it their life's work to pass themselves off as women.

"I find it sexually stimulating when I'm transformed as a woman," Amanda continues. "I love the feeling of putting on silky clothes. Things that are not masculine are very sensuous, very cool."

Carol, a slender middle-aged Toronto salesman dressed in an elegant pleated skirt and blouse, says women needn't fear their lover's desire to be temporarily transformed into a woman.

"Really this is the gentle side, the side she married us for. The two together brings a balance. Once in awhile, we just escape from one personality to another."

I n his distinctive British accent, Carol defensively passes off his habit as a "harmless hobby. Crossdressing doesn't hurt anybody, it's harmless, totally harmless."

He suggests that his wife only objected tt w discovering him in her dress a decade ago because he looked better than her in it. But later, in a more candid moment, Carol reveals his "hobby's" tragic consequence.
"Put it this way, I haven't had sex in 10 years. I love my wife and she loves me, so we stay married and just don't talk about it."

For Carol, at least, giving up the hobby isn't an option.

"Crossdressing isn't something you can stop."


Dressed to thrill

TORONTO (CP) - Some Saturday nights, Dave and his wife retreat to their bedroom for a slumber party with a twist.

"I tell her: 'Let's stay in tonight — I'll get dressed,'" the freelance writer tells an audience of men dressed in women's clothes at the Toronto Crossdressers Club.

"She knows I crossdress," he says. "She gets turned on by it."

Tonight, Dave appears solo, as Far-rah — a voluptuous leggy blonde whose wife's thigh-length sweater is cinched at his slender waist with a baroque leather belt.

'I'm heterosexual I have no desire to, nor do I want to be with a man. I guess I'm a male lesbian," Far-rah continues, tossing stray strands of his layered blonde wig behind his shoulder.

Feminine garb

You won't find the names Dave or Farrah on his birth certificate — the 32-year-old refused his real name because he isn't ready to tell the world about his fetish for feminine garb.

But this crossdresser has done something that crisis counsellors at the International Foundation for Gender Education say many others cannot — cope.

"Every crossdresser thinks he, or she, is the only one," says Yvonne Cook from the foundation's headquarters in Boston.

"We have no way of knowing how many there are because no study has ever been done. But it's important for crossdressers to know they're not alone."

Cook — a male who lives and dresses as a woman — says there is no known scientific reason why some men find dressing in women's clothing appealing.

"Even if we do find a reason, it doesn't make a difference. What's important is that these people find support groups to help find coping mechanisms."

Support groups

The foundation refers at least 25 callers a day to more than 130 support groups in the United States and Canada. There are four groups in Toronto and others in Montreal, Vancouver and the Yukon.

Without counselling, crossdressing — viewed by some as a harmless hobby — can turn deadly, says Cook. The foundation takes at least three suicide calls a week from crossdressers who say they'd rather die than face the social rejection.

"Because of the guilt and fear of social reprisal and rejection, this phenomenon kills people. It drives them to a state of depression if they don't find a source of comfort."

At least twice a year Jackie (left) leaves behind his role as a husband and father to slip into something a little more comfortable. Paddy Aldridge, founder of the Toronto Crossdressers Club, helps Jackie with his hair.

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