The inimitable LA Times has recently reported on the story of a long-time, cross-dressing man known as Sissy Goodwin.
Sissy has lived his entire life in Wyoming. He was born into a terribly unhealthy world, as his mother was an alcoholic and his father was physically abusive. As a response to this awful and untoward treatment by a male figure, he hyper-identified with his mother. Most men like Sissy in his age bracket became forerunners to second-wave feminism, refused to identify with anything remotely masculine and simply divorced themselves from positive relationships with other men.
In the long run, most men in this situation simply have life-long struggles with masculine identity that relate directly with self-esteem, ability to attract and maintain healthy relationships with women and the inability to connect positively with other men. However, Sissy took a bizarre approach – wearing women’s clothing. Tellingly, his sense of feminine fashion seems oddly stationed in the pre-1950’s era – he even admits as such, saying his preferred clothing belongs more in the 1950’s. Since he is a clear-cut liberal, citing the 1950’s is damning – he knows his clothing belongs in another era.
Sissy recounts, with detail, numerous incidences of what he calls “homophobia.” He recalls hateful slurs directed at him, sneers in the local supermarket and outright violence visited on him. The article goes so far as to mention Matthew Shepard, a gay man killed under disputed circumstances in the late 1990’s. Gay advocates refuse to admit Shepard’s murder was for any reason other than two men who were closeted homosexuals that murdered an out and proud gay man in Shepard. Still, for this incredible torrent of vitriolic hatred and bigotry, did Sissy leave Wyoming for the tolerant pastures of a big city? The article states cross-dressing is so commonplace in major cities that he would exist simply as another human. No, no, no: Sissy remained in the feverishly intolerant atmosphere of Wyoming.
I am going to suggest something radical, apparently intolerant, and true: people do what they want. If Sissy was so worried about being a victim of crime and his acceptance in a community, then why didn’t he move? The most common response to this assertion would be that people should be able to be whatever they want wherever they want. I don’t agree with that statement for many reasons, but most saliently here is this: people do what they want precisely because people only do that they want. If what he truly wanted was to be accepted in Wyoming, he would learn to dress in way that reflected prevailing norms. If what he truly wanted was social acceptance, he would move to San Francisco where his choice of who he is would be more accepted.
The fact he refused to change his style of dress while still remaining in his home state says exactly what he wants: for people around him to treat him badly for his choices as a man. Sissy knows that people will automatically assume he is 100% against violence and expressions of bigotry, but his behavior completely belies that he against expressions of hatred and violence towards himself.
Sissy wants to be treated badly by men he perceives as masculine. The article makes a point to highlight he teaches at the dreadfully male-centric world of Casper College’s power technology lab, where he bravely wears his yellow top and carries his pink lunchbox. First off, those are more markers of youthful femininity, not a person drawing Social Security – anybody else notice the girlish bow in his hair?
Second, Sissy seems to love to press right up against the edge of the box, without actually having to step outside the box. He seems to be relieved that so many of his students have decided to show their support by wearing pink in their hair, but come on. What was the point of all this wearing women’s clothing? To combat gender expectations? You mean he has engaged in a pattern of behavior over multiple decades so other men can make the choice to wear women’s clothing? Was it his biological calling to wear female’s clothing? Or are we simply to accept this man’s choices simply because he engaged in them?
The latter reason is the story-time lesson we are supposed to glean from this heavy-handed and predictable piece. As expected: male privilege, bigoted intolerance in the red-state America and women fearlessly accepting a man who wears lace panties on the regular. Regardless, the most interesting aspect of this story is the complete lack of understanding of why people are the way they are. A common claim, here, is that people should be allowed to be who they are so long as it doesn’t hurt anybody. This man has kids. His own son was quoted as stating he sees his father as brilliant, but Sissy admits some form of guilt or shame, as he admits “I blame myself now…[my son] was defending his dad when he didn’t really know what he was defending him for.”
Really? Now, suddenly, all that self-aggrandizing behavior Sissy engaged in over the course of decades – bringing shame to his family and embarrassing his wife (you can’t argue she wasn’t negatively affected by all the attention directed his way) – is now an issue because his son is implicated? Sissy feels some twinges in his heart now that a young boy has been placed in a similar situation as he was. Forced to deal with untoward attention he didn’t ask for, his son reminds Sissy all too much of his youth. A self-absorbed male gives birth to another male – just a potential usurper to the primary role Sissy has carved out for himself in the Lifetime movie of his life.
Which might be the saddest aspect of this story: Sissy chose this path, but as a response to his father’s abuse, and most likely, his mother’s weakness. He may have taken to wearing women’s clothing in a way of idolizing the mother he deified; it may have been a way of acting out the role she should have taken in response to an abusive father. Regardless, this man’s life was one of his choosing, but far, far sooner than he should had to make a choice.
Children shouldn’t be forced to take up roles, much less ones taken up in the crepuscular lights of their existence. This deep-seated choice of his to wear women’s clothing was born of a highly unhealthy identification with his mother. As a result of his choices as a child, he has made a life of himself and how people respond to his decision to be a man who wears women’s clothing. Without children, he can freely view others simply as objects who either give him worship (tolerance) or hatred (anybody who doesn’t worship him). With children, he suddenly feels a strong jolt of guilt, only to deny that guilt and port it out as shame, as he has refused to change and figure out quite why he needs to dress as a woman.
Any man who desires so deeply to wear women’s clothing – much less women’s fashion dating back to their youth – has serious problems. Media outlets, like the LA Times, love tidy stories of impossibly quick transformations or normalization of personality disorders. Both serve to feed the audience’s desire to either have a quick and easy morality tale, or an all-too-brief expose that highlights the pervasive intolerance of people who are not in the targeted readership demographic.
As for Sissy, he still refuses to address why he needs to wear women’s clothing. Indeed, his son observed that his father wore men’s clothing at his sister’s wedding. Curious, Sissy refused to wear men’s clothing for his entire son’s childhood, but when in the presence of God at a wedding, he surrenders to wearing men’s clothing. Somebody has a clear issue with authority figures.
It really doesn’t matter, as Sissy has spent his entire life wasting emotional energy on propping up a psychological construct that carried him through his childhood, only to not abandon it as an adult – clinging to a past that hasn’t existed for decades. He has drug his children, his wife and his social circle at large through repeated episodes of those who would mock or abuse him for wearing women’s clothing. A fully grown man – a father, a husband – needing to be a victim of perceived hatred in order to bolster his self-identity. Sad.
I’d venture to guess that Sissy’s dad beat him when his dad claimed Sissy wasn’t man enough. Sissy’s dad was 100% wrong when Sissy was a child, but his dad is 100% right today.