So, creeps reap what they sow?

It’s been a lot longer than intended since my last blog post, but my outings this year have been of a purely social nature; no adventures; no grand photoshoots; nothing to report (at least, not yet…).

I usually do my longer more serious, introspective posts (which always give me the stomach-turning feeling that they’ll start up a shitstorm) at the end of the year.

2017 has certainly provided a bit of food for thought in the wake of this year’s eruption of sexual harassment scandals (ranging from rape and other sex acts, to unwanted physical contact, to verbal harassment), going back decades.

I could easily add my name to the #metoo hashtag (if I used Twitter), but I’d have to add it to a #I_am_hardly_blameless_myself hashtag as well.

2013_12_17_that_thing_by_tomfonder-d6y7pgt

#I_am_hardly_blameless_myself
To put it briefly, learning to socialise was a steep catch-up learning curve in my first year at university, and I found myself socially ostracised more than once because I had no idea what I was doing wrong (but I certainly knew that I was doing something wrong). Maybe I had a toxic personality; maybe it was extreme social immaturity. Whatever it was, if I could go back in time, I’d happily strangle my 17-year-old self and damn the time paradoxes.

Have I ever creeped women out? For certain (I had enough self-awareness to realise that my teenage attempts at flirting were about as welcome as being chatted up by Gollum). Have I ever said inappropriate things? Yes (thankfully I was able to channel these impulses into improv comedy instead). Have I ever touched a woman inappropriately? I’m sure I probably did – but I’m also sure that was the extent of it, though. It’s not like I was a rampant sex pest in the style of Pepé Le Pew; just an annoying teenage shit.

On meeting up with one of my university friends a couple of years back, she assured me that whatever I said or did (that had me twitching and gibbering to myself years or decades later with embarrassing memories) “At least you apologised.”

What changed? I learnt not to be a dick, through a process of trial and error, I guess. A year or two of solo travelling helped as well – going around the world with nothing more than you can physically carry means you have to sharpen your social skills pretty damn quick. I’d say I was in my early-to-mid-twenties before I was an acceptably functioning member of civilised society.

What about #metoo then?
It was also at university that I started crossdressing, and I’ve already written about the great fun I had.

But there were plenty of moments when guys – and it was only the guys – creeped me out: trying to lift my skirt at parties (several times – what were they hoping to see?); inviting me to sit on their laps (certainly not, if it’s going to feel like you have three knees); once asking if I ‘wanted to be fucked like a bitch’ (by a total stranger at a party – I assume he’s had a lifetime of going home alone at night); grabbed from behind and dry humped (three occasions); and then, of course, there was the whole ‘if a man is dressed as a woman then it must be funny’ thing to get over. I prefer to dwell on the good stuff that happened instead (all of these were in the late 1990s, so pre-Twist days).

More recently, however, sometimes people (men, women, or otherwise) grab or touch Twist (or ask bizarre questions) and I either don’t mind at all, or I don’t let it bother me.

Sometimes it’s just curiosity (“Are those tits real?” *poke* – “Would you really have done that if you thought they were?”); sometimes it’s just for fun (I tried very hard not to dissolve into giggles whilst being motorboated at a party once); hugs and touches are perfectly okay too (I’m not much of a huggy-touchy person myself but I won’t ever turn them down).

Some things are okay when I feel safe and it’s among friends. As for how other people might react to those same things, your mileage may vary.

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This was bloody funny actually. 😀

So, is there anything I can conclude?
I can only speak for myself here: feeling sexually harassed was something I felt more acutely when I was younger, and more unsure of myself, and low-status. And it only ever happened when I was cross-dressed, so – and it’s important to note this – it’s not like I had to face this sort of thing all the time.

These days, as Twist, I’m a big girl and I can take a lot, and I’d let someone know if they’d gone too far.

