Crossdressers face discrimination while redefining gender norms
Published: Saturday, April 14, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 23, 2012 14:04
A woman can wear a man’s shirt or go without makeup and she can still be seen as sexy or feminine, but the same cannot be said of a man in a dress with eyeliner on.
Nowadays, women aren’t as restricted when it comes to clothing choice. Pants and baggy T-shirts can be found in most women’s clothing stores.
When it comes to crossdressing, the boundaries for women have been blurred and women are given more leeway in their clothing choices.
Typically, men’s clothes are more unisex or there is a female version such as pantsuits, but women’s clothing is seen as being strictly meant for women.
“Men are on top of our social hierarchy,” said MCC sociology professor Mona Scott. “They have more restrictions on their masculinity. In order to stay on top, and to be seen as masculine and to have power and control, they are limited in how they can act, what they can say, and what they can do.”
To some, crossdressing is seen as a strange fetish or even a mental illness, but in reality there is an entire spectrum of reasons ranging from comfort and aesthetics to getting in touch with one’s feminine side.
Dani Danger, a former performer for Tucson’s Dragstar Cabaret, first began crossdressing in school plays and then in middle school because she was not fond of her breasts.
Although she doesn’t dress in drag on a daily basis, she said. “I get mistaken for a guy all the time or I get mistaken for a drag queen. People ask me what gender I am. So, sometimes I don’t even have to dress up. Sometimes people just think that I’m a boy for some reason.”
On the other hand, Jared Squee Leve, a male crossdresser since a young age, prefers women’s clothing because he feels that his physical features were never “well suited by what is often characterized as masculine fashion.”
“With the addition of make-up for both artistic expression and shock value, I’m crossdressing by most people’s standards,” said Leve, “In my head, I’m just approaching attire from an aesthetic perspective instead of a utilitarian one or one that conforms to mainstream gender norms.”
Leve has been in street fights, fired from jobs, insulted, banned from homes, and faced discrimination from the parents of lovers, but he also said, “I’ve been tokenized, seen as a novelty, met a lot of great people who genuinely respect my choices, admired by old counter-cultural types, and offered many creative opportunities.”
People tend to forget that what is considered masculine and feminine varies across different cultures and social classes.
Masculine clothes represent strength and power while feminine clothes are seen as weak and frivolous, but in reality these are only ideals created by a patriarchal society.