I want to devote this quick post to a comment a reader left on a couple of my posts this week. I did not approve their comments as I thought the comments section wasn’t an appropriate place to address their pretty good inquiry. Luckily, I’m one to think long and hard about their questions can devote a new post to the answers.
I won’t single out this person by name or gender, but I will describe what they said they were: They are into crossdressing; they had recently relocated to the Madison, Wisconsin area; and they were inquiring about crossdresser-friendly social groups and organizations in Madison. They also asked about any places in Madison where a crossdresser would be socially accepted.
Well, I do not profess to be an expert on all things crossdresser-related in the Madison area, but I will try to directly address this person’s inquiries the best way I can. I’ll start by expressing one belief I’ve learned during my years as Allison: Crossdressers are a subset of the broad trans community. Why do I put the two together? Well, you may think that, say, you identify as I do as a full-time male with no gender transition desires (and that’s perfectly fine), but you do have the occasional desire to put on a women’s skirt or dress. Know, however, that for many who identify as transgender, their likely first step was just what you do as a crossdresser — donning an item of clothing not associated with the gender they came out of the womb as. And many of them can use the initial feelings they experienced when first putting on that skirt or dress to empathize with those who are cisgender yet crossdress. So listen to the stories trans people tell and the advice they can give. They may have gone a different route in life as you have in terms of gender identity, but they can still provide guidance that can help a simple crossdresser like you feel better about the person you are.
Which brings me to how and where crossdressers —and trans people — can meet up here in Madison: There is a trans group called MATA that meets every week in the offices of Madison’s LGBT-devoted community center, OutReach. Don’t be scared about the “LGBT” in that sentence; just as crossdressers are part of the trans community, so is the trans community part of the very broad LGBT community (it’s the “T” in that acronym, lest anyone forget). Know that whatever you identify as, OutReach will be very welcoming to you (I know this first hand).
But, I know, you’re wondering about meetings for only crossdressers. Well, before the Friday night meetings of MATA (and there are two such Fridays each month), the group facilitator has a “pre-meeting” devoted to crossdressers such as you and I. The CD and TG meetings do overlap, so don’t be surprised (or scared) if you’ll be surrounded by trans people of all stripes. You’ll all have great stories and advice to share. And just maybe, you might find me there if my schedule allows it (though I admit I’m relatively evergreen to the group meetings). You can find info about MATA and other groups that assemble at OutReach through this link. While I can’t seem to find MATA’s Facebook page (and I’ve been meaning to ask for a link to that page), OutReach’s Facebook page should have regular MATA updates; it should come in handy in case a meeting has to be postponed, especially if Mother Nature has her way as she’s prone to do here in Wisconsin. And you can e-mail one of the group’s facilitators at this address to inquire about specifics. (Clarification: I’m not one of the facilitators.)
Oh, personal experience requires me to share a couple of things if you go to a crossdresser/trans support meeting: Confidentiality is assured and expected, meaning what’s discussed in the group doesn’t go beyond the meeting room door; such a rule helps create a welcoming and comfortable meeting environment. Also, if you’re concerned that you must absolutely, positively don opposite gender clothing before attending… from my understanding, there’s no such prerequisite. Come as you are, use the name and gender pronouns you prefer, have an open ear and mind, and enjoy the experience.
Now, as for places outside a LGBT center that may be crossdresser friendly… the obvious places off the top of my mind that would certainly welcome you are LGBT-friendly bars and nightlcubs. Madison has a handful of LGBT clubs, the two most prominent being Plan B in the Wil-Mar neighborhood and Five Nightclub just off the Beltline Highway (that’s the name of the big 4-lane thoroughfare that hugs Madison like, well, a belt). If you’re en femme, as the terminology goes, and are ready to party, it’s for sure Five, Plan B, and the rest will be ready to welcome you. I do recommend, especially if you’re hesitant to barge your closet door wide open, to go with a fellow crossdresser or trans person. A fellow CD or TG you connect with online, or even someone you meet at a CD/TG group meeting, may be able to help guide you past any nervousness you may have so that you will have, if not a good time, at least some comfortableness with yourself as a crossdresser in a public venue.
But, say, you want to dress up and venture outside your domicile but aren’t ready to party. I don’t have regular expert knowledge on what business and locales here in Madison are definitely crosdresser friendly. I’m not even sure yet if the Target locations here in the immediate Madison area have any sort of unisex fitting rooms or restrooms, and Target as a corporation has been on record of late as being welcoming to trans people. But Madison as a whole is generally welcoming to the LGBT community as a whole, and it’s a sure bet that at least a few of them will be welcoming to crossdressers.
The best ways I could recommend as far as inquiring about crossdresser-friendly businesses would be to contact a business you’re thinking about patronizing and see if they make accommodations for crossdressers and trans people as a whole. The above mentioned OutReach has a website with a page listing Madison businesses and organizations that are LGBT (and crossdresser?) friendly. That listings page can be found here, though it’s best not to construe it as the only businesses that are LGBT, CD, and trans friendly.
A personal anecdote and recommendation: I don’t have any personal experience as of yet when it comes to venturing into a business as Allison and putting my money down to make a purchase; any dresses and skirts I’ve purchased in person have been while I’ve been in male mode. But, if there could be one Madison business where I imagine someone like Allison would be welcomed, it would likely be a bookstore in the downtown area, just off of State Street and not too far from the UW campus, called A Room of One’s Own. It’s an independent and locally-owned book store whose selection runs the gamut from fiction to non-fiction, children to mature adults, greeting cards to periodicals, stickers to buttons to other assorted bric-à-brac. A Room of One’s Own has deep roots in Madison’s feminist and women’s community, but don’t let that dissuade you from stopping in, as they are clearly LGBT-welcoming; if they weren’t, they wouldn’t have a whole corner devoted to LGBT books and publications.
So to sum up, yes, there are groups and locations that would welcome a crossdresser like you. What I mention above is only a start and only from personal experience, knowledge, and beliefs. If you’re a crossdresser in Madison, especially if you’re new to town, do your own inquiries and due diligence as to what places may be CD-friendly. And feel free to share them to the world, or at least the comments section below. Know that Madison is so very progressive and welcoming to all kinds of people… even a simple crossdresser such as you and I. Good luck, have fun, stay brave, and stay you. ♥♥♥