What’s my take on all the sexual harassment scandals? These are only my current thoughts, and they may or may not change (and bear in mind that explanations are not excuses):

  • If a guy says they can’t remember something they did years ago, it’s probably true.
    But – in my last year on university, a woman I met with some of my friends said I’d made a highly inappropriate remark to her way back in my first year. I had no memory of this at all, but I said that it sounded like the sort of thing I would’ve said, and apologised to her for it. If you can recognise you’ve screwed up, it seems like the least you can do.
  • Some guys have no idea they’re doing something wrong.
    Maybe it’s immaturity; maybe they can’t pick up on social cues; maybe they’re used to a touchy-feely or bantering culture (I always blame things on stupidity before I blame them on malice). I suspect a lot of people don’t realise that others won’t think the same way they do – while guys might be flattered or amused by (sexual) attention, it doesn’t mean women will be flattered or amused by the same sort of attention (depends on the person, I suppose?). Never underestimate how stupid young men can be.
  • Mixing sexual relationships with work relationships sounds bloody dangerous at the best of times.
  • Age-wise, if you want to avoid being skeevy, a neat rule of thumb I heard is:
    don’t date anyone who is younger than [half-your-age, plus seven years]. Even better, don’t blithely assume that you’re date-able.
  • Anyone shown to have abused their high status deserves to be publicly brought down. Justice must be seen to be done, and nobody is above the law.
  • Guilt and shame work best when they’re self-inflicted. Unfortunately, some people have egos too big for this to work, and need the evidence of their wrongdoing screamed at them from a thousand directions.
  • Lastly, and probably least popularly, there is a damn good reason why the law has presumption of innocence. Mob justice is ugly, fickle, hasty and forgetful, and it can turn against the innocent as well as the guilty, no matter if we like them or not. (The two links in this bullet point give different views on the matter; I recommend reading both.)

I’m a long-term optimist. It’s not going to be quick; it’s not going to be an even improvement, everywhere, for everyone – but things will improve.

Also: I’m really fucking glad I went through my teens before social media was invented.

*

I have a few Twist things planned for 2018 (if I can summon up the courage), and I still have a backlog of photos to add to the gallery.

More blogging later! 🙂

Adventures in Crossdressing (part two): hit’n’miss, hit on Miss Twist

Ciao!

Ciao!

From time to time you have to face the fact that some men will chase anyone in a skirt, quite literally. How should we deal with this? If you do find yourself being hit on whilst cross-dressed, it does help if you have bags of self-confidence. Either that, or fake it well enough that others won’t know the difference.

I once went to a meal out with friends from my writing group, and we’d decided on a general sartorial theme of “something that takes you out of your comfort zone, or other people out of theirs.” This theme was tempered by the fact we were eating in an Italian restaurant in the city centre, so we didn’t go over-the-top or anything; just goth makeup, leather kilts and me in PVC leggings – that sort of thing.

Over the course of the evening, I was hit on by three Italian waiters. I suspect the first tried to set up the other two as a prank, but I’ll never know. I also reckon they told the chef, because every ten minutes or so, a Slavic face popped out from the kitchen door to stare at me. When I tried to avoid laser-eyed Boris, or an ingratiating ‘”Hey, ciaoooo!!!”, I found myself being stared at by a guy I think of as ‘Wistful Dad’, who was eyeing up women at other tables, presumably to take his mind off the wife and kids sitting with him. I was directly opposite him, so caught him looking at me …a bit too frequently. My girlfriend (now fiancee) was sitting next to me and thought it was hilarious. At least it was a controlled environment, surrounded by friends, and we could leave easily.

More recently, I went clubbing for the first time in 20 years (I decided dancing wasn’t my thing when I was a teenager). A friend in York was celebrating his 40th birthday with a fancy dress party. After a few months of watching my diet more carefully than usual, I went as Lara Croft: blue vest, unignorable cleavage, and those tight, nad-mashing leather shorts which make me feel practically functionally female…

Boy, they really like Lara Croft in York! Especially on a Races Night. I think I had a dozen requests for people to have their photo taken with me around the streets – usually after they realised I was a guy…

Anyway, in one pub, a woman approached me and said, “‘ere, you are a bloke, aren’t ya? Me ‘usband’s been starin’ at yer arse fer ‘alf an ‘our! Come with me a minute, will ya, luv?”

