Purging – It Seemed Like a Good Idea At The Time

By Amanda J.

After disapproving spouses, purging has to be up there as the biggest scourge of the CDing community.  We do it with the best intentions, perhaps to deal with the guilt we feel about deceiving our nearest and dearest, perhaps because we struggle to come to terms with this side of ourselves, perhaps to enable us to focus on other parts of our lives without the distractions of feeding the inner woman’s ego or perhaps for one of a myriad other reasons.  And by ‘purge’ I mean getting rid of every last female item we own.

Whatever the reason, we take a deep breath and start putting everything ‘she’ owns into plastic bags either to donate to the local charity shop (and perhaps bought by another CDer who we hope will cherish them as much as we did) or just to be tossed into the skip/dumpster never to be seen again.  And we feel good on the drive home because we’ve dealt with that pesky transgender problem for once and for all.

Except we haven’t.  Relief soon turns to grief and, before we know it, we’re looking for replacements to start the whole sorry cycle again.  And sadly, as many of us realise, it is a cycle because the truth is that we never seem to learn.

I have purged several times and, perversely, it gets harder each time.  In my 20s, I’d buy an outfit, wear it a few times and then get rid of it (and that outfit would represent the entirety of my feminine wardrobe).  I lived on my own so there was no need for secrecy and the truth is that I just got bored – there was no connection between me and the outfit so getting rid of it was easy.  When I resumed CDing in my late 40s, I quickly got into the buy-wear-purge cycle again, purging this time driven by the guilt of keeping everything under the marital radar but what I’d failed to realise was that I was starting to feel more comfortable with this side of me and so the regret would kick in far sooner.

Sometimes I’ve been lucky and the grief hasn’t set in for a few weeks.  Other times, it’s been a matter of hours and I’ve even returned to the textile recycling bins to see whether I could fish the discarded items out.  Sadly, because they were designed to stop people doing exactly that, I couldn’t.  Even now, many years later, I still mourn the loss of some of the items that were absolutely gorgeous and I can’t even begin to imagine how much money was spent in the process.

I had my last big purge a few years ago after coming out to my wife.  The confession didn’t go well and the full and final purge was the eventual price I had to pay to keep the family together.  A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then and I’m back to my old ways, carrying on under the marital radar to avoid detection.  But there has been one important change in my attitude.  I no longer purge even though the guilt and stresses of deception can be debilitating.

So what’s changed?

Quite simply, I realised what purging actually meant.  We’re not just putting clothes, wigs, makeup and so on into those bags, we’re actually putting a whole chunk of our personality in there too.  We’re consigning the inner woman to oblivion, locking her away in the darkest recesses of our psyche so that she can never again blight our life.  But like any good woman, she can’t stay quiet for long and is soon screaming to be set free from her prison once more.  And we hear those cries, not least because we miss her just as we miss anyone else that we’re fond of who leaves our life.  In short, she leaves a void that only she can fill.

So to anyone reading this who may be contemplating purging, I say this.   Purging may seem like the easy way to full and final resolution of the issues that plague you but it isn’t.  But if you feel the whole thing is getting out of control and you  can’t see any option other than getting rid of ‘her’ clothes, put one outfit (including shoes, underwear and wig) to one side before you pack everything else up.  Then put it in a hard to access place for safe keeping away from prying eyes and temptation.   Buildings have fire alarms which the occupants hope will never need to be used and, in the same way, whilst you may hope you never need those clothes again, if you do realise that you’ve made a bad mistake, you’ll be able to retrieve them and give the inner woman the freedom she craves.

But if getting rid of every last item is the only way, when you’ve finished putting all of her things into bags, climb in yourself.  Because you’ll eventually realise that you can’t survive without her and she can’t survive without you so you have to stick together.  But don’t, whatever you do, seal that bag – apart from the riskthat you’ll end up in landfill, sitting inside a sealed plastic bag is a bad idea on so many levels!

