Cross-Gendered Tops

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May 1997

by William A. Henkin, Ph.D.

Copyright © 1997 by William A. Henkin

<Q> I'm a heterosexual male, mostly a top, and fairly new to BDSM. As a relative novice I totally had my eyes opened up at a recent party when I saw a man in full women's drag do a scene as a top. The scene was so hot I wanted to become gay and bottom just to play with him – or was he a her and am I still straight? But what knocked me out even more than how confused I got about my own sexual orientation was seeing someone top in drag: all the cross-dress fetish stories I've ever read are about sissy-boy bottoms, or about men being forced to cross-dress by dominant women. What gives?

<A> I think all that gives is that you've had a glimpse of the truth that underlies one of the myths you've believed until now. At best, the fetish stories you've read are the erotic fantasies of their authors; at worst they are fantasies their authors believed they could sell to other people, mostly men, for whom the fantasies have a real erotic charge. While I find no fault with the fantasies, whether written, read, or enacted, and while there certainly are men for whom these are the very best of all fantasies or even the best of all erotic experiences, reality is far more complex than can be contained in one or two scenarios. Just as I have known numerous people in the BDSM community who crossed male-to-female and female-to-male gender lines for erotic purposes – simply as fetishists, or as tops, bottoms, or both – so also I have known numerous people outside the BDSM community who crossed the same gender lines for other than erotic purposes, usually concerning their overall gender identities or the gender identities of one or more of their parts. Similarly, I have known people who expressed variable sexual orientations depending on the genders, orientations, or roles of their partners.

As far as your own orientation is concerned, although I'll invite you to consider what the term really means to you, I'll take you at your word that you're heterosexual. If so, and if you were attracted to the role the cross-dressed person was playing, your attraction may have nothing whatever to do with your orientation, but rather with your own desires to top or bottom. If you were attracted to the sex of the person as male or female, your attraction is at least partly a statement about your orientation at the time of the attraction and, perhaps, at other times as well. If you were attracted to the cross-gendered presentation of the individual, you may have the sort of fetish a surprising number of straight men seem to have, wherein you're attracted to the female presentation of a person you know to be male, when you would not be attracted to that or any other person's male presentation. And if at the party you were attracted to the person him- or herself, you might find it instructive to know what about that human being attracted you: that's where love rather than just a hot time is likely to show.

In any event, all in all I'd say you'll get knocked out less in the future if you pay more attention to desires and behaviors than you do to labels and beliefs.

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