I Do NOT Cross-Dress

Look at how lovely I am in this dress. I am a man and I’m wearing a dress and I’m not wearing cross-dressing. What. That’s a nice dress. (Photo credit: Skye at “My Kingdom for a Hat” [colormebrazen.wordpress.com])

If you define cross-dressing as a person wearing clothing that their culture expects to see on a different gender/sex then alright, I suppose I do cross-dress. I mean, fine, alright, I guess I’m crossing gender/sex lines when I, a self-identified male with a penis, put on a dress but I don’t really think of it like that. It’s not like I wake up and go to my closet and say, “Well I could wear these pants and turtleneck or I could subvert American society’s traditional and oppressive gender norms by putting on this grey and lighter-shade-of-grey striped dress with three buttons off-center of the collar’s front.”

To be honest what I’m thinking when I get dressed is, “Shit, shit, shit, shit, late, shit, shit, this clean, shit, shit, shit.” OR “What would Emily Gilmore wear?” OR “How much like Virginia Woolf will I look if I wear this?” I suppose the question I most often ask myself when getting dressed is, “What do I want to wear today?”

When I look at clothing I don’t look at how they’ve been gendered by society. I see trousers that would fit me, skirts with waists that are too big for me, pencil skirts that make my ass look damn wonderful. I see them in terms of how they relate to my body, how they’ll look when placed on my physical body.

This tendency to forget that clothing comes with gender implications can sometimes get me in uncomfortable situations. There have been times when I forgot I was going to pick up a job application from a store and put on a pencil skirt before leaving the house. I’m not ashamed of my pencil skirts but I do recognize that depending on where I’m getting my job application my clothing may have a negative impact on the hiring process. I’ve been so fortunate that I’ve never been in physical danger because of my clothing but I’m aware that this could change. If I feel that I’m going somewhere where my clothing might draw “danger” from people then I wear pants. The trouble is that I’m so used to wearing what I fucking want to wear that I slip on a dress or heels without a second thought.

It’s at a point now where if someone describes me as a cross-dresser or transvestite I tend to get confused by what in the name of hell they’re talking about. It’ll take me a few seconds to realize that they’re talking about my nylon stalkings from Rite-Aid, black dress with white lilies and short sleeves, strand of fake pearls and light mascara. There’s nothing wrong with being a cross-dresser or a transvestite but it’s not how I see myself. In my mind I’m not crossing gender lines or wearing another gender’s clothing, I’m just wearing… my clothes.

“This is my daily activism,” I tell myself when I’m made aware of my nontraditional clothing choices (This awareness is usually triggered by someone staring at me like I’m a chimp in a mu-mu singing “My Sharona.”)  Sometimes this reminder, this reminder that I’m fighting the gender binary simply by putting on a sundress, is nice but sometimes it makes me sad. It makes me sad that my clothing is in anyway provocative or even interesting beyond the fact that it’s nice.

My day-to-day clothing is fairly conservative. I like clothing that makes me look like Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, or Miss Marple or your grandmother. My colors tend towards darker tones and my favorite fabric is tweed. Yes, I wear loud broaches but if I my body had prominent breasts and didn’t have stubble and wasn’t so tall then my clothing wouldn’t raise eye brows. The fact that I get stares because I’m a man wearing this clothing can get pretty annoying.

Clothing trends will change. I predict that in my life it will be commonly accepted for men in my society to wear dresses but I’m afraid that these dresses will have some stupid name like “he-dress” or “man-robe.” (Think of the “man-purse.” Why, why, why for the love of all that I hold holy, why did we need to call it a “man-purse?”Isn’t it a purse period, full stop, end of story, stop right there mister you’re going to jail, hold it, go no further, do not pass go?) When women started wearing trousers regularly in the early 1900’s did we call pants for women “woman-pants?” (No seriously, did we? I want to know if someone can answer this.) By fixing these new gender labels to clothing we’re perpetuating this highly unnecessary habit of assigning clothing to various genders. Let’s call a dress a dress, no matter who it’s on.

In conclusion: No, I do not identify as a cross-dresser or transvestite or as a drag queen or, or, or, or… I identify as male and look forward to the day where I can wear what I want to wear and not have to explain my sartorial choices.


5 responses to “I Do NOT Cross-Dress

  1. “a chimp in a mu-mu singing ‘My Sharona.'”

    why did i immediately think of the ikea monkey

  2. I mostly want to talk about a sentiment of this post reflected in this statement:

    “There’s nothing wrong with being a cross-dresser or a transvestite but it’s not how I see myself. In my mind I’m not crossing gender lines or wearing another gender’s clothing, I’m just wearing… my clothes.”

    It also seems to be echoed in your conclusion.

    I like this post because I appreciate that you don’t feel the need to live up to anyone’s expectations of your identity but your own. I admire that you seem to negotiated dominant ways of defining one’s gender, even within queer communities, and come to a more uncommon conclusion that makes sense for you.

    However it seems to me that part of what you are saying is sort of a contradiction.

    It’s possible this is because you maybe have a different definition of “transvestite” than I do. What is your definition? By transvestite I am thinking you mean what I would call transsexual, someone who understands their gender to be different than their sex declared at birth. Specifically within the framework of a binary system it would be males who come to identify as women or females who come to identify as men (I’m using men/women to describe gender and female/male to describe sex). I am not sure if you and me understand that term differently, people seem to often have different definitions, but it’s my understanding that transvestite is a slur now? Though I’m sure it’s likely some people are interested in reappropriating it, or have and I am ignorant of their efforts.

    The other part of that word where our definitions may be different is how much does transvestite/transsexual mean transgender or vice versa? My understanding is that transgender is an umbrella term so transsexual or transvestite would fall under it. Often however when someone says they are trans they mean they are either in a process of socially transitioning from one gender to the perceived “opposite” gender. Obviously that may or may not involve a great variety of efforts, treatments, or surgery. The reason I bring this up is because I’ve often been under the impression that the main difference between the concept of transsexual and transgender comes down to level of dysphoria concerning a person’s sex between their legs. The distinction I’ve understood that sets the identity of transsexual apart from many people who identify as trans is that transsexuals are not comfortable with their genitals while a great number of trans people are or somewhat are, and of course many are not.

    Okay now I can finally make my point! sorry for having to clarify all that crap before saying what I want to say, but I did not want to assume that our definitions are the same because I have a feeling they are possibly not. I also want to say that I identify as trans, but not so much transsexual. It appeared to me that you are referring to how I identify by when discussing transvestites, which is why I took interest. However I wanted to say that I at least think I feel the same way you do. I certainly don’t feel that I am “wearing another gender’s clothing”. I’m wearing my clothing. I think this is the contradiction in your post. It seems obvious from knowing you that you see men who are transgender as men and women who are transgender as women, but this post somewhat does not reflect that. It seems like because you are identifying as a man you are saying that your manner of dress is “just you”, but certainly trans people are “just themselves too”. When I wear clothing I think of it as my clothing not that I am dressing as another gender. Certainly I am often made to feel ashamed of it, but you describe this as well when you write about forgetting possible expectations at job interviews, feeling the need to wear pants in order to feel safe, or being stared down.

    I sincerely feel bad for posting this and am sorry if there is a misunderstanding because your definition of transvestite is somehow equivalent to drag queen. Often people seem to use these terms in different ways. The reason that would upset me is because the definition of dressing in drag is intentionally dressing in a way you do not identify. Therefore it would be fair to contrast drag and your gender expression and present yours as more “real”. However contrasting transvestites and seeing them as wearing “another gender’s clothing” seems unfair to me. I tried to Google extensively to see if some people understand the term transvestite in a similar way to transsexual but did not come up with anything, so I do think we are on the same page. The bottom line to my point is that no ones gender is more legitimate than others. Gender is something a person does. It’s a role they play. I mean “role” in the sense I heard it used in my intro sociology class. Yes gender expression may be a social construct but it is still a deeply personal thing to the large majority of people. Gender matters to most people identifies.

    I dunno. I don’t understand this post because it was my understanding that you understood gender in a similar way as me. That in some sense everyone is cross-dressing, but that this is a real and legitimate part of that person, and that it is not based on if a person’s sex and gender align. I still think you think that. I do not want to put words in your mouth or make any assumptions about how you feel. But this post seems like a contradiction to me in this way. Although I really do appreciate the aspects I mentioned at the start of this reply, I am a bit irked because it seems like you are saying your gender expression is more legitimate than a transsexuals.

    I am wondering if your gender expression is not significant to you? Does your queer way of presenting yourself really not matter to your understanding of your identity? Maybe a hypothetical way to put my question would be if you for some unnamed reason were unable to dress in feminine attire (whatever that maybe be considered at the time) for the rest of your life would it not bother you?

    • Ash- thank you for the thoroughness of your reply. You’ve definitely raised some points that I didn’t make clear enough in this post.
      When I use the term transvestite the context that I was referring to had more to do with the labels that other people tend to assume that I use and less of identities that I could possibly identify as. Perhaps a better phrasing would have been something along the lines of, “I’m frequently told by friends, family and strangers that I’m in drag or a cross-dresser or transvestite or transgender or transvestite or any other myriad of identities. There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of these identities but they are quite simply not mine.”
      As for the use of transvestite as a slur, I am not familiar with any current definitions of transvestite that say it is a slur but it seems that this word has more power attached to it then I am aware of. I’ll spend some time looking into modern definitions. As far as your distinction between transgender/transsexual you’ll get no argument from me. I think we have the same understanding of the terms. My understanding of transvestite does not involve it with transgender/transsexual identities. I’m not familiar with a definition that includes people who self-identify as transvestites as having any level of dysphoria but I might be operating on an out-dated understanding of the word.
      I don’t think that trans* people are less valid or less “just themselves” than myself. The thing is that I’m a cis-male who identifies as male and who wears clothing that others define as “female” and that my clothing doesn’t impact my male identity. My role as a man is not impacted by the fabric that I wear. My gender identity is not more valid it’s just different and I’m tired of having people assume my gender identity.
      “Maybe a hypothetical way to put my question would be if you for some unnamed reason were unable to dress in feminine attire (whatever that maybe be considered at the time) for the rest of your life would it not bother you?” My answer to this question is this- I’m not wearing what I consider “feminine attire.” I’m wearing clothing that others may gender but which I do not gender. It would annoy me but not be unduly harmful.
      Does this make any sense?

  3. Shoot. I wrote “I tried to Google extensively to see if some people understand the term transvestite in a similar way to transsexual but did not come up with anything, so”
    When I meant to write “I tried to Google extensively to see if some people understand the term transvestite in a similar way to drag queen but did not come up with anything, so”
    Kind of a really important mistake to making my point..my bad

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