Roots: Gender Fluid in a gender critical world, an interview with Alice in Genderland
One of the first books I read coming out was Alice In Genderland (https://www.amazon.com/Alice-Genderland-Crossdresser-Comes-Age/dp/0595315623) Even at the time of reading it five years ago it was a little old but still a great read. It gave me some perspective of who I was and where many of us came from. A trail and path from which to start. Not five years on I see in the community many gender critical conversations about the nature of transgender and its antecedents.
I think in a way we’ve taken the role of gatekeepers deciding who can or cant take the title of “Transgender”. Ultimately though the conversation, argument, and anger amounts to arguing about whose the cutest girl in accounting. We want clear definitions, delineations, and clinical directives to exclude others when we ourselves have had to fight for our own place, acceptance, and status in society. We in effect create the same boundaries for others that we had to fight through ourselves. We’ve forgotten our past, forgotten our history. We’ve forgotten Compton’s Cafeteria, forgotten those that came before and their strife. Ignoring our own history of exclusion in the LGB community. The 1970’s pride parades were of solidarity to protest our rights, not a celebration of “bud lime” and drag.
In keeping with our history, knitting our tapestry of revolution, I’ve reached out to a early leader in our community. I asked the wonderful Alice Novik about how life went post publication. I always wondered what happened to Alice after that last period ended.
I’m very thankful to Alice for her book. Realizing that my story was so similar to hers in many ways. Not so much in fact but in plot. Similar attractions and things that I had done. Over the years I’ve become a support group organizer and lead bottle washer, but I see her story is out our story and vice versa. Her story is one that defines and reiterates that transition comes in all shapes and sizes. Some people express one way and others another. No one way is right for everyone. (I’ve done some stupid things, and good things but I know that I have only answers for me.) Alice has an M.D. with a degree from Harvard. With that high intelligence and sturdy head on her shoulders she stumbled through her journey just like many of us did. I encourage you to check out her book.
Every journey is different, but every journey is no less special, valid or important. So without adieu I present the wonderful Alice!
Who are you? How would you describe yourself?
Alice: Basically, I’m a bisexual crossdresser who is married with two young adult children, who works as a psychiatrist/psychotherapist. Deep down I see myself as a start-out-straight male-to-female transgender person who has chosen to live a mostly male life. If circumstances like my height and my ability to find a great wife were different, I might have chosen to live a mostly female, transsexual, lifestyle.
How long has it been since you published your book, has a crazy amount changed?
Alice: I published my book in 2005, and certainly we’ve made a crazy amount of progress as transgender people with Bruce Jenner coming out as Caitlyn and young people declaring what pronouns they want to be known by. For me personally, a crazy amount changed and miraculously then returned to something resembling the old status quo, as I took a hiatus from crossdressing from 2012 to 2017 after my boyfriend, Frank (former boyfriend), broke up with me and my kids entered high school. At that point, my mindset changed from trying to make the most of my trans female youth to enjoying my kids as much as could while they were still around.
How is your family life? I think your kids were five and six at the end of your book. How old are they are now, and how is that living arrangement?
Alice: Our daughter graduated college last spring and has started work in New York City. Our son is still a senior in college. So we have had an empty nest for a while, and I really miss having the kids at home. The pandemic had a real silver lining for us when Hanna and Jacob came home for five months in 2020. But I seemed to crumble in way when they moved out again and still feel a little sad and lonely for the daughter I saw every Gilmore Girls episode with and the son I played, coached, and watched countless soccer games with.
Did you ever tell your kids about Alice?
Alice: No, I never have. My original agreement with Melissa was to wait until the kids were in college and felt more secure about their own gender identities. But when they got to college, I took a good long look at who my two kids were. Jake is a nice masculine guy who would probably be accepting but not at all interested in my trans side. Hanna is a very impressive young woman but also the kind who would be easily embarrassed by anything odd about her parents in high school. When she was home during the pandemic we saw Wonder Woman 1984 at a drive-in, and I tested the water as far as coming out to her. “Guess what,” I said, “When I first came to town, I went to a Halloween party in West Hollywood and dressed up as Wonder Woman. Would you like to see the pictures?”
“Oh no, Dad, she said to me,” with a face that said that she would rather do about anything else. Although Hanna has a few friends who might be more fun about it. She at least isn’t the kind of girl who would care to know more about this side of me.
What brought you out your five-year hiatus from cross-dressing?
Alice: When the kids left for college I considered dressing again, but then I couldn’t find anything I was excited to do until my friend Lilly told me about a fabulous dance room that had opened up in the middle of our local sex club, filled with mirrors, lights, and ravenous admirers. Well, that certainly checked enough boxes to bring me out of “retirement.”
So what do you mean by sex club?
Alice: A sex club is a maze of rooms where people go to have sex with various degrees of privacy. The things you can do and the things you can see there are quite remarkable, though that kind of casual sex isn’t really for me.