14 thoughts on “Purging – It Seemed Like a Good Idea At The Time”

  1. I know well the feelings you describe here. And yet, I only purged fully once (I owned a whole pair of knickers) and semi-purged once – and the latter was to test the waters with my spouse. If she had been in any way pleased or even grimly accepting of that purge the whole lot would have gone. She later told me she knew I had kept some things back and so didn’t want to encourage any lying on my part by appearing to even care what I had done.

    My point? Oh, yes, my point: that part about putting ourselves away with the clothes is a resonant and powerful one. I remember feeling that particularly deeply and increasingly as I hid my clothing back in the box on top of a wardrobe, making it hard to access and easy to ignore. To anyone else that reads your post and this comment: be aware of how hurtful that is to your sense of self over time.

    As a stranger here, let me finish by saying that I learned and things eventually changed. I had to give up a lot in order to find the space (mental and physical) to finally confront the things I had been actively avoiding and running from for most of my life (at least three quarters of it). But, though I mourn what I lost, I treasure what I found.

    1. Joanna, thank you for taking the time to join the conversation.

      What I find particularly heartbreaking about all the stories of purging is that both the motives for purging and the impact it has more often than not go unnoticed. It’s the culmination of an emotional battle between what we need and trying to do what we think is best for our marriage. It’s a huge emotional sacrifice and I know from personal experience that after I confessed to my wife and purging came up in the subsequent conversations, there was an appreciation of the costs involved but not the inner torment that had driven me to do it or the fact that it was being done in a vain attempt to remove the deception from the marriage.

      1. Yes, that. The attempt to be honest and open, to avoid being the one whose behaviour casts a pall on the relationship – the wrestling with one’s self, with what one assumes to be dark and unforgiveable. To have much of that confirmed with the acceptance, or less, of the purge. But to do it anyway because love is sacrificial. I suppose those who have not wrestled with all of that are blessed in a manner of speaking, that they cannot know the heartbreak. I do not begrudge them that!

  2. Amanda,
    Like you, and millions of others who have purged, I’ve been there done that.

    I’m so glad I did not jump into the garbage bag along with all my precious things in it.

    It took me over thirty years after my purge to “live”again. Happy me.

    Jocelyn

    1. Jocelyn, always nice to hear from those who empathise!

      What I particularly noticed was that it was always done when the urges ebbed. It’s very easy to stuff everything into a bin bag when you don’t think you need it but luckily I’m just about sensible enough these days to know what happens when the tide goes out – it doesn’t take long to come back in again – and CDing is just the same!

  3. There is no doubt we all wish purging would make this all go away. However it just won’t and I’m not sure how many times I’ve done it but I know this it will never happen again
    I’m a genderfuid trans women and that’s just who I am
    It doesn’t matter what clothes I’m wearing and I’m done trying to explain to others why my preference is to be more feminine
    It’s just who I am

    1. Rachael, that realisation is an important one but lost on so many in the TG community, particularly in the early days of their self-discovery. It resolves nothing, postpones the inevitable and causes immesurable heartache in the meantime.

      As you intimate, in the end, we have to be ourselves, it’s the only way we can ultimately be at peace.

  4. Amanda,
    I should possibly start by admitting the clothes I dressed in were either my sister’s early on , then items from girlfriends and finally items belonging to my wife , so nothing was ever purged . This situation continued until I came out to my wife in my forties , it was only fair then to tell her I had been wearing her clothes . While she didn’t explode she preferred me not to , from then on I secretly checked out bags destined for the charity shops . The obvious next step was to go directly to charity shops , the system is slightly different in the UK because usually only decent , good quality items are accepted . I was gradually building up a stash which I kept hidden in my photographic dark room . As some point we had a converstaion about charity shops so I admmitted I was shopping in them , she wasn’t happy . I pointed out that she is fairly careful with money spent on clothes so it would be fair for me to spend more than her . She gradually accpeted I needed to buy clothes as long as she didn’t see me wearing them , eventually she would let me go through her charity ite3ms before taking them to the shop . Finally she agreed to allow me to attend a social group and suggested I move my hidden items from the darkroom and place them in the wardrobe in my daughters’ bedroom as she was married .
    Perhaps I’m lucky that I haven’t had to purge but I can fully understand the deeper meaning behind purging . The clothes belong to you , you have chosen them to portray how you see yourself , men very rarely experience what that’s like , it’s a most wonderful feeling to discover that .