She then introduced her husband and I to each other, thusly:
You’ve been starin’ at a man’s arse, ya silly sod! Go on, tell ‘im!”

I just shrugged.

“Yeah, I’m a 38-year-old man,” I explained, “All it means is you like things that look feminine.”

He didn’t say anything. He just stared, slack-jawed. A couple of groups at the tables behind him applauded and took photos with their phones. I don’t think there’s anything I could’ve said that would make him feel less embarrassed (“Hey, c’mon, don’t be sad – everybody loves buttocks!”). There was simply no way his wife was going to let him forget this. Ever.

After the party a bunch of us went to a newly-opened nightclub, still in costume. As I said, I’m not much of a dancer, but I was up to my eyeballs with Red Bull and I simply thought “fuck it.” On the dancefloor, a drunken racegoer tried grabbing one of the women in the group, going for her wig. Being a wearer of a feminine wig, I’m kind of sensitive about that sort of thing. But mostly, I just couldn’t believe that some prick would do that to someone he doesn’t even know.

“DUDE – NOT COOL!” I barked.

He looked at me and I can only assume his brain did that blue-screen-of-death you get with a crashed computer. I could see the cogs weren’t going around – they were just jammed in a kind of “Lara Croft… but it’s a guy… Lara Croft… but it’s a guy” groove. (The woman he grabbed gave him a fearsome earful. Do not mess with Yorkshire women; they’ve had to deal with Yorkshiremen.)

Going clubbing in a blue vest and tight leather shorts is either very brave or very foolish.

Going clubbing in a blue vest and tight leather shorts is either very brave or very foolish.

A month later at the end of the Edinburgh Fringe, after emceeing a show on the final night, I was faced with a 45 minute queue for a taxi at about 1.30am. Or, I could walk home in heels in 20mins. I walked. (But not before a random punter asked to take a photo of my chest. I said yeah, sure, whatever floats your boat…)

I made it a less than a couple of minutes down a steep, cobbled street when a guy jumped out, presumably to scare first girl he saw. Except I’m not a girl, nor scared. His brother and brother’s fiance standing nearby pissed themselves laughing. The fiance asked me how I got my tits like that and showed me hers (erm… you don’t have to do that, really!); the brother mocked her for taking fashion tips on how-not-to-be-flat-chested from a guy. I told her to work with what she’s got, which is more than what I have. Then the jumper came out as a closet cross-dresser with a *ton* of questions for me. Feeling charitable, I answered them all (jeeeeeeezuz). Anyway, after a group photo and handshakes and smiles, we went our separate ways.

Five minutes up the road, and a guy in too-tight jeans and a smart shirt, looking like the last dregs of his youth were slipping from his grasp, looked me up and down (I was wearing a rainbow-coloured Space Invaders dress, if that helps explain things).

“Awwight, dahhhlin’? Fancy comin’ back to my place for a pahhhhty?”

I hadn’t taken my heels off*, so my sole tactical manoeuvre (“Run away!“) wasn’t an option. I would have to rely on bravado and hope things didn’t turn nasty.

I sighed.

“Dude. I’m tired, footsore and busting for a piss. I’m in three pairs of Spanx. All I want to do is go home, take all this crap off, have a shower, and sleep. If you’re still interested, you’re out of luck.”

Happily, I appeared to have sassed him into silence/ submission/ mental-bluescreen-of-death. I think my 38-year-old-guy-voice helped. He looked really dopey for a moment (kinda like the buttock-fancier in that York pub) and walked silently away (it was a busy-ish road, thankfully). I was mightily relieved to get home without further incident.

Moral of the story? Well, I don’t have one. These are all just one-off incidents and I’m not going to generalise from them. All I’ll say is that cross-dressing may not let me know what it’s like to be a woman, but I think it gives some fascinating insights into what it’s like to be seen as a woman… and that’s a lesson I think a lot of guys could benefit from.

Tomb Raider: The Curse of the Family Jewels

I had no problem hailing a taxi dressed like this.

