Richard Molling stood in front of a small group of Los Medanos College students and faculty Tuesday, Aug. 9 to speak about his experiences during a workshop called “Is It OK To Be Different? The Story of a Cross-Dresser & His Wife.”
Accompanied by his wife of 30 years Marsha, he told his tale of self-discovery guided by a PowerPoint presentation. Starting out, Molling made it clear he was heterosexual but that he also just felt more comfortable in women’s clothing. “I’m not effeminate—if that’s the legal term to use—but I’m not macho either,” he said.
LMC English and LGBT Studies Instructor Jeff Matthews, who helped lead the workshop acknowledged that there are so many terms and phrases used by this generation. He said Molling might fall under the label “genderfluid” or “genderqueer.”
Molling said he wasn’t sure which label he’d fit under.
“Those who study LGBTQ issues are still trying to figure it out,” said Matthews, referencing the many terms that have fallen out of fashion over the years. “The issues and ideas are still the same.”
Growing up, Molling said he was conflicted both because he came up in the 1950s, when most states banned men from wearing dresses, but also because he went to Catholic school.
“I finally realized that I would never be able to reconcile my views with the institutional church. Rather than continuing this fruitless struggle, I have recorded my own personal spiritual beliefs and will look to them, not the church, for guidance,” he wrote regarding his issues with religion in a piece published in Whosoever Magazine titled: “True Confession: Richard Molling aka Rachel Miller”
Molling, now 75 years old, said he didn’t find himself until he was 40. In 1981, he snuck off to an X-rated bookstore in San Francisco and found a book on cross-dressing. From there a new phase in his life had begun. He came up with the name Rachel Miller, got another P.O. Box and had fellow crossdressers send him letters about their own experiences. He then knew he wasn’t alone.
“After awhile, I began to feel like there was hope for me,” he said. “I wasn’t out of the woods yet, but the hope was there.”
Marsha was the first person he told. At first, she was upset.
“I wasn’t angry that he was a crossdresser, I was angry because he hadn’t told me.” After getting over her anger, she understood him better. “I love him more today than I did at the beginning,” she said.
She cited their friendship as a huge part of why they are still together. She’d been married once before and had no interest in remarrying. Marsha said she and Richard were “good friends before they were lovers,” but even when they started dating, she was hesitant about marriage.
However, she eventually came to the realization, with the help of a good friend that Richard was worth marrying.
“I love his mind. He’s a very bright man,” she said.
When asked by one of the attendees if he and his wife fought over clothes, he said, “We don’t fight, we share.” Marsha joked. “He only recently started raiding my closet.”
Before he let anyone else see him dressed, he wanted to make sure it sank in first.
“I wanted them to know intellectually before they saw me cross-dress.”
He read his loved ones his coming out poem “Do You Love Me?”
“Most people have been accepting,” said Molling. He goes out with his wife and his friends. They jokingly refer to him as their boyfriend. He said his family accepts him for the most part. He has one brother who’s accepting and another brother who “doesn’t wanna hear about it, much less see it.” He joked that because his other brother doesn’t accept him, “God got even and gave him a gay son.”
Despite minor instances of discomfort, Molling began to feel more and more confident about who he was.
Using the pen name Rachel Miller, he authored a gender community best seller, “The Bliss of Becoming One!” published in 1996. Molling couldn’t sell his book to the crossdressing community because “full integration wasn’t a part of the community.” People were content with keeping their crossdressing lives separate from everything else.
Still, he and his wife have spoken at many cross-dressing events as well as at universities and religious organizations.
Molling noted that his coming out led people to feel safer. Marsha said men usually have a harder time coming to terms with it.
“There’s no support for them to know they’re okay,” said Marsha.
Molling noted that it isn’t always easy to blend in at the events he’s asked to speak at. “I am not a typical cross-dresser. The goal of every cross-dresser I’ve met is to pass for a woman.” He’s been called out for not wearing wigs or and “appropriate amount of makeup. “I just wanted to feel okay about wearing a dress,” he said. “I don’t fit in to a box.”
“You’re definitely a trailblazer in that sense. Your situation is unique … you’re one aspect of the continuum,” said Mitchell-Matthews.
One person asked if he used the men or women’s restroom. “I’m a man—I go to the men’s bathroom,” said Molling.
Richard and Marsha said there are places where they don’t exactly feel comfortable and Richard doesn’t dress up in certain settings. “We don’t go to places where there would be problems,” he said.
Marsha said her husband Richard is from Wisconsin and is very different from where they live now.
“Going back and visiting was like stepping back into the 1950s,” she said. She’s grateful they live in California, which she calls a “wonderland.”
Molling said he visited DVC awhile back and had no problems or strange experiences there outside of a little staring. He talked about while walking around LMC’s campus, a woman tried to look up his skirt.
“Straight women love crossdressers” said former Associated Student President and former Contra Costa Community College District Student Trustee Gary Walker-Roberts, who also expressed his appreciation for dressing up as a woman.
Walker-Roberts, who expressed his interest in morbid topics, then asked if Molling wanted to be buried in men or women’s clothing. Richard said he hadn’t thought about it.
One other person attending the workshop talked about how her dad, a preacher, eulogized a man who was buried in a suit and high heels.
LMC history instructor Josh Bearden used Maya Angelou’s “I know why the caged Bird sings” to parallel issues facing African Americans and the LGBTQ community. He pointed out the similarities in Molling’s self-discovery and Angelou’s self-discovery.
Walker-Roberts said that accepting who you are is a lifetime journey since human beings “are always metamorphasizing.” He said life is made up of moments where you are “constantly falling in love with yourself.”
Molling said, “When I was younger, I used to think I was the only one who didn’t have their shi— together,” he said. “Now that I’m older, I know that’s not exactly true.”