Wednesday, November 14, 2012
All Western European and North American women are by definition "transvestic". They have been cross dressing with abandon however only in the last century. In the delightful movies about Coco the "sensation' caused by the great French designer Chanel's 'pants', the emblem of manhood in the Age of Rationalism, is well depicted.
It's not that women never were 'transvestic'. Female saints of medieval times were often caught without skirts. St. Joan of Arc was perhaps the most famous sainted cross dresser.
Early psychoanalytic writers argued, as commonly was the case ,from their ethnocentric persective, that women dressing as men 'increased their power." This interpretation derived from the social communism of early feminism which defined women as 'proletariat' and men as 'bourgeosie'. The leading feminists of that era commonly priviledged upper class women, defined themselves in traditional Marxist Leninist terms as the 'intellectuals' who indeed 'dictated to the proletariat'. Bra burning was only ever popular with women wealthy enough to afford an excessive amount of clothing.
However, in the same token, these self styled "social scientists' overlooked the obvious history of Scottish men wearing skirts. For blokes to wear frocks indeed took huge balls when the English low landers were outlawing, and putting to death, all highlanders wearing 'kilts' or sporting the 'tartan'.
In the Middle East the Arabian culture has long worn 'gowns' and 'same sex' or 'unisex' attire has prevailed around the world at various times without it having much significance from a 'status' perspective. Just as the great play, "The Hospitality Suite" by Roger Rueff later made into a movie, The Big Kahuna with the most memorable performance by Danny De Vito, contained the line "Jesus had nothing to say about women in business suits", so Jesus himself never wore pants.
Today, Dr. Ray Blanchard's work on transexual men has been underscored by recent MRI neuroscience studies. Dr. Blanchard speculated that there was a difference between homosexual men seeking early transexual surgery and later age transexual m-to-f patients who were predominantly heterosexual. MRI studies support the greater gender deviation in the younger homosexual population as opposed to the older population. Both groups have similiar outcomes post surgical 'revision", though the older group tend to have higher IQ's, greater education and more likelihood of what Dr. Blanchard coined "autogynephilia" (sexually attracted to the thought of themselves as women rather than the younger group which was more sexually attracted to men themselves.) (Dr. Ray Blanchard's typology has been politically questioned and may not have significance except historically as tens of thousands of transexual operations continue to change the diversity of the once familiar and limitted landscape.) Indeed Brazilian transexuals not so affected by western dichotomy see themselves as a 'third' alternative. In this regard they are like some aboriginal and polynesian aboriginals who granted distinct status to the 'twin spirited' who often held healing or leadership roles in their communities.
Transvestism has been greatest in the heterosexual population and as evidenced by female transvestism may or may not be essentially related
to sexuality. Gender as indicated in Ivan Illich's book of the same name is a 'multi varied' matter. It's certainly far more than the reductionism of either Marx, Lenin or Freud.
MRI studies do indicate differences in brain development but this seems to reflect to a large degree the influence of hormones.
It seems quite unlikely that there will be any similiar research or evidence of distinctive differences in female brains given the universality of transvestism in this population. Given the capacity for hormonal induced beard growth transexual men (f2m) 'pass' easily in the outer culture . A man dressed even in a 'kilt' draws attention more than even the young 'metro' men keen on make up and waxing off body hair. Surgically transexual men (f2m) have greater problems with 'bottom' surgery, though advances continue to be made. The men who initially have greater difficulty with outward appearances have today relatively satisfactory 'bottom surgery' solutions that allow them to 'pass' in the bedroom. One day, and as parents define the gender of their children earlier, these concerns immunologically and surgically will be moot points.
Heart bypass surgery was considered science fiction 50 years ago as were kidney transplants. There are rarely limits to science where there is interest. If transexual 'conversion' could somehow be shown to have military benefit or related to global warming then the researchers would have the funding to make the advances which might one day make the whole matter academic.
No one today views female transvestism with the horror it occasioned when I was on a high school student council executive and put forward the motion that women in Winnipeg should be allowed to wear pants to school in winter. It was so controversial in it's day that I personally was threatened in all manner. I shudder to think what controversy must have arisen when some silly boy or girl suggested we need not wear 'uniforms' to school.
Today transvestism and cross dressing by women is decades ahead publicly of the private behaviour of men in general. Personally I'm thankful that it's been decades since I was shot at from a passing car as a 'long haired' hippy. No doubt pant wearing women faced similiar issues even before they donned 'business' suits.
Brain research on 'gender' has acknowledged an evolutionary basis following in the footsteps of Charles Darwin who really was merely the imitator of that great eccentric Alfred Russell Wallace. "We are born this way" is a main proponent of the political platform of the Rainbow community and no doubt some 50% of influence as in most matters may have a genetic basis. However despite the monopoly of Darwinism, Lamarkian ideas still have a role with increasing evidence supporting some combination of the two.
Were 'politics' not the mainstream influence on science that it is, research into the differences of female transvestites comparing say, 'lipstick' lesbians that at first were such an offence to the 'butch' lesbians of an earlier era. MRI evidence might well suggest differences which follow rather than precede changes as the neuroplasticity of the brain becomes increasingly apparent. Patients with head injury have major 'shifts' anatomically as do those who do drugs for long term, alcohol for one long known to cause dementia with the damage shown on MRI.
Diversity doesn't suggest 'disease' though there are always those who would have everyone like them, fearing difference as genetically as those who embrace change.
From a purely 'fashion' perspective there seems to be every element of historical presence today from the age of Egypt to the Rennaissance to the 30's and 60's. Cosmetic surgery and cosmetic 'medicine' and even 'cosmetic' psychiatry are already well established. No one really can speculate whether these areas will remain termed 'cosmetic' as the 'serious' medicine and surgery continues as 'necessary' only as a product of 'life style' 'choices' of the population. A respiratory surgeon says his department might never have developped were it not for 'tobacco'.
It remains possible that women might revert to hooped skirts and gays return to the closet and students dress collectively in uniforms, Perhaps as William Gibson speculates in his genius novels camouflage may represent the gold "fashion" of the future where 'armies' become the principal outlet for youth.
For now female transvestism is the new normal.
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