Men in Tights (and skirts, and scarves, and stuff) revisited.
One of the eternal questions that is never far from the minds of the crossdresser, or his significant other, is “Why do they care?” That is, why do so many people take such a dim view of men being seen in what is traditionally considered female attire? That question has, of course, been addressed before on this site – and the insights there are certainly valid. But I would suggest there is yet another layer to the puzzle.
To review the conclusion of the previous article: clothes serve as a representation of the latent sexism in the culture. That is, that men aspiring to present themselves as women in whatever great or small way gives the appearance of lowering themselves, while a woman who takes on any “maleness” is more forgivable since they aspire to better themselves. Likely, almost no one who thinks in these terms is consciously aware of it – they just have a visceral feeling of “wrongness” associated with the feminine being applied to a male. One obvious way this plays out is that a man wearing makeup not traditionally considered feminine (think KISS, for example) are not shunned, and men who wear kilts are often seen as the manliest of men even though there is very little essential difference between a kilt and a skirt, other than the perceptions associated with it. It’s difficult to come to any other conclusion than that the stigma is associated specifically with the idea of a man purposely weakening his position in society.
That provokes a train of thought which I’ll table for another article.
Nevertheless, this complex dance of social interaction does present another aspect which ought to be very obvious but is often so insidious that it goes unnoticed even as it’s being named. Indeed, I have named it twice in the first 300 words of this column – tradition. Human culture, all cultures, are built on the superstructure of traditional ideas. Those things which have been passed down through generations until they have been cemented in place as “everyone knows” truisms, whether or not they have any actual rational basis for existing. This is not to say they do not change, of course. Some change rather rapidly over the course of less than a century, others endure until they seem to assume the status of “it has ever been thus.”
A modern example of something which exists solely on the basis of the momentum of tradition? The necktie. Let’s be honest, NO ONE actually LIKE wearing a necktie. Oh sure, a given guy might think he looks better wearing one, but that doesn’t mean he finds it comfortable. Yet, in spite of this, men dutifully put the cursed things on every time they are “supposed” to. And the only real reason is because, well, you are supposed to. The same once applied to when men should wear a hat, or when women should wear a skirt, or when women should wear makeup. All these things are peculiar to a given culture. What a woman is supposed to wear in the U.S. Is nothing like a woman is supposed to wear in Iran and neither are anything like what a woman is supposed to wear in, say, Fiji. Likewise, what men are supposed to wear is just as much a function of tradition and culture, in spite of any actual logical reason for the expectation.
The point of this little dissertation is to say this: if a man who enjoys crossdressing feels shame or pressure to conform from society, it is not just about the subconscious sexism that assumes he is assuming a lesser status, it’s also because human beings tend to be, in the majority, hidebound traditionalists. They would take almost as dim a view of the man who shows up sans coat and tie at a ritzy restaurant as they would take of the man who shows up at the same place in a skirt.
But you can take comfort in knowing that cultural traditions do change, and often rapidly. Almost always, they are changed by those willing to be on the cutting edge and say “I dare to not follow your rules.” in that sense, the crossdresser, particularly the uncloseted crosssdresser, is a bit of a counter-culture thought leader. Such individuals are helping to create the culture wherein people like them will not be an object of derision. While there are obvious differences between the goals, aspirations, and intentions of the crossdresser and the transsexual, this is something they share in common. The more they force the culture to look at them and see their humanity, rather than as a stereotype, the more they help to change the world just by living in it.
Photo credit: OpenSkyMedia