What about dating? Have you ever gone back to that?
Alice: When Frank broke up with me, I thought I had aged out of my ability to attract any man that I would want to date, that the sexual side of my trans life was over. But a surprising thing happened one night when I was out on the dancefloor.
A young man named Fernando came up to me and brought the sexual side of me back to life. And being 27 years younger than Frank and no secret crossdresser himself, he delivers much more of the Him Tarzan, Me Jane experience that I’ve always craved. And he never wants to see or touch anything male about me. How refreshing! Thank goodness for my custom-made ruffly-on-the-side tight-in-the-middle backless black panties. We get together every Friday when I’m in town, and I’ve been thanking my lucky stars ever since we met, though I had to hold my breath for about a year while we went on pause and waited for the pandemic to settle down and conditions to feel safe enough to continue.
How do you and Melissa deal with Fernando? How do you work that into your marriage so it doesn’t break you apart?
Alice: We basically follow the same rules we established 25 years ago, before we got married. 1) Melissa must always come first, and I can only see Fernando on my weekly crossdressing nights. 2) I always have to be meticulous about safe sex. And that now means condoms and PREP. 3) I must be discreet and only talk about my dalliances with my transgender friends, not with Melissa or our mainstream friends.
Do you feel gender dysphoria? You’re only out once a week as Alice. Do you ever feel dysphoria about your six days a week as Rick?
Alice: In talking to a couple of full-time trans friends recently, we tried to put our finger on what made us choose such different life paths, and the biggest difference between us seemed to be that they had hated being men, whereas I have always found it easy and comfortable, even if a little dull. Being a woman has been amazing for me but being a man has never been a problem in itself. So I’ve never really had gender dysphoria.
Do you use the L word (Love) with Fernando, or is it more friends with benefits?
Alice: Definitely no use of the L word. I don’t think either of us is looking for it. Nevertheless, we have a very reliable friendship with exquisite benefits!
How would you consider your gender and sexuality presentation?
Alice: To be precise I consider myself to a started-out straight, not naturally swishy, male-to-female trans person who has preferred to stay a part-time crossdresser. My male presentation is that of a well-preserved preppy professional, and my female presentation is that of an elegant young-for-my-age looking trans woman who most people find attractive, though not entirely passing.
Do you have any plans to write a second book?
Alice: You know I really don’t. I was on a mission when I wrote Alice in Genderland. I really wanted to say, “This is a way to feel good and have an amazing time with this much maligned fate that we share.” I haven’t felt the same sense of mission since then. For me it’s been about how to maintain this blessed lifestyle I built while keeping my marriage and raising children rather than scaling new heights or breaking new barriers.
What happened to your ex, Frank?
Alice: Frank, you mean Francine. He suffered the fate of many of our trans-admiring boyfriends. Once they see how you can do it comfortably and attractively, they want to do it for themselves. No matter how big or old they are, they still may turn into a flower bomb. Frank wanted to use his Saturday nights to cross dress himself and had no more room for me as anything else but a teacher.
How often do you go out as Alice now? What’s your routine?
Alice: Fundamentally, I go out every Friday I can. I’ve been taking a wonderful newbie named Donna under my wing and we usually start with dinner. From there we go back to the motel room I’ve rented, have a pregame drink, and change from dinner clothes into clubbing ones. We then head off to join a couple of other friends and dance up storm at the sex club. I like to play around and flirt with any admirers that come my way until Fernando shows up. He and I then catch up a bit before Ubering back to my motel room to do our thing.
He prefers not to go out to dinner with me or to movies, games, and other events. But I’ve done plenty of that with other men like Phil in the adjoining picture. And honestly, I am more into the conversations I can have these days with Donna and Lola and other trans girl friends. We can really relate to each other, let our hair down and our conversations sparkle.
Sounds like quite a routine. Are you ever tempted to be Alice more than once a week? Do you hold back because of you — already very-understanding and accommodating wife Melissa?
Alice: Well, I absolutely do want to save one of my weekend nights for Melissa, and she prefers it to be Saturdays. Recently I had fun clothes shopping with Donna on a Sunday afternoon and I’d do it again, but I don’t feel it would be worth the trouble to get gussied up to go to the supermarket or to the office in female form.
Have you ever had deeper feelings for any of the men that you’ve been involved with.
Alice: Though we have had our ups and down, Melissa and I have always loved each other, enjoyed raising the kids together, and shared the wonders of travel together. I have appreciated the men in my life, especially the safety, stability, and satisfaction they have offered me. Fernando, especially, seems to share my commitment to our relationship lasting a good long time.
Are you still on low dose HRT? If so has it changed you?
Alice: I stopped hormones during my five-year retirement from crossdressing, but then resumed low-dose estrogen when I came back to it. It softened up my skin a bit and may have contributed to me feeling less driven sexually, but mostly I just liked the idea of it. Unfortunately, I developed an unrelated auto-immune condition that’s easier on your body the less estrogen you have. So, of course, I stopped.
