As I write this, it’s thirty years to the day since Return of the Jedi was released in the cinemas. I saw it when I was six, and it immediately established my love of Star Wars, cemented my love of science fiction, and, in the longer run, three other things which can be traced back to Carrie Fisher in that bikini…
Firstly, thanks to a well-thumbed page in the Return of the Jedi Sticker Album, I realised on some pre-pubescent level that I was heterosexual; that girls could be interesting to me in a way that boys would not. The pictures of Princess Leia gave me an (at the time) inexplicable yearning, quite different from the yearning to have my own Millennium Falcon to fly about in (and as happy as I was to receive the latter as a toy one Christmas, I knew deep down, with disappointment, that I would never, ever get Princess Leia for Christmas).
Secondly, the idea of being in chains was kind of exciting too. But I’ll pass over that. Really, skip it and move on.
The last thing, and most relevant for this blog, is that I was a boy who secretly wanted to dress up like Princess Leia.
I also wanted to dress up as Han Solo, because he was cool, he had a laser gun, his own spaceship and that groovy sleeveless black jacket and the military stripes on his trousers (the nearest I got was a bodywarmer and tracksuit bottoms with a stripe on each leg and a cap gun).
I also wanted to dress as a Jedi Knight like Luke Skywalker or Ben Kenobi, because they were cool, had lightsabres, an X-Wing fighter and wore cloaks (the nearest I got was my dressing gown and a cardboard tube).
And late at night, once I was sure my parents had gone to bed, I wanted to dress up as Princess Leia because she was cool, she could kill Jabba the Hutt with only a chain, she had an entire rebel fleet of spaceships and she wore that bikini which gave me a pleasant ticklish feeling somewhere below my tummy and in my brain (the nearest I got was rolling up a vest and using a towel for the skirt).
I’ll leave it to others to argue whether she was a token female used for nothing more than sexist fanservice, or if she remains a strong character (didn’t need a weapon; the only one who could talk back to Darth Vader and survive the saga; the only one who could make Han Solo look and feel a bit stupid in all three films).
The main point (yeah, I know, bit of a detour to get here) is that for me, my impulse to start cross-dressing began at a very early age. I knew instinctively it was something I wanted to do, but I also knew instinctively it was something I couldn’t tell anyone else (at the time).
Once I realised the Princess Leia dress-up wasn’t going to lead anywhere, I tried other things late at night, fashioning tight, shiny skirts out of plastic carrier bags with the bottoms cut open. (It was the 80’s; tight, shiny skirts were the in thing.)
This was way, way before the hormones kicked in, so I doubt I wanted to do it because I thought it would be sexy. I don’t deny that sexy times can be had whilst cross-dressing (and for some people that’s the main motivator), but I think there was something else behind it (and this isn’t the blog to start a discussion about pre-adolescent sexualisation).
Nor did I want to ‘feel feminine’, and I didn’t identify myself as a girl trapped in a boy’s body either. I just thought that sometimes girls wore clothes that looked really cool, and I wanted to wear something like that too. That’s all there is to it!
I didn’t really get the chance to cross-dress properly until I was 17, away from home for the first time, and going to see a live, stage version of The Rocky Horror Show. At that point, though, I was definitely motivated by hormones, and by an attractive, outgoing, red-haired medical student who was lending me some of her wardrobe.
But that’s not important right now.
Really, it’s not…