    1. Amanda,
      I should possibly start by admitting the clothes I dressed in were either my sister’s early on , then items from girlfriends and finally items belonging to my wife , so nothing was ever purged . This situation continued until I came out to my wife in my forties , it was only fair then to tell her I had been wearing her clothes . While she didn’t explode she preferred me not to , from then on I secretly checked out bags destined for the charity shops . The obvious next step was to go directly to charity shops , the system is slightly different in the UK because usually only decent , good quality items are accepted . I was gradually building up a stash which I kept hidden in my photographic dark room . As some point we had a converstaion about charity shops so I admmitted I was shopping in them , she wasn’t happy . I pointed out that she is fairly careful with money spent on clothes so it would be unfair for me to spend more than her . She gradually accepted I needed to buy clothes as long as she didn’t see me wearing them , eventually she would let me go through her charity items before taking them to the shop . Finally she agreed to allow me to attend a social group and suggested I move my hidden items from the darkroom and place them in the wardrobe in my daughters’ bedroom as she was married .
      Perhaps I’m lucky that I haven’t had to purge but I can fully understand the deeper meaning behind purging . The clothes belong to you , you have chosen them to portray how you see yourself , men very rarely experience what that’s like , it’s a most wonderful feeling to discover that .

    2. Teresa, that’s an interesting angle. Ironically, when I came clean to my wife, she said that she would have preferred it if I’d worn her clothes rather than going out and buying my own. I’ve never ventured into charity shops (other than to donate the purges) in the ‘Amanda’ context and have tended to gravitate towards places like Matalan, Primark and Amazon where stuff is relatively inexpensive (although the cost still mounts up, particularly if it’s punctuated by repeated purges as in my case). That said, I know quite a few people who do rely on the charity shops for their ‘wardrobe’ and perhaps I’m missing a trick there!

      1. Amanda,
        I could give you quite a list of wonderful finds in charity shops, OK just today I spotted a lovely fitted Jaeger jacket , 50% wool 50% silk in a very soft pink for £10.00 , it matched perfectly my Tshirt and skirt so I wore it out of the shop . I admit Matalan have some great things ( the green dress in my picture ) .

        Sara ,
        Consider there are women doing identical work to men , even blacksmithy . I stopped making excuses for myself and bought womens workwear and work boots , I pop my old wig on and strim my long grass and even if I’m using my chainsaw to cut logs for my woodburner . My neighbours now accept me as Teresa whatever I’m doing , if fact I sense they would consider something wrong .

  5. Yes, I’m guilty of purging as well. once out of neccesity, the others because I thought getting rid of her would make her go away! Now today she resides in her own closet, waiting for the day(s) I choose to let her out.(more like nagging me to let her out!) As near as I can tell I’m gender fluid, I guess? There are times I love nothing more than to be “Sara”, and then there are times I love to do “guy” things! Like Blacksmithing, among other male only things. that’s why a full blown transition for me would not work for me either, because then I would have to purge all my gut things to get rid of him?

    1. Sara, if only we knew then what we know now, sadly learned the hard way! I would have given anything for the sense of relief I felt immediately after each purge to have lasted permanently but, as we know, we’re lucky if it lasts more than a day or two and then we realise we’re in a worse position than we were before the purge.

      Don’t be too hasty to dismiss the blacksmithing as a boy thing! I’m sure that doing it en femme would open up many new opportunities (probably a bit hot with the wig & makeup though)!

      1. Amanda,
        I had to smile at your last paragraph . I have an area beyond my garden which has a small stream running through it , I keep the grass stimmed and plant daffodils and other plants . One hot day I had my Dickies navy & red ( ladies style ) overalls on because I had been strimming most of the morning . I was covered head to toe in debris and through it you could just still see my makeup and wig when my neighbour stopped to talk to me after she had got over her giggles , I must admit I saw the funny side of it .

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