- My age:
- Tone of my iris:
- I’ve got lustrous gray-green eyes
- Color of my hair:
- What is my Zodiac sign:
- What I like to listen:
- I like travelling
As we became better and better friends, he confessed to me that his sartorial interests were with feminine clothing, and that he had been wearing female lingerie under his tweed suits for many years. He wanted my help with shopping for dresses, but I was wearing work shirts and overalls—this was the early s, and nobody condemned me for dressing like a male farm worker!
Peter kept Penny hidden from his wife Lou for 12 years.
When he came clean, Penny became Lou's secret too - for more than a decade. It wasn't exactly clear who would be waiting for me at Leominster station in Herefordshire - but it was Penny who turned up. She was a tall woman in her sixties, dressed in a bright jacket and skirt. On another day, she might have looked very different.
Sometimes Penny is Peter Ellis, 63, a retired teacher and former local councillor. She doesn't mind whether people call her "he" or "she". We drove to her home to meet her wife Lou, 69, a retired nurse. Over a cup of tea Penny explained how since "a fairly early age", she always felt she was a bit different. She describes experimenting a little bit at home when she was alone.
It wasn't exciting in a sexual sense or anything like that - it's never been about sex - but it certainly kind of released a need I felt I had. Peter hoped the dressing up was a phase caused by the stress of the breakup of his first marriage, and so when he met Lou, and married her inhe didn't tell her.
But after 12 years of what they both say was a close, loving and happy marriage, he describes "pressures building up" and says not being able to be the person, or people, he thought he was, left him "on the edge of becoming depressed". So he wrote Lou a letter, and handed it to her one evening, with a glass of wine. I still find it easier to write my thoughts instead of talking straight, so what is this all about?
The simple answer is that I like dressing up. This is not a recent discovery.
The psychology of cross-dressing
In school plays I loved wearing tights, putting on make-up and wearing anything that was different to boring male dress. She describes feeling "shocked, upset, and numb". One was - this is still the same man that I love and the only thing that's changed is that he's handed me this secret about himself. I learn to live with it or I walk away, but I love him.
Although Lou felt "angry and upset", she agreed Peter could start dressing in women's clothes and become Penny as long as she could call the shots. It was a duty then and I always felt we were being looked at and judged.
We'd get into the car and we'd drive to a big city and have our shopping trip there. The bedroom is one non-negotiable area. Lou describes herself as a very open person and found living with a secret hard. But I couldn't say that if I didn't know whether Penny was the person who was at home. For 12 years they told just a few close friends and family members, but then a local newspaper revealed it after interviewing Peter for the novels he writes about a transgender detective.
The secret being out has been a big relief to Lou. Penny says her feelings about her identity are "ongoing", but since she has been able to dress as a woman she's realised that Penny isn't a separate person from Peter. How she dresses depends on her mood that day, and she usually feels like being Penny a couple of days a week.
Penny shows me her wardrobe, which is in the spare room - her favourite leather skirt, some dresses and blazers, and a wig. I used to wear a wig and I've given that up - partly through not needing so much disguise anymore.
Dr Katherine Rachin, a psychologist who has been working with cross-dressers and their partners for more than 23 years, says some men feel they have two identities - but for others, like Penny, "there's a sense of continuity". For some people they may feel it does challenge their identity as a heterosexual. She also says the stigma around men dressing like women hasn't changed much in the past 20 years, and sees it as partly due to misogyny.
They feel safe that way, and it can go on for years before they take it out of the virtual world. Penny agrees.
The road less traveled — living 24/7/ as a crossdresser
In the s when she realised she wanted to dress differently, she found it hard to find information, picking up snippets in magazines and newspapers. As people become increasingly connected and more mobile, the BBC is exploring how identities are changing.
Catch up with programmes, downlo and clips from the season. My secret life as a gay ultra-Orthodox Jew - Chaya's secret is hard to keep hidden.
The Salon - Every haircut has a story. Where are you going?
Default World - The morals of the technical elite. My secret life as a gay ultra-Orthodox Jew. Overheard at the salon. Behind the scenes at a Tokyo bridal salon. The black people 'erased from history'. Why Nigerians melt their gold jewellery in Dubai. The nation in love with country music.
What is the Identity season? Peter's letter to Lou. She says both can be hard for partners to accept. Related Topics. Identity Gender. More on this story. Published 11 April Published 7 April Published 6 April Published 10 April Published 2 April Published 1 April Published 31 March