Chus Martinez On Cross-DressingPosted: March 19, 2013 | |
Cross-dressing refers to the act of wearing clothing and other accoutrements commonly associated with the opposite sex within a particular society. Cross-dressing has been used for purposes of disguise, comfort and as a literary trope in modern times and throughout history.
Nearly every human society throughout history has expected distinctions to be made between males and females by the style, colour, or type of clothing they are expected to wear, and likewise most societies have had a set of social norms, views, guidelines, or even laws defining what type of clothing is appropriate for each gender. It does not, however, necessarily indicate transgender identity since a person who cross-dresses does not always identify as being of a gender other than their assigned gender.
The term denotes an action or a behaviour without attributing or proposing causes for that behaviour. Some people automatically connect cross-dressing with transgender identity and/or sexual fetishism, and/or gay sexual preferences, but the term cross-dressing itself does not imply any of these things.
Cross-dressing has existed throughout much of recorded history. There are many examples in Greek, Norse, and Hindu mythology. A reasonable number of historical figures are known to have cross-dressed to varying degrees and for a variety of reasons – and it is widely believed that J Edgar Hoover (the arch-reactionary who headed the US Federal Bureau of Investigation AKA the FBI from 1924 until 1972) was a cross-dresser. There is also a rich history of cross-dressing found in folklore, literature, theatre, and music.
There are many different kinds of cross-dressing and many different reasons why an individual might cross-dress. Some people cross-dress as a matter of comfort or style. They may prefer clothing associated with the opposite sex. In this case, a person’s cross-dressing may or may not be apparent to other people. Some people cross-dress to shock others or challenge social norms.
Both men and women may cross-dress to disguise their physical sex. Historically, some women have cross-dressed to take up male-dominated or male-exclusive professions, such as military service. Conversely, some men have cross-dressed to escape from mandatory military service or as a disguise to assist in political or social protest, as men did in the Rebecca Riots.
Single-sex theatrical troupes often have some performers cross-dress to play roles written for members of the opposite sex. Cross-dressing, particularly the depiction of males wearing dresses, is often used for comic effect onstage and onscreen.
Drag is a specific genre of performance art based on the act of cross-dressing. A drag queen is usually a male-gendered person who performs as an exaggeratedly feminine character, in heightened costuming sometimes consisting of a showy dress, high-heeled shoes, obvious makeup, and wig. A drag queen may imitate famous female film or pop-music stars. A faux queen is a female-bodied person employing the same techniques.
Drag kings are those of female-gender who adopt a masculine persona in performance or who imitate male film or pop-music stars. Some female-to-male transsexuals undergoing gender reassignment self-identify as drag kings. Transgendered folk who live their lives as a member of the gender they identify with are not cross-dressing,
A transvestite fetishist is someone (typically a heterosexual male) who cross-dresses as part of a sexual fetish. The term underdressing is used by male cross-dressers to describe wearing female undergarments under their male clothes. The famous low-budget filmmaker Edward D. Wood, Jr. said he often wore women’s underwear under his military uniform during World War II.
Some people who cross-dress may endeavour to project a complete impression of belonging to another gender, down to mannerisms, speech patterns, and emulation of sexual characteristics. This is referred to as passing or “trying to pass” depending how successful the person is. An observer who sees through the cross-dresser’s attempt to pass is said to have read or clocked them. There are many videos, books, and magazines about how a man may look more like a woman.
Female masking is a form of cross-dressing in which men wear masks that present them as female. Sometimes either member of a heterosexual couple will cross-dress in order to arouse the other. For example, the male might wear skirts or lingerie and/or the female will wear boxers or other male clothing. Others may choose to take a mixed approach, adopting some feminine traits and some masculine traits in their appearance. For instance, a man might wear both a dress and a beard. This is sometimes known as genderfuck.
Utilitarian purposes also bring about forms of cross-dressing, such as support hose for men with bad circulation in their legs, or the wearing of bras for men with gynecomastia (male breasts).
The actual determination of cross-dressing is largely socially constructed. For example, in western society, trousers have been adopted for wear by women, and it is not regarded as cross-dressing. In cultures where men have traditionally worn skirt-like garments such as the kilt or sarong these are not seen as female clothing, and wearing them is not seen as cross-dressing for men. As societies are becoming more global in nature, both men and women are adopting styles of dress associated with other cultures – reducing the number of garments associated with cross-dressing.
In most parts of the world it remains socially frowned upon for men to wear clothes traditionally associated with women. Attempts are occasionally made, e.g. by fashion designers, to promote the acceptance of skirts as everyday wear for men. Cross-dressers sometimes complain that society permits women to wear pants or jeans and other masculine clothing, while condemning any man who wants to wear clothing sold for women.
While most male cross-dressers utilize clothing associated with modern women, there are some who are involved in subcultures that involve dressing as little girls or in vintage clothing. Some such men have written that they enjoy appearing as feminine as possible, so they will wear frilly dresses with lace and ribbons, bridal gowns complete with veils, as well as multiple petticoats, corsets, girdles and/or garter belts with nylon stockings.
Cosplay, short for “costume play”, is a type of performance art in which participants wear costumes and accessories to represent a specific character or idea. Cosplaying may also involve cross-dressing, for some females may wish to dress as a male, and vice versa. Crossplay is a portmanteau of cross-dressing and cosplay: it is a cosplay in which the person dresses up as a character of a different gender. Crossplay’s origins lie in the anime convention circuit, though, like cosplay, it has not remained exclusive to the genre.. Breast binding (for females) is not uncommon and is sometimes needed to cosplay a male character.
Cross-dressers may begin wearing clothing associated with the opposite sex as children, using the clothes of a sibling, parent, or friend. Some parents have said they allowed their children to cross-dress and, in many cases, the child stopped when they became older. The same pattern often continues into adulthood, where there may be confrontations with a spouse. Married cross-dressers experience considerable anxiety and guilt if their spouse objects to their behaviour. Some cross-dressers have periodically disposed of all their clothing, a practice called “purging”, only to start another collection later.
Communudists often resort to cross-dressing if they are forced to wear clothes; but they nevertheless believe that total nudity is a more proper way of expressing the desire to overcome capitalist alienation!