By Agata Gutkowska
Photos of spiders hang on the walls of Dominic Etynkowski’s messy bedroom. In one corner sits an aquarium. Fish swim among aquatic ferns, while snails drag their slimy bodies along the glass. In another corner, a lizard sleeps in a tank as crickets chirp inside. Plastic boxes housing reptiles are lined up against a wall, towering over a floor littered with jeans and candy wrappers.
Etynkowski may not have the typical bedroom so it’s no surprise that peeking between a jacket and a sweatshirt is a black Little Bo Peep dress. A slutty referee outfit hangs on the door and a pair of shiny black heels hides behind the bed. Etynkowski, a young entrepreneur whose interests include heterosexual sex and reptiles, explains that sometimes, when the feeling is right, he enjoys dressing up as a woman.
“It’s always been fun for me. Girl clothes are just more interesting than guy clothes,” he says.
So far, Etynkowksi has spent about $1000 on his female wardrobe. His collection includes a $300 custom-made corset, black dress, shiny black heels, lacy black tops and a dog collar, most of which he bought from Goodwill.
Transvestic fetishism is a popular form of cross-dressing where a heterosexual man dresses in women’s clothing to become sexually aroused.
Dr. Oren Amitay, a Ryerson psychology professor, says that despite the common misconception, cross-dressing in many cases has nothing to do with sexual orientation or gender identity.
Approximately three per cent of men across Europe and North America admit to being transvestic fetishists according to the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy in 2005.
When Etynkowski first ventured into the world of cross-dressing, his motivation was strictly sexual.
“I remember I felt so naughty doing it. I was wearing my mom’s underwear and I ejaculated without even touching my penis. Normally I have to touch it or hump something but not with this. I thought ‘That’s really fucked up. I have to do more.’”
When he was six-years-old, Etynkowski would sometimes fall asleep with a pair of pantyhose wrapped around his ankles, forgetting that his mother would wake him in the morning for school.
Sometimes he accidentally left her high heels in the washroom and when he would come back to put them away, he discovered that his mom had already hid them in the closet.
“I always thought it was just a phase. You know, teenagers do some weird things,” said Barbara, Etynkowski’s mom. Unfortunately for her, Etynkowski’s fetish wasn’t just an adolescent phase. It followed him into adulthood.
Last Christmas Eve he showed his family a photo of him clubbing and wearing a the Little Bo Peep dress.
No one was surprised but his family’s suspicions were confirmed.
His mother, partly concerned and partly disgusted, joked that he was gay. The topic was never discussed again. “I know that he really isn’t gay … with all the girls he brings home,” said Barbara.
Although she’s unhappy with her son’s fetish, she views it as just a phase. “He’ll grow out of it.” His sister, Marta, on the other hand, doesn’t care what her brother wears. “I’ve known about it since he was a kid. Clothes would go missing, shoes missing. You put the two together,” she said.
Although she knew that her brother was stealing her clothes, she never mentioned it. “I just ignored it. I didn’t care.”
Shortly after he discovered sexual gratification in cross-dressing, Etynkowski himself became concerned. “I thought it was unusual and I had a strong feeling that I had to hide this … that I was an outcast,” said Etynkowski.
He spent nights yearning to slip into silky nightgowns but restricted his fetish to his imagination. “It was like an addiction and I was trying to give it up,” he said.
Etynkowski questioned his sexual orientation and worried that he was “abnormal.” But his preference for women’s garb can’t easily be placed on a normal/abnormal spectrum.
Dr. Amitay defines abnormal as being something that causes harm to yourself or others. “If you’re not hurting anybody, all the power to you,” he said.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, transvestic fetishism is a disorder when it lasts over a period of at least six months and causes significant distress.
Though Etynkowski has been dressing up for more than six months, it has never caused him distress to a point where he would consider it as a disorder. His social life, relationships and physical health are in good shape.
“My normal is different than what people think is normal. To me, dressing up is normal. I’m being what I am. If that’s who I am, then it has to be normal. The only abnormal thing you can do is not be yourself,” said Etynkowski.
After months of suppression, he would finally sneak into his washroom with a pair of stilettos and lose himself in his own femininity.
“I would look in the mirror and imagine I was with a girl. It was hot.”
Last Halloween, Etynkowki went public for the first time. His close friend Red, who had been cross dressing for a decade, convinced him to dress up and go clubbing with him to Funhaus.
“I didn’t want to at first but Red said ‘If you’re gonna do it, tonight’s the night.’ I partially did it for him. I’m glad I took that first step,” said Etynkowski.
He slipped into his dress and with a couple drinks he gained confidence. Etynkowski danced the night away, for the first time, wearing a dress.
“Once I came to terms with the fact that it doesn’t have to be homosexual … That I’m straight, the guilt was gone,” he said.
On weekends, you can find Etynkowski at Funhaus and he’s likely to take your breath away with his extravagant outfits.
“It doesn’t really turn me on anymore. Now it’s a passion for the clothes and how they look and how they feel,” he said.
Back in his room, Etynkowski stands under a fan, holding a black corset against his chest while a friend looks on.
His short brown hair blows to and fro as the fan’s propellers play a rhythmic song.
He stares at her seductively, his eyes twinkling. He pushes the corset towards her chest. “Hey, do you want to try it on?”