The Joy of Cross-Dressing for the First Time

"Cross-dressing keeps me sane. My female part is always with me, even when I dress like a man."

Enfemme is an organization in Barcelona that offers a safe space for cross-dressers, transvestites, and trans women. It's unique in that it's mostly focused on cross-dressers, although anyone is welcome to stop by for help or advice, which stretches from makeup classes and "walking in heels" workshops to psychological support offered in conjunction with Transit—a Catalan public health service for trans people—and counseling sessions for married couples.

Writers and photographers David Simón Martret and Blanca Galindo started stopping by Enfemme in the summer of 2016 to document the people and their relationships within the organization. They went to the weekly Thursday meetings and to events held outside the safety of the organization's headquarters—like lunches on the beach, the annual Christmas dinner, and the tenth anniversary party.

There they met cross-dressing people from across the gender-identity spectrum and spoke to some of them about wearing women's clothing for the first time and how their lives have been ever since they started.

Rebecca, 31

"The first time I felt the need to uncover Rebecca was when I was at a friend's house—I tried on one of her dresses and felt butterflies in my stomach. I would love to be her all the time, but I only get to be her on weekends. It's impossible for me to be her at work or when I'm with family. Rebecca makes me happy, like I'm in a cloud. Only four of my closest friends know her, and they accept me as I am.

"I try to live in this duality the best way I can. I have been coming to Emfemme since the summer of 2016 to find stability and respect from all the girls here. My temperament is sweeter when I see myself as a girl—I feel I can open myself up more to other people. I feel I can be myself."

Monica, 56

"I lived with this secret for years, but when I was 37, I couldn't hide it from my partner and the mother of my children any longer. I'm still living a dual life, which isn't fun, but you learn to live it. A lot of people around me know that Monica is the real me, and I care less and less what people think. I don't get to be her all the time, but I never lose sight of who I actually am, regardless of what I'm wearing.

"My social circle is very small outside of Enfemme. My family knows, understands, and accepts it, and I have a couple of good old friends who are completely onboard. One friend especially doesn't care at all what I'm wearing—she always talks to me woman to woman.

"It's important for me to meet people in the same position to go through life with. When I first came here, I needed help, and the people at Enfemme gave it to me. Now my own experience can help other people. I would like society to be truly tolerant and non-binary so that people who feel like I do—or who simply divert from the norm—don't have to suffer to be who they are."

Malena, 48

Malena (left) with friend Arlette

"Cross-dressing keeps me sane. My female part is always with me, even when I dress like a man. I started cross-dressing in 2006, in the privacy of my own home, while having a martini. At first just from the waist down—stockings, garter belt, heels, panties. I looked at myself in the mirror and felt very sexy. The make-up came later.

"I remember how, when I was cross-dressing at home, I would sometimes come out on the balcony late at night and feel so free because I could feel the air on my skin. When someone told me about Enfemme, I called the organization and immediately knew we were speaking the same language.

"Living a dual life fits me perfectly. I love that there's a woman inside me who emerges occasionally. Being her and bringing her out with these clothes makes me feel free and euphoric. When I walk in heels, I'm transported into this fantasy world where everything is possible and no one criticizes you for your choices.

"I don't want to decide—I am very clear about my sexuality. I'm a cross-dresser. I'm not interested in hormone therapy, surgery, or getting breasts. I just happen to find pleasure in changing from time to time. Outside of Enfemme people around me rarely understand that I just like being sexy and feminine. I hope someday everybody can live the way they want without hurting one another. I hope we'll stop labeling people as much as we're doing now."

Paula

"I would never change the way I am. I like living in this orderly chaos. When I was a child, I was completely comfortable with the identity assigned to my gender. It wasn't until I was older that I first started getting in touch with my female side. At first, I only did it when it was socially acceptable, like at costume parties. When I was about 24, I realized I needed to embrace the ambiguity of my gender.

"I'm a boy most of the time—at my workplace, with family, with some friends. I'm not uncomfortable; there are even moments when Paula does not exist in me. But when I have time to think, Paula appears in different forms. Paula gives me knowledge about myself, and I have experiences that wouldn't have occurred otherwise. Through Paula, I've seen more vulnerable sides of people, which has led me to having more sincere friendships. There are people who have only seen me as a girl, others who have seen both sides, and others who only know my male part. It's really staggering how differently people respond to you just because of your clothing; it's weird how a certain dress code is assigned to a certain gender.

"Within my family, only my brother knows. I can talk normally about it with him, but it would be too painful to see the look of disappointment in my mother's or my friends' eyes if they knew. It's a very tough personal struggle for me. Gender roles are a social construct that assigns behavioral roles and rules to people. But what does it mean to be male or female? Institutions like Enfemme are so important; we need more of them in Spain—there are still too many people hiding just because they don't have the tools to express themselves freely."

Follow Favid Simón Martret and Blanca Galindo at the Leafhopper Project. Scroll down for more pictures.

Riccardo

Joana and Pepa

Sofia

Enfemme's tenth anniversary party

Monica playing keyboard with the Wild Sisters

Aurora

Enfemme's tenth anniversary party

Bárbara

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