Sunday, 31 July 2011

Trans* and Genderqueer Categories Part 1

The previous article went over a few of the most common "myths" or misconceptions of Trans* and Genderqueer people. The responses to that article were very positive and my thanks to all of you who commented.

The remainder of the articles in this series will cover the different "categories" or identities that fall under the Trans* label. To save my fingers a little, from now on when you see the word "Trans*", please keep in mind that the asterisk at the end of ‘trans*’ denotes that this is the wider inclusive form of trans that includes all transgender, genderqueer, gender variant and gender non-conforming people regardless of gender identity or expression.

The first identity we're going to cover is Cross-dressers. Now, I know that the first thing that you pictured when you read that word was either of a very hairy guy, complete with beard, wearing a pink frilly dress and seven inches of make up on his face or celebrities such as Lily Savage, Dame Edna Everage, or RuPaul. If so, you're not wrong, but neither are you completely correct. These two examples are just a very small part of what cross-dressing is.

In order to understand cross-dressing and those who do it, we must first understand it's definition. The Free Dictionary defines cross-dressing as dressing "in the clothing characteristic of the opposite sex" and a cross-dresser as "someone who adopts the dress or manner or sexual role of the opposite sex." (source) Those definitions only give a very "cut and dry" idea though. We need to look deeper.

Time for some travelling. Let's go all the way back to ancient Greece. In Greek mythology, Hercules was compelled to do women's work as well as dress as a woman during the time he was a slave to Omphale. According to various 13th century writings, in the late first to early second century, Pope Joan was a woman who dressed as a male and rose through the Catholic church hierarchy,  eventually being chosen as Pope. Other famous cross-dressers throughout history include Hua Mulan, Joan of Arc, and George Sand.

Everyone has cross-dressed at some time in their life. From little boys wearing their mother's best Sunday dress while playing dress up, little girls wearing their older male cousin's clothing as hand-me-downs, to men wearing a dress and a wig for Halloween fun and women wearing men's t-shirts because they're "more comfortable", it's all cross-dressing and there is nothing wrong with it.

Why do people cross-dress? There are many reasons for doing so. Some people cross-dress for comfort reasons. They find the clothing of the opposite sex to be more comfortable than the clothing for their own sex. In the last few years, there has been a growing trend of gender non-conformity or people who reject societal gender norms. This group of people often cross-dress to blend the lines of society-placed genders. People such as Lily Savage, who I mentioned earlier, are known as Drag Queens. Drag Queens are males who dress as extremely exaggerated female characters complete with wig, lots of make up, high heels, and flashy dresses. Other people cross-dress in order to completely pass as their non-birth gender.

Clothing is just that - clothing. Does it really matter what we wear? After all, we are who we are and clothing isn't going to change that.

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