*Heel-wearers might question this choice – I can only assume you’ve never seen the state of Edinburgh’s streets on the last night of the Festival…

Crazy, sexy, cool!

"My dress, believe it or not, has nothing to do with you."

“My short skirt, believe it or not, has nothing to do with you.”

(Warning: this is about twice the wordcount of my usual blog entries, so brace yourselves. This took ages to write because it’s a subject I wanted to be very, very careful with. We’ll see…)
*Updated with extra links 17/04/15.

There are certain assumptions made about the way we dress, and some of them bug me. Hopefully, I’ve written enough from a psychological perspective to show that crossdressers aren’t crazy. And I’ve been fairly consistent in saying that if other people read some sort of message in what you’re wearing, that’s their problem, not yours.

I dress for the image. Not for myself, not for the public, not for fashion, not for men. – Marlene Dietrich

For example, I recently wrote about a hipster scientist’s t-shirt covered with cartoon women in tight or skimpy clothing wielding guns. Some of my friends were incredulous that I couldn’t see it as sexualised imagery, objectifying and degrading women. The design wasn’t really my taste, but I didn’t think of the characters as sexy or sexualised – merely cartoony, deliberately trashy, and (to my eye) contrived – which, on a (desperately?) fashion-conscious scientist could only be described as ‘kitsch’.

So my friends saw it as sexualised; I did not. I don’t think any one of us was ‘right’ or ‘wrong’; these are only judgement calls.

Sometimes I’ll decide an image is sexualised and I don’t think there’s anything scientific about it; it’s just an impression I get, and sometimes I’ll change my mind. Even so, I’m bothered by the insistence that some things are ‘sexy’ or ‘sexualised’.

I have no problem with sexiness. The things I find sexy are nobody else’s business; but whatever I find sexy, others might not. Whatever others find sexy, I might not. I think the same holds true for sexualisation, too; sexiness and sexualisation are in the eye of the beholder.

I do wonder if there’s persistent assumption that female clothing is sexy clothing; that women dress to look good (…for the benefit of men); and that if men wear female clothing it’s because they want to look sexy (or that it says something about their sexuality).

It’s the idea of seeing things in a sexual context that bugs me – because I think we all do it, it’s done pretty much all the time, we can’t help it, and I think -somehow- it’s a problem.

I think that sexuality is only attractive when it’s natural and spontaneous. – Marilyn Monroe

Disgusted by ‘sexiness’?

Examples of 'sexy' and 'conservative' clothing from Vaillancourt & Sharma's study.

Examples of ‘sexy’ and ‘conservative’ clothing from Vaillancourt & Sharma’s study.

A study by Vaillancourt and Sharma (2013) found women were typically hostile towards to the perceived sexiness/sexualisation of another woman, and suggested female competition for male mates as a reason. Thinking back to some of the religious, cultural influences on clothing (not mention on sexuality), I’d suggest there’s an element of ‘moral disgust’ at work.

Ever hear of short, figure hugging, or skimpy clothes on women being described as ‘slutty’, ‘tarty’, or ‘whore-ish’? I don’t think it matters if it comes from socially-conservative types complaining about women wearing whatever they want, or socially-liberal types complaining about the way female characters are presented in the media (for example). Both strike me as disapproving, censorious attitudes and I don’t care much for either of them.

Whether it’s clothing, costume or art, it’s merely a form of expression, and it shouldn’t matter that not everyone is OK with it – but that’s just my current opinion. (Mind you, if women are presented almost entirely in a particular way in certain media – as busty, pouty-lipped, super-fit, spandex-clad superheroines, for example – then yes, I can easily see how that shit gets old fast. Variety is a good thing, and I like to identify with well-written and interesting characters rather than ‘good-looking’ ones.)

If I don’t see particular imagery as ‘sexualised’ it could be because 1) not everyone will see it as such and that’s fine, or 2) people who don’t see sexualisation are blind to it because they’ve been brainwashed by the media (or for some other reason). The second of these strikes me as one of those unfalsifiable ‘heads-I-win, tails-you-lose’ arguments. This doesn’t mean the idea is wrong as such, just unfalsifiable; but one should never assume one must be right simply because one’s argument can’t be proven wrong.

