Cross-dressing

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No, these aren't women's clothes; they're my clothes. I bought them.
—Eddie Izzard, in regards to wearing "women's" clothing during performances

Cross-dressing (sometimes referred to as transvestism, although this term is largely considered obsolete and pejorative nowadays) is the preferred term for dressing in a manner generally associated with a gender other than the one one self-identifies as. People may have various reasons to cross-dress, including alleviating gender dysphoria, sexual excitement or just because they find it relaxing.

Misconceptions[edit]

Relationship with transsexuality[edit]

Persons who identify with a gender which differs from their sex assigned at birth are transgender. They may dress as anyone else in their gender would without being a crossdresser (if you're dressing as the gender you identify with, it's by definition not cross-dressing). There's an old joke in parts of the trans community that a transvestite is a trans woman minus two years, but in practice they're different forms of gender variance that happen to overlap sometimes.

Relationship with homosexuality[edit]

As Ed Wood went to great pains to explain in his masterpiece, Glen or Glenda, "transvestites are not homosexuals". They can be, but the two aspects are separate and only tangentially related. Dressing in drag (an exaggerated, campy form of gender performance which is not the same as everyday cross-dressing, where the aim is to "pass" for the other sex) is popular among gay men. There are many drag-themed cult movies that have a following with gay men, and drag balls (events where people are encouraged to come in drag with a contest for the best costume) are common around Pride Week and stuff like that. Nevertheless, a man who dresses in drag is not the same as being transgender. As RuPaul put it: "How many women do you know who wear seven-inch heels, four-foot wigs, and skintight dresses? I don't dress like a woman; I dress like a drag queen!"

Relationship with feminism[edit]

This is mostly dependent on who you ask. To some people, the idea of gender-specific clothing is not compatible with the ideals of feminism, while to others it is. Undoubtedly, men who cross-dress for the purpose of mocking women are incompatible with the ideals of feminism[1], but of course most cross-dressers don't cross-dress to mock women. There is also a double standard at work here: while a woman now wearing a pantsuit isn't exactly shunned or frowned on in the modern era, a man who wears a skirt is (at least in the West, and outside Scotland), due to society's disparagement of femininity and femaleness.

Relationship with psychology and psychiatry[edit]

Historically, cross-dressing (called transvestism as a clinical term) was pathologized by the medical establishment and considered a disorder stemming from Freudian sexual conflicts. Today, cross-dressing is widely considered a harmless form of gender expression by experts in the field, but the diagnosis of "transvestic fetishism" still exists in the DSM-5 even though the mental health profession has mostly moved on from the idea that all cross-dressing is sexual in nature and problematic. The term "transvestite" itself is often considered derogatory for these historical reasons; "cross-dresser" is preferred.

Cross-dressing and the Bible[edit]

Not surprisingly, this is another abomination. Deuteronomy 22:5.

Well-known cross-dressers[edit]

  • Eddie Izzard
  • Ed Wood
  • J. Edgar Hoover — or was this just a rumor started by the KGB?
  • Rudolph Giuliani — and there are photos to prove it![2]
  • Sergey Brin — co-founder of Google.[3]
  • Tim Berners-Lee — founder of the World Wide Web.[4]
  • Twiggy Ramirez, which is what led to some of the fundie rumors of the 1990s.
  • The Monty Python Lumberjack [5], and pretty much everyone else in the troupe.
  • The New York Dolls
  • Dame Edna, Danny la Roux, RuPaul, Lily Savage
  • Grayson Perry, artist
  • Tim Curry and Anthony Stewart Head
  • Zero[6]

References[edit]