There is a popular misconception that transvestism is all about sex - that TVs like to dress and present as women because it gives them a sexual thrill. If you've always thought of transvestism in this way, it may come as something of a surprise to learn that for many, many TVs, this isn't the case at all.
It's also commonly believed that all TVs are gay, or at the very least bisexual. This isn't so either. As a woman married to a man who's been TV from childhood, and who has many TV and TS friends, I'd like to try to present a more realistic view of TV sexuality - which isn't always straightforward, as there can certainly be a sexual element to transvestism, although this may, and often does, diminish with age and experience.
What frequently seems to happen is this. Most TVs are aware from childhood that they enjoy doing "girlie" things - playing with dolls, making friends with girls, and/or experimenting with their mother's or sister's clothes and cosmetics. During childhood, there is, of course, no overtly sexual element to this, but the young boy may find trying on girls' clothes and make-up pleasantly sensual and appealing. Then puberty kicks in, and with it a rush of sexual feelings. For the first time, the adolescent cross-dresser finds that dressing in female clothing - especially "sexy" items like satin lingerie or stockings - can be sexually arousing and exciting. At this age, most young men masturbate a great deal anyway, so our young cross-dresser begins to use dressing as a masturbatory aid. He finds it extremely pleasurable - unsurprisingly, given that even non-cross-dressing adolescents fantasise about sexily-dressed women - so dressing to masturbate is almost like being his own sexual fantasy object.
In this way, the act of dressing becomes linked in his mind to sexual pleasure, and this association can sometimes remain throughout his life. However, many TVs and cross-dressers, as they mature and begin to experience sex with partners instead of as a solitary activity, find that the association weakens and dressing becomes less of a sexual thrill - at which point, if they do not suffer from gender dysphoria and have been dressing simply because they find it sexually exciting, they may give it up altogether. For those who are gender dysphoric, even to a slight degree, while they will continue to dress for the non-sexual feelings of comfort and relief it brings them, it may become completely detached from sex and simply become an expression of the feminine side of their personality.
Which brings us to the next question - are TVs invariably gay or bisexual? The answer to this one is "No, not necessarily", but this is where the issue starts to get a little complicated.
First, let me say that it's perfectly possible for a TV to be 100% heterosexual. Many of them are happily, monogamously married or in long-term relationships, have no interest in any form of sex other than the heterosexual variety and are never tempted to to experiment with gay sex. By the same token, others are gay men, and would have been gay men even if they weren't TV.
But there is a subset of transvestites who, while they could loosely be described as bisexual, are neither gay nor straight in the generally accepted sense of the words. (Well, I did say it was complicated.....)
Some TVs, while they may be strongly attracted to women and fully capable of sustaining a normal heterosexual relationship, also like to take the passive, feminine role in sex while they're dressed. These people often seek out as sexual partners gay or bisexual men who find TVs attractive. They often have no interest in sex with other men when they themselves are in "male mode", but when they are "en femme" they enjoy being treated, sexually and otherwise, as women. Such TVs usually think of themselves as bisexual, although they may or may not enjoy sex with other men when not dressed.
There is also another group of TVs who, while not at all attracted to men who are presenting as men, have a strong sexual interest in other TVs. This is perhaps the most difficult aspect of TV sexuality for a non-TG person to understand, since it's quite possible for such a TV to fancy the socks off another TV "en femme", yet to be left stone-cold by the very same individual presenting as male. Some such TVs may even continue to think of themselves as completely straight, since they aren't interested in men as such and are able to persuade themselves that it's a "woman" they're having sex with, albeit one with a penis!
My own husband is a TV of this type, and from discussion with him and with other TV friends, I have come to the conclusion that these are often men with a powerful sex drive, a strong response to visual stimuli and a rich and imaginative fantasy life, who are easily aroused by the sight of, for instance, a shapely pair of legs in sheer stockings, regardless of the biological gender of the owner of said legs. My husband tells me that for him, it's the ambiguity which turns him on - the mixture of masculine and feminine characteristics to be found only in another TV. If, as I personally believe to be the case, this type of TV is psychologically both male and female, with a mixture of masculine and feminine personality traits, it's arguable that the male in them eroticises and is attracted to the feminine, while their female aspects are aroused by the masculine. Thinking of it in this way makes the whole issue of TV/TV sexual attraction a little more comprehensible.
To sum up, then, if your husband or partner is TV it does NOT necessarily mean that he's gay, bisexual, sexually promiscuous or any more likely to be sexually unfaithful than any other man. You and your partner will probably want to talk about his sexuality and, if he's anything other than totally straight, decide between you how you're going to deal with that. As with so many other issues, the key here is honest and open communication between the two of you, and you should never feel obliged to tolerate anything that you feel uncomfortable with.
© Transpartners 2008