GENDER BENDERS - Crossdressing with Grace
by Reena Rose (22/08/2020)
The year 2014 was a very exciting beginning to a lot of things in my life. From the new Mumbai metro being inaugurated to entering the first year of my degree college, life hadn’t changed as much in terms of perception until a year later…..I saw someone.
I remember it was Friday morning and I had a late class. I boarded the metro train around 12pm when most of the working crowd were already in their offices leaving the metro station quite empty. I loved day dreaming (I still do sometimes) and that’s exactly what i was doing standing in line to buy a metro token when i saw a lady dressed in a dark green Jumpsuit and as she walked past me i could smell her fruity perfume. I bought my token and walked towards the platform when i saw her being frisked in the Gents security check.
As an uninformed teenager, I assumed she was transwoman with a well to do lifestyle. It was later through a project report, I became aware of the term Cross-dressing.
What exactly is CROSS DRESSING?
Cross-dressing by definition means to typically wear clothing of the opposite sex. It is not synonymous with one’s gender identity and the need for it stems from complex psychological needs ranging from curiosity, experimentation or simply a desire to break norms. While all transgenders have started their journey with cross-dressing, not all cross-dressers are transgenders.
Cross-dressing in itself is as old as clothing. Mythology and history are full of cross-dressing incidents, mainly of men dressing or acting as women. If we go into the history of theatre and cinema, we find men essaying roles because women were not allowed to be a part of public entertainment. At times, it is simply an escape from reality. This reason in particular has motivated women to cross-dress for centuries. To overcome barriers they had to face as a woman. Women cross-dressing and living as men began to appear in the early christian church where there are a number of women saints who were found to be women only upon their death. When their true sex was discovered, they were praised for their faithfulness and saintliness. History, however, has been less kind to men who cross-dressed.
A good example of this is the Assyrian king Sardanapalus (also known as Ashurbanipal) in the fifth century B.C.E., who is said to have spent much of his time in his palace dressed in women’s clothing and surrounded by his concubines. When news of this behavior became widely known, some of his key nobles revolted. Although his cross-dressing was looked down upon because it showed feminine weakness, he fought long and bravely for two years, and before facing defeat, he committed suicide.
Women dressed as men is widely accepted and acknowledged compared to men dressing up as women. In the words of Rebecca Watson from Straight Cross Dressers, “Society celebrates anything that becomes masculine and rejects anything that becomes feminine.” As accepting as society is towards cross-dressed characters in movies and plays. It has a completely different perspective towards the real cross-dressers.
It’s more socially acceptable for women to use masculine products than it is for men to use feminine products. From wearing make-up to becoming a stay at home dad, men are constantly criticized for not being manly enough. Women in jeans and suits is considered normal but men wearing sarees and dresses is considered as a sexual dysfunction.
It is strange how a piece of cloth and makeup, or an accessory worn by a man can suddenly change people’s perception about him.
We as human beings experience a tension between who we think we are and who the world wants us be. But the truth is we all learn to dress up in life. We dress up to find where we fit in our relationships and jobs and hobbies; we dress up to hide from our vulnerabilities, fears and insecurities; the pressure to have a masculine body; to be someone else’s version of a perfect son or a friend? We LEARN to dress up!
When we dress up for the approval of others, we loose to experience our authentic self. We get lost being someone in a make-believe world with others who are in the same cycle.
Do I choose to wear it because I am gay? Maybe. Will you choose to wear it if you were straight? Maybe not. Does that mean I shouldn’t be wearing it in a heteronormative “straight” world? Maybe not. Will I still be wearing it in the same straight world?
– Featuring Mandar Deshmukh, fellow fashion designer in our loose and colourful, Niya Patchwork Shirt paired with straight fit denim and chunky boots. Our Charchan Culottes in green paired with a crisp white shirt for a semi casual look.
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