Christine D. Beatty: Camouflage

Desperate to feel like everyone else—"normal"—I welcomed the strict homogeneity and camraderie of the military. After six weeks of Basic, the Air Force sent me to tech school in rural Illinois. It was the start of a four-year party and a peer group of other potheads. Finally, I fit in! I slowly learned to play guitar when I wasn't getting high.

Still troubled by my virginity, I lost my cherry in a Nevada brothel during my 56 hour, 2000 mile drive home from Illinois. To my dismay, my awkwardness with women remained even after I got to Williams AFB near Phoenix, AZ. The few times I had sex over the next five years was mostly with hookers. By 1978 I had a bigger problem.

Nothing mortified me like my erotic fixation on women's clothes. Like wildfire it progressed from mere fantasy to actually wearing it. Towering guilt would soon grow, and I'd eventually inter my forbidden habiliment in a dumpster. I'd fight off the urges for a few months or weeks, and then I'd break down and buy a new ensemble. Marijuana dulled my shame, so I needed it constantly. As a high-functioning pothead, pot never interfered with my job repairing the avionics of Air Force jets. I loved my job!

Learning rock guitar and singing proved a better diversion than drugs, though the two went nicely together. I befriended hippie musicians who sometimes let me fill in on vocals. I was so self-conscious about my military haircut that I bought a wig so I'd look like I fit in with the band. Soon the wig became part of my crossdressing ritual. I carried my dress-up to new levels and fantasized of turning into a girl. I'd enlisted partly to find my way, but I was more lost than ever.

I was honorably discharged in 1981. I stayed in Phoenix, smoking pot and occasionally working as an electrican. By summer of 1982 I was homeless, broke and on foodstamps. I escaped town when my mother wired me money to come back so I could fix up her new house in San Francisco. I lived with and worked for Mom for several months, then my stepfather, and finally I landed a good shop labor job. But I was so lonely...

Late in 1982 I met Greta, a lovely, brainy hippie gal. We quickly fell in love. The first time we made love I tearfully told her my shameful secret, assuring her I wanted to put it all behind me. We were engaged four months later. We moved in together, and I started a Computer Science degree program. I began to have hope I might be "Normal."

Wanting to do well in college, I cut way back on pot smoking. That's when the urges came back. I had to crossdress. Hoping to find a cure I checked out a book on gender issues and learned that crossdressing was harmless and incurable. With Greta's ambivalent support, I went to a drag bar—the Spirit Club—dressed as a woman. We hoped it would prove anticlimactic and cure my obsession. And it did... for three months.

At the 1984 Exotic-Erotic Halloween Ball—nine months after Greta and I married—I had my second public outing in drag. Marriage counseling came next, but the writing was on the wall. Whatever I was, I wasn't husband material. In 1985 we divorced and I moved to San Francisco.