DailyMail: Waking beside her boyfriend each morning teenager Krystal Griggs never knows what mood he’ll be in. But rather than predicting good or bad, the 18-year-old has to choose between male or female.For Ryan Wigley is bi-gender. He faces the difficult choice every day of whether to dress as a man or woman.
While most people need only pick from a selection of dresses, or smart shirts, he has rails full of both. His outfit choice will depend on which gender he has woken up feeling like that day. Half the time the 22-year-old from Kent rouses feeling like a woman, Ria, the other half, he feels totally male. And sometimes, he gets the urge to shift gender during the day.
Ryan’s condition is recognised by psychologists and was coined by the transgender community. ‘It’s so confusing,’ he said. ‘I have to guess which gender I’ll be the following morning so I can plan my day. I try to work out how I feel the night before, so if I feel more feminine I’ll have a shower and set my alarm earlier to make sure I have time to get ready.’
‘If I feel like a girl several days in a row, the upkeep can be hard. I need to shave my face, chest and legs every day, wash my hair and keep my make up in place. I feel like I prefer to be female but I’m much more relaxed in what I look like when I feel like a man.’
During the day, Ryan feels the urge to shift gender. ‘If I see a pretty dress in a window, even if I’m in a male mood, I can feel myself standing differently. My mannerisms change,’ he said.
Ryan is attracted to women but says previous partners have struggled to deal with his two sides. In September last year he got together with Krystal, who he’d been introduced to at a party through a mutual friend. Krystal, also from Kent said: ‘He was Ryan that night. We said hello and afterwards I added him on Facebook.’
‘One day he commented on a status using his Ria profile and I recognised her as Ryan. At first I thought it was just cross-dressing, I’d never heard of bi-gender. ‘But he explained it and we didn’t dwell on it.’
After bumping into each other again at a beach party this August, they started a relationship soon after. ‘Ryan was nervous because his exes judged him a bit,’ Krystal said. ‘But I told him I honestly didn’t care. It’s what’s inside that counts. When I saw Ria in female dress in person, my first thought was that she’s beautiful and I tell her that as often as I can. I can’t believe how quickly he goes from male to female so smoothly.‘
Aged 13, Ryan first had the impulse to wear his mother’s clothes. He said: ‘I was walking down the stairs past some of my mum’s freshly washed clothes on the landing. Grabbing a bra and dress, I ran to the bathroom. I didn’t really have any understanding why at that time. All I knew was that the clothes felt different yet comfortable even though I looked kind of ridiculous. I felt so much guilt but soon I was sneaking into my sister’s room. I knew what she didn’t wear in her wardrobe so I could take dresses without her noticing. I took anything I could fit into, she’s much smaller than me, but one I loved was a black stretchy dress.’
Feeling guilt and embarrassment, Ryan kept that side of him locked up and never left his bedroom in his pretty outfits. ‘I opened up to my first girlfriend at 16, and she was understanding at first,’ he said. ‘But she spoke about it like it was a problem that needed to be dealt with. I just felt ashamed and tried to stop.’
But once Ryan left home at 18 to start an illustration course at University for the Creative Arts in Maidstone, he was able to dress how he wanted. ‘It was the first time I’d had a lock on my door and my own space,’ he said. ‘I started to get over the guilt and be in a safe place. I was cross-dressing more and more, but still in secret.’
‘Then I realised there was more to it. Some days every inch of me felt like a bloke and wearing a dress wouldn’t even cross my mind. Other days though, my bones and everything inside me felt female. I wasn’t consciously choosing which one I wanted to be. It was my body telling me. It hit me that I was two genders. I’d never heard of anything like it before, so I made up a name for it, bi-gender.’
Curious, he decided to Google the term and came across a website called bigender.net. ‘I discovered the site and straight away joined the forum. There were so many people echoing how I’d felt for years. It was a revelation, I didn’t know it was a real thing,’ he said. ‘I decided to name my female side Ria, I wanted to embrace her. She was as much a part of me as Ryan and she deserved a name. A few months later I decided on Ria because it was similar to Ryan. But I still didn’t tell anyone.’
It was 11 months later, in January 2013, that he decided to test the water with his close friends, though he only revealed half of his secret. ‘First I told them I was a cross-dresser, because I hadn’t got my head around the whole bigender thing,’ he said. ‘I was shaking and stuttering when I told them, but it didn’t faze them one bit. We were all art students so everyone had individual personalities. In fact, they were more surprised when they discovered I was left-handed.‘
After finding the courage to take the first step, later that month Ryan wrote an online journal to explain to his friends what bigender means. He said: ‘I told them I’m male and female, I switch between the two. They were fine with it, it was an anti-climax really after I was so worried.
‘That February I went out with them to the pub dressed as Ria for the first time. ‘I was so self-conscious and braced for comments, but I only got a double-take and I can handle that. My friends were really supportive and didn’t treat me any differently.’
Three months later, in July, Ryan found the courage to sit his parents down. He said: ‘I’d told all my friends and felt they needed to know. I was going back home for the summer holidays and didn’t want to go back in the closet. Dad asked if I wanted to be a woman. I had to explain it’s not the same as being transgender. They don’t mind it but we don’t talk about it.’
It was only natural he was worried about Krystal’s reaction after she brought up his Ria profile on their first date in August this year. He says: ‘After telling others I was calmer about it than before, but I still don’t know how someone new will react. She didn’t know much about it so I wanted her to ask questions so she’d understand. Although it was tense showing her Ria for the first time, she was so positive.’
Krystal has found her relationship with Ryan to be the perfect mix. She says: ‘I treat Ria like a princess. Usually with a guy and girl relationship, the guy treats the girl but we can treat each other. It’s a more fulfilling relationship.’
Some bi-gender people have a separate female persona and male persona, but others can have shades of grey between the two. ‘He definitely has two personas,’ she said. ‘I can tell straight away when it’s Ryan or Ria with me, there’s different mannerisms. Ryan is much more slouchy and like a guy, but Ria has an effeminate manner, plays with her hair lots and is quite dainty when she’s walking.’
Usually Ryan will stick to baggy t-shirts and jeans if he’s going to a gig or hanging out with the guys. But for clothes shopping or picking out new makeup, Ria will go out with girl friends in a feminine frock.
Ryan said: ‘When I first told girl mates and they saw me as Ria, they were quite jealous and wanted me to help with their makeup. I found it difficult to go shopping for dresses when I was dressed male. I knew shop assistants would think I was buying something for my girlfriend, but I was self-conscious. Now I always go dressed as Ria and clothes shops have been really great, letting me use women’s changing rooms.‘
It’s early days for Ryan and Krystal, they haven’t been out shopping together but they’ll soon be swapping frocks. Krystal said: ‘I’m already sizing up Ria’s wardrobe, I’ve picked a few things I want to borrow.’