As Alice do you see yourself as having made any mistakes that you would like to have corrected?
Alice: Yes, when I released Alice in Genderland, I shared my excitement about it with an aunt of mine who was also my English teacher in high school. I made the mistake of implicitly relying on her discretion rather than explicitly swearing her to secrecy. She then couldn’t control the big scoop I’d given her and shared the news of my book, bisexuality, and wardrobe with my entire extended family. It was a horrible jolt, and Melissa and I felt awkward around my family for a few years until a few key people stepped up and assured us that they loved us and didn’t judge me, or Melissa for sticking with me.
What kinds of hobbies do you have?
Alice: As someone who spends six and and a half days a week as a man, you could say that just being a once-a-week woman is my biggest hobby. But beside that, I’ve really enjoyed soccer, surfing, writing, and poker as a man or woman recently. Specifically as woman, though, I’ve chosen to make dancing my special hobby. Some of us love shopping, lip synching, or mainstream socializing, but for me it’s always been dancing preferably with an admiring man or two around.
What’s your favorite thing about being you?
Alice: My mind. I believe I’ve been gifted with a clean, clear mind and an abundant curiosity for many things in the world.
What’s your least favorite thing about being you?
Alice: I regret that I can be the kind of introvert who is only good for about two hours of socializing and who always feels like he/she has to be productive and rather than finding ways to relax.
When you’re Alice do you feel different than when you’re not? If so how?
Alice: Well, the way my life is set up is such that Alice time is party time. So, often I’ll be sipping one of my signature vodka-diet cokes when I’m out dining or dancing, which can really help me feel lighter and more social. So that, and the fact that as a woman I like men and as a man I like women are the most noticeable differences between Alice and Rick. But deep down we are basically the same.
Are there any wild stories you can tell not in the book that may have happened in the last two decades?
Alice: Fernando and I once had quite a surprise late one night as we arrived back at my motel. Our otherwise appropriate foreign-accented Uber driver stunned us by asking if he could join us back at our room! Wow, was he out of line and putting his very job at risk! Fernando seemed confused and looked to me for a reaction. Once the reality of the situation settled in, I realized that I felt more flattered than tempted — or threatened — so I laughed it off with a “Thanks, but no thanks!”
What’s your least favorite thing about life now verses the early 2000s?
Alice: Well honestly I really miss the exclusively trans/admirers night clubs I described in Alice in Genderland. With more acceptance, these clubs have disappeared, because more admirers have come out as trans women themselves, and we trans women are much more welcome in the mainstream. But back in those less tolerant times, trans/admirers clubs, like the Queen Mary and Peanuts were quite the reward for the few of us who dared venture out in female form. The places hopped with ta very realistic 50/50 male/female ratio, except we were the girls, enjoying all the ravenous attention young women get at nightclubs. I never had to buy a drink and it felt absolutely magical!
What are you most proud of as Alice?
Alice: Really two things. 1)That I have been able to balance a very full one-night-a-week trans life with a rich family life revolving around my wonderful wife, Melissa and our two great kids, now starting to make their own way in the world. 2) That I was able to write a book that gave crossdressers a voice and showed us how to feel good about just about everything that might come with crossdressing.
Does your gender diversity help with your practice?
Alice: Absolutely, it gives me a way to relate and take a keen interest in everyone across the gender and sexuality spectrums.
I assume you work in male form. Do your patients know about your trans side?
Alice: Some do because they came to me via trans social connections, and some of my trans patients do because I have revealed myself to them. But most of the time I just really relate to what people are talking about and gay people take me as gay and straight people take me as straight — and it makes folks feel right at home. I’ve also had much success handling things pretty much the same way with my colleagues.
What will aging/retirement look like persona wise?
Alice: Honestly, it takes more of an inducement to get me to put the time into dressing up these days. Most often I dress up for the triple feature of dinner, dancing, and romance. When one or two of these elements is missing, I’m often tempted to meet a trans friend for dinner in male form or even skip the romance altogether — especially if there’s the option of a nice cozy night available with Melissa or my kids. I also love to travel and see my kids in the different cities their settling into. I’m so grateful for the amazing adventures I’ve had in women’s clothing, but I imagine in the future I’ll be spending a little less time in it.
Thank you for your time Alice. You can check out Alice an all her stories in her book:
To the reader: If you find yourself feeling attacked or invalidated I ask you to look inward and ask, “Is Alice what invalidates you or is it a fear of your own inadequacy? Is it that same gut reaction of Gay’s and Lesbian’s to us in the 60’s and 70’s who said, ‘Those t******s aren’t one of us’?” Look back to Compton's Cafeteria and think how far we’ve come and how far we have to go. If you can’t see the trail of history then you’ll never fully understand just how important Alice’s journey is to the Trans community and to my journey.