To the editors:

“Cross-Dressers Make Good Husbands” is an accurate, up-to-date, good-natured representation of the burgeoning transgender community [July 2]. It lays a graceful foundation to build further exploration. As a photographer, chronicler, and speaker on transgender issues for over 14 years, I’d like to share what keeps me tuned in.

The profoundly liberating concept that anatomy, sexual orientation, and gender role preference are not bound together like some immutable pretzel is illustrated by this community. At conventions like the “Be All,” one can witness social experiments seldom seen elsewhere: Heterosexual men who embrace, laugh, cry, dance together, and refer to each other as “sisters.” Conventionally married couples who perform “renewal of vows” ceremonies as two brides. Female-to-male and male-to-female cross-dressers who fall in love and become partners. Here are people who question gender roles not merely with their minds but with their lives. Even though, in the desire to find release from a strictly defined masculine role, many adopt equally defined feminine stereotypes, some reach a fusion of the two: a spiritual, emotional balance.

The instant I meet a member of this community, I am privy to his (or her, if this is a female-to-male) “deepest, darkest secret.” In wearing the clothing of the “opposite” sex, that person becomes naked, transparent, and we experience an intoxicating intimacy. It is clear to me that Susan DeGrane experienced it too, and that this level of intimacy is available to all of us once we allow ourselves to step out of our straitjackets. The transgender community can help teach us how.

Anyone interested in going further into the lives of cross-dressers and their relationships and what this community could mean to the rest of us might be interested in my book of photographs and interviews: Transformations: Crossdressers and Those Who Love Them. (It is available in some stores in the Chicago area, or through the International Foundation for Gender Education, 123 Moody St., Waltham, MA 02154, 617-899-2212.)

Mariette Pathy Allen

New York