The first thing that is important about cross-dressing is that even though we as a society may include cross-dressing under the transgender “umbrella,” many individuals who practice – what we would classify as cross-dressing – or consider themselves cross-dressers do not identify as transgender (Beemyn and Rankin). There are also individuals who identify as cross-dressers and transgender, but that is up to that individual to determine (The Chameleon Society). It is essential that we remember that how we interpret one’s identity and expression is not necessarily the same as how that person identifies. We must remember that regardless of one’s actions, expression, or anything else – we must respect how people identify and not challenge their identities.
For the purposes of Beemyn and Rankin’s study on those who fall under the transgender umbrella, only female-presenting cross-dressers were studied in depth simply because of the lack of participants who identified as male-presenting cross-dressers (Beemyn and Rankin). Although there may be many people who identify as women and wear clothes that we would consider to be “men’s,” these individuals may not identify as cross-dressers simply because women wearing “men’s” clothing is more normalized than men wearing “women’s” clothing in our society (Jamie Ann). Given that cross-dressing is so focused on clothing, the common milestones involved in this identity are understandably different than those of a MTF identity (Beemyn and Rankin). Beemyn and Rankin list the following as the typical milestones that suggest shared experiences for those who identify as cross-dressers:
- Attraction to “women’s” clothes and cross-dressing from a young age (Beemyn and Rankin 138)
- Buying or obtaining one’s own “women’s” clothing (Beemyn and Rankin 138)
- Repressing the desire to cross-dress and purging clothing because of shame (Beemyn and Rankin 139)
- Learning about and meeting other cross-dressers (Beemyn and Rankin 140)
- Overcoming shame to accept oneself as a cross-dresser (Beemyn and Rankin 140)
- Cross-dressing in public for the first time and adopting a feminine name (Beemyn and Rankin 141)
- Whether and when to tell others, and developing new relationships after disclosure (Beemyn and Rankin 142)
- Arriving at a comfortable place with cross-dressing (Beemyn and Rankin 145)
Again, the idea of male privilege when discussing cross-dressing identities often comes up as many cross-dressers identify as male in certain spaces. Much like with MTF identifying individuals, female-presenting cross-dressers are sometimes thought by members of our society to have male privilege. Again, this goes back to the idea of wondering why someone would ever want to get rid of their privilege and “lower” themselves to present as a woman. Again, these discussions are happing in all sorts of online spaces. Even discussion on cross-dressing specific boards that are not specifically about topics of male privilege reveal them in more subtle ways (Crossdressers).
It is also important to note that the top five Google results for “cross-dressing” consist of a Wikipedia entry, a photo gallery, two online stores specifically for cross-dressers, and cross-dressing related news. This just goes to show the heavy influence the Internet is having on the availability of resources for individuals who identify as cross-dressers as opposed to just the uncensored discussions that are often not informed (Sandeen).
Beemyn, Genny & Rankin, Susan. The Lives of Transgender People. New York: Columbia University Press, 2011. Print.
The Chameleon Society. Crossdressing Info. Accessed on April 18th, 2012. Web. 20 April 2012. <http://www.chameleonswa.com/info.html>.
Crossdressers. Presenting