Is sexy/sexualised imagery harmful?

In a 2009 review of studies into the effects of pornography, Christopher Ferguson found that the effects of pornography “appear negligible, temporary and difficult to generalize to the real world”. As McKee (2007) found, it’s not exposure to pornography that correlates with negative attitudes towards women, but more general things such as being old, or voting for a socially-conservative political party. If anything, all we can say is that there is no demonstrable link between sexualised or pornographic imagery and sex crimes or harmful attitudes towards women.

Porn and sexualised imagery aren’t ‘good’ or ‘bad’; they just ‘are’. You’re entitled to be attracted, disgusted, offended, or turned on by them as you wish; just don’t expect others to see things the way you do. If you want to find out what drives harmful attitudes, you’re better off looking at the effects of peer groups and social culture, rather than anything that might appear in the media.

Sexy or sexualised clothing?

Say what you want about long dresses, but they cover a multitude of shins. – Mae West

What do you think when you see someone in tight running gear? Maybe you think they look sexy. But it’s not sexualised clothing, despite the tiresome arguments over yoga pants that have flitted past my attention in recent weeks. The same is true of swimwear and underwear. Fancy dress costumes might be a grey area, but I still think it’s in the eye of the beholder – as are ‘fetish’ materials like latex, rubber, leather and the like.

Maybe, instead of thinking they’re sexy/sexualised, the wearers simply like the look and feel of these clothes? That’s not to say the wearers aren’t putting them on to look or feel sexy, but just to say that there’s a whole range of reasons for wearing what we wear. I think if someone views clothing (or art) only through a prism of how sexy/sexualised it is, and whether it delights or offends their sensibilities as a result, it’s a terribly limited perspective. Sure, they’re entitled to it, but I hope they’ll understand that not everyone has to go along with it.

So what about me?

What about my clothing choices? What motivates me to wear tight catsuits or short dresses? Simple: vanity.

It’s not because I’m slutty, tarty, or whore-ish. It’s not because I want to look sexy or feel sexy. It’s simply that I think the clothes look cool. And I feel that if I want to wear them with any degree of confidence, I have to watch my weight and keep my figure slim (easier said than done). After going to all that effort, you’d better bloody believe I want to show off.

I’ll only show off if I’m feeling confident about myself. And there’s nothing sexier than confidence. (Make of that what you will…)

The notion of seeing clothing as sexy/sexualised does nobody any favours.

While I was putting this blog entry together, my attention was drawn to comments made by Tracy King (15th April 2015):

Men must have a chart somewhere that specifies, in millimetres, the exact size of boobs that crosses from ok to not ok. It’s a sort of weird backwards fat-shaming. Bigger boobs must be hidden not because they’re unattractive, but because they’re attractive. I got street harassed three times yesterday because the weather is warm and I dress appropriately (appropriately for the weather, that is). Wear skimpy clothing, invitation to all men ever to initiate a conversation in the street that usually starts with “hey babe”. I also don’t consider the street harassment I get based on clothing/body to be “victim blaming”. I am not a victim. The men who think women should cover up, THEY are the victims, of toxic masculinity.

Just who in the hell decides what’s ‘appropriate clothing’ or not? And is there anyone out there wearing ‘inappropriate clothing’ telling them where to go? Well, that’s a question I’ll have to tackle next time…

*(NB: The title of this blog entry came from a marketing slogan I kept hearing on New Zealand television many, many years ago. Personally, I have no objections if anyone thinks of me as any of those three things; I know what I’m about, even if they don’t…)

I, object?

Trying to look sexy? Trying to look cool? Dressing your age? Is that how women are ‘supposed’ to look? What do you think you look like anyway?

