There is a popular saying in my world that sex may be defined but what is between your legs, but gender is in the mind. It may be surprising just how many people find it difficult to identify with the gender they had assigned to them at birth. I have often had it suggested to me that as many as one in a hundred men have at least some level of gender confusion which is expressed through cross dressing. It may be just an occasional experiment with their wife's or girl friend's underwear or it may be something more serious. I certainly get comments and e-mails from a lot of men who admit (privately) to an interest in wearing female garb.
Now even if this statistic is accurate, and it seems to me that it must be almost impossible to establish a reliable statistic until the world has moved on a lot more, there is still a very small proportion of people who have to make decisions about their own gender, about how they present themselves too the world, and indeed remembering who knows them how. For some of us it seems that we have to think about this at least at some point everyday. Whether it is "how do I dress today?" "Does he/she know? can I leave my nail polish on?" or "can I face another day this way?" at some point we have to decide, very few people have to do this. Very few people will ever question as to whether their true gender actually matches their physical gender, but for those of us who do it can be a painful experience.
Often transgender people have to face serious depression as a consequence of their condition indeed many consider, and some commit suicide, others will face marriage break up and rejection by their families. It can make it difficult to find work, make friends and indeed even be allowed into some places. People do not face up to these sorts of trials as the result of a lifestyle choice. There is no choice involved in this it is a primordial drive, a compulsion, to make the outside fit the inside. We are gradually gaining more acceptance and I am lucky that I live in a nice bit of South London in the 21st century, things are a lot easier than they were when I was growing up, but it can still be tough.
I won't ask you to understand ~ Hey I don't really understand myself! ~ it is a big subject and would take a lot of reading and experience to come close to understanding it is so much more complicated than the simple, but true "Woman in a Man's Body" line. What I do ask is when you see one of us, as we do not all "pass" well as our preferred gender, be sympathetic, try not to stare or worse still laugh at us, we are simply trying to be ourselves.
" A man in women's clothing is nothing short of obnoxious. On the other hand, a guy who uses clothing, makeup and hair to BECOME a woman is not."