Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Women have been transvestites as long as I can remember. Though politically incorrect to say, society has granted women a great number of freedoms that men have not been allowed. The philosopher, Ivan Illichhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivan_Illich , in his 1982 book Gender pointed out that the domains of influence that existed throughout medieval times remain in the romance language with feminine and masculine nowns reflecting who commanded which domains. Hence 'la maison" and "le pistolet". It was considered "equally" ridiculous for women to wear pants as for men to wear skirts.
As a boy, I first played potted plants on stage, graduated to a corpse and eventually played a lead female role before getting my first bonafide RCMP male officer role on the Manitoba Theatre Centre stage. The female role, despite gown and bra was an improvement over the corpse.
In the theatre we were all transvestites. When I started what was likely Winnipeg's first improvisational theatre group out of the Manitoba Theatre School back in 1969-70 we were all playing everyone and everything depending on the story. Children's stories with dragons and trolls were our favourites.
After touring Scotland to meet my relatives, I joined Scottish societies and acquired a Scottish girlfriend, a kilt and the full regalia, mostly for the many Robbie Burns dinners and dances I'd continue to enjoy over the next decades. My progress on bag pipes however is still at the chanter stage though I did call in a buck with it once during bow hunting season.
Dressed in my clan tartan, on my way home from the Scottish Cultural Centre I stopped at my west end grocer and was asked by the oriental owner I chat with there, "why you dress like a girl." A transexual colleague has written a paper called "Gender Police" depicting those individuals whose heads spin like Carrie and begin shreiking like one of the Invasion of the Body Snatcher aliens whenever anyone steps out of the proscribed normals. Halloween, my clan day, is a nightmare for these folks on Davie Street especially when those returning from the cult classic, Rocky Horror Picture Show show up.
The 1961 "Black Like Me" non fiction book by white John Howard Griffinhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Howard_Griffin told of his colouring his skin and changing to a black man to experience first hand the segregated life of America. Today transvestites and transexuals have written extensively about their 'insider' experience of gender expanding our insights as once Griffin opened our eyes to segregated race in America. Deidre McCloskey http://deirdremccloskey.org/, formerly "Donald", still a Distinguished Professor of Economics, History, English and Communications at University of Illinois in Chicago provided the most sensitive insightful portrayal of her own transformation in her book , Crossing, A Memoir. Hermaphrodites, and the Medical Invention of Sex by AliceDreger http://alicedreger.com/books.html dispells any illusions that the biological world is strictly binary. Gender is more a cultural construct when one steps out of the purely reproductive consideration. Not ironically, the May 2009 Scientific American magazine details the evidence for sex as pleasure function long predating the knowledge that sex was also a reproductive function. However much of the history of gender division can be explained by maternity over gender as documented in the Jared Diamond'shttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jared_Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel history of the importance of children and the army and labour producing maternal factories to early societies.
Meanwhile with gay liberation and decriminalization that community long a centre of Drag Queen entertainment is increasingly more masculine as depicted in the movie Brokeback Mountain.http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0388795/ Indeed historically gay males have been greatest in those masculine endeavours where women were least present. The bisexual swing vote tends to shift depending on availability of females. In "How the Irish Saved Civilization."http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/How_the_Irish_Saved_Civilization Thomas Cahill describes the heterosexual Irish becoming homosexual on cattle raids only to become heterosexual again when they returned to their wives. While Hollywood portrayed John Wayne and the wild west cowboy as white heterosexual a more truthful history would show a lot of Blacks and a lot of gay men cattle wrestling and mining.
Most transvestites today are heterosexual. Leslie Feinberg, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leslie_Feinberg in her 1992 book Transgender Liberation depicted the history of the Irish "Mollies' and other civil disobedience groups who preceeded the famous M*A*S*H television transvestite , Klinger. After that Dustin Hoffman, Mel Gibson, Swartzenager, literally all the masculine men of film played transveste parts.
The Lazy Crossdresserhttp://www.amazon.ca/Lazy-Crossdresser-Charles-Anders/dp/1890159379 by Charles Anders makes light of the desire to 'pass' that many transvestites and naturally transexuals have.
Working with the LBGT community I have seen many young transexuals anxious about this "passing" whereas more commonly the older heterosexual transvestite community increasingly doesn't particularly care, differing greatly in this regard. They do not experience a central error of nature. Increasingly their motives are diverse and varied and no more sexual than the transvestite females who surround them. UtiliKilts http://www.utilikilts.com/of Seattle are profound business sensation and success. Indeed most cultures in the world have some form of skirt (Greeks) or robe (Africa/Asia) for male attire and biologically sperm maturation is best if men wear the loosest fitting lower garment.
Uni sex and the new metro fashion of young men further challenged the traditional stereotypes. The Beattles famous 'hair cut' is today matched by earrings, waxing, colognes, manicures, and pedicures, house husbands and men more interested in fathering their children than going on the road for the company store. The outward manifestation of this profound inner masculine revolution is seen in the new transvestism.
Trusting my female friends who said that after 40 and 50 older women become invisible, "I'd die for a cat call from a construction worker" one very attractive one told me, I found indeed that this was the truth when I went out one afternoon in broad daylight au femme at Pike Market Square, Seattle.
It is youth not gender that spends so much time looking at each other. At my age no one particularly cares what I'm wearing so long as it's respectable. My older famous actor sailor friend said, "They're really more concerned that we wear our Depends." If the clothes do make the man then I can honestly say that I was well made up and everyone treated me extremely well from officialdom to shop clerks to passing strangers.
My former Royal Winnipeg Ballet dancer friend tells a lovely story: "When I turned 60 I had a marvellous realization. I woke up one morning and found I didn't have cream for my coffee. There was a 7-11 across the street so I ran over. When I looked down for money in my purse I saw I was only wearing a slip and had forgotten to put on my skirt. I paid for the cream and really didn't care for the first time in my life. I could focus on what was really important, getting the cream for my morning coffee. And no one else in the line cared either which made me wonder how much wasted worrying I'd done all my life about my appearance in general. It wasn't as if I was exposing myself. Right then and there I thought this was one of the greatest gifts of maturity. I found a kind of peace that day." It was probably after that young women began wearing their underwear on the outside as my friend has always been a trendsetter.
Transvestism is one of those terms that came out of an earlier era. |It probably should be removed from the clinical textbooks or else all western women and an increasing proportion of western men will fall afoul of the diagnosis.
As theologians teach , Personhood should transcend gender, race and all those divisions that keep one human from knowing another as brother or sister. We may like Michal, Saul's daughter object to even King David 'exposing himself' but what matter really is it to others how one clothes oneself. Allan Fotheringham http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allan_Fotheringham might well comment that at least they're not dressing as golfers.

1 comment:

bobbi said...

Congrats on your latest adventure doll.