There’s something that niggles about people’s perceptions of our clothing choices. I want to give it an in-depth take, which has led to a whole bunch of pondering (not always a good sign) and I’m going to have to split this up over a couple of blog posts (at least) – and think very, very carefully about what I want to say and how I say it. Treat this as a work-in-progress; it might not even reflect my current views, let alone my final views.

There are certain cliches, stereotypes and mental shortcuts we use when we think of women (the stick figure in a dress on women’s toilet doors being a clear example). Crossdressing – for whatever motive – will pick up on some or all of these. The way women are treated or represented in culture will no doubt correlate with the way cross-dressers are regarded too. Previously, I’ve wondered if cross-dressing helps reinforce these stereotypes, ‘objectifying’ women in some way – should I feel guilty at all? (And that’s way before we get to our cliches, stereotypes and mental shortcuts of cross-dressers…)

Objects of discussion

Venus de Willendorf (from Wikipedia)

Venus de Willendorf (from Wikipedia)

The Venus de Willendorf is one of the oldest representations of a woman in Western European art history; she is naked.

Why was she created? As a toy? Does she represent a goddess? Was she used to instruct people on anatomy or reproduction? Was she created as a symbol of beauty for women to aspire to? Or was she carved by a lonely man desperate for company? Already, based on these ideas, this statue could be a paleolithic version of Barbie, the bible, a biology text book, Cosmopolitan or Playboy, and there’s no way of deciding if any of these interpretations are correct or not.

Whatever answer the observer comes up with will say more about the observer than the creator.

The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli, circa 1485 (from Wikipedia).

The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli, circa 1485 (from Wikipedia).

Sticking with Western art, subsequent representations of women have become more varied and sophisticated (and you can find some great interpretations of what’s going on in them here). Take an obvious example like Botticelli’s The Birth Of Venus. We can say it represents a religious figure; it illustrates a story; she might hint at standards of beauty at the time she was painted, and we can’t rule out that there might be a hint of titillation on the part of the artist (maybe there was; maybe there wasn’t). Some people might like the image, others might be put off by the nudity. I have no problems with someone else’s ‘yuk’ response, as long as they don’t impose it on others; if they don’t like it, they can look the other way. (For some people, the ‘yuk’ response extends to destroying any hint of male genitalia on statues, or disfiguring feminine features on mannequins.)

A much-mimicked image...

A much-mimicked image…

Fast forward again to modern culture (yes, I know; but I’m trying to keep this brief and focused). There’s a bit of a backlash against some of the ways women are presented in toys, television, movies, games, comics (such as the Not Safe For Work Spiderwomanskewered here by theoatmeal.com), men’s magazines and women’s magazines. I’m leaving pornography out of this, since it is made with a specific intent; however, some people may see non-pornographic representations of women as sexualised – something I hope to address in the next blog entry.

Part of the problem is the fact that female characters are presented in unrealistic ways which their male counterparts never are – see, for example, John Scalzi and Jim Hines’ delightful, cross-dressed piss-takes of book covers (I knew I could get cross-dressing in there somewhere!). Are these stereotypes and cliches merely stylistic choices – a visual shorthand to tell the viewer what sort of character they’re looking at? Is it lazy art? Is it cruel, or demeaning? Or is it ironic, kitsch, just for fun? Are those who see problems in these images hypersensitive? Are those who don’t see problems blind to them?

I couldn’t possibly say. But I can say that the notion that poor representations of women in the media will cause them to be poorly regarded in real life does not work (at least, not as simply as you might imagine); ‘Media Effects Theory‘ gets causality the wrong way around.

Audiences… use media in their own way and for whatever purpose.

I’m not about to tell people that their opinions are wrong, but I’m not going to tell them they’re absolutely correct, either. My opinions are my own, and I might disagree with you – and this isn’t a matter of ‘being right or wrong’. As with the Venus de Willendorf, what you think probably says more about you than the image you’re looking at.

I’ll leave you for now with a picture I put together a couple of years ago (in a pose I could hold for 15 seconds, tops).

It seemed like a good idea at the time...

It seemed like a good idea at the time…

Why did I make it? To look sexy? To look cool? To show off? To make a point about unrealistic poses struck by female action heroes? Because I think this is what women should look like, obviously being a male sexist pig and all? Because I like kitsch action heroine images and wanted to copy them? To give people something to look at while they spank the monkey? Maybe I did it just for a laugh?

You could read all sorts reasons into it. I’m not going to tell you what to think or how to react. Just be aware that you could be wrong about my motives: the truth is, I can’t remember why I did it. All I can tell you is, like the story of the man who took off his clothes and jumped onto a cactus, “it seemed like a good idea at the time”.

I think the same is true any time I cross-dress, no matter what I’m wearing…

(To be continued!)

Funny-peculiar/ Funny-ha-ha

“But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading
‘Cause you think that being a girl is degrading”
~Madonna, What It Feels Like For A Girl

One of my female friends once told me that seeing me cross-dressed made her feel better about being a woman.

I was quite taken aback by this; baffled even. She grew up in a conservative, religious family in the USA and spent her formative years surrounded by a sexist culture. From what I gather, masculine things were coveted; feminine things were seen as inferior. So, seeing me coveting feminine things – even if it was just clothes and makeup – and not feeling that it was anything to be embarrassed about, was a bit of an eye-opener.

I never felt that cross-dressing was a matter of comedy. It can be great fun, in all sorts of ways, but I’ve never felt that the mere act of a man putting on a skirt should raise a chuckle. The man has to do a helluva lot more than that if he wants to be funny. But why should cross-dressing be funny?

Men and women are treated differently. This is especially apparent in the workplace, especially to trans employees who have experienced life as both male and female. And it’s no great surprise that women come off worse. I mentioned at the end of my last blog post that if you want to cross-dress and present yourself in a feminine way, then women’s issues should be of interest to you. I should probably qualify this: it depends on your motivation (something for another blog – I promise!), but if you’re coming out, going out in public, it’s something to consider.

via Cyanide and Happiness: http://explosm.net/comics/3722/

via Cyanide and Happiness: http://explosm.net/comics/3722/

Cross-dressing is often popularly viewed as either a mental problem (such as Norman Bates in Psycho) or comedy fodder. Sometimes, it’s because the perceived ‘weirdness’ of cross-dressing is seen as humourous in itself. Sometimes it’s because male comedians want to portray female stereotypes (or defy them), or for female comedians to play up male stereotypes (I’m sure someone, somewhere, found these funny?).

Presumably, it’s all to do with status-based comedy (something I’m very familiar with from my improv days), in which (high-status) men ‘degrade’ themselves by becoming (low-status) women. What man in his right mind would want to do a thing like that? See – weirdo, right?

I can’t say I’ve ever really subscribed to the idea that women are ‘low-status’; I grew up in Britain in the 1980s when the head of state and head of government -the two most powerful people in the land – were both women. All but one of my bosses at various workplaces have been women.

It’s a matter of personal taste, of course. I enjoy cross-dressing in films or other shows when it creates humorous (or dramatic) situations – for me, Some Like It Hot will always be entertaining – but not when I’m expected to shriek with delight simply because [famous actor] is wearing a skirt [insert multiple exclamation marks]. Pantomime dames never entertained me, even when I was a kid.

When I cross-dress, I don’t do it to be sexy, or for comic effect (I’ll crack jokes whilst cross-dressed for comic effect, though). I don’t see cross-dressing as degrading or humiliating (and if anyone does, that’s their problem, not mine). I’m aware that it’s very much an activity for a minority, but I don’t think it’s weird. I just do it because I think I might look good and I’ll feel good; that’s all.

I think my favourite cross-dressing character is Lord Flashheart in Blackadder. I first saw him when I was nine years old, staying up late to watch a piss-funny comedy show that my parents were wondering if they should be allowing me to see at such a young age. In Rik Mayall’s show-stealing portrayal, Flashheart is a sexy, red-blooded, bride-stealing buccaneer; the centre of attention and greeted by loud cheers wherever he goes. And he also feels more comfy in a dress. But that’s just something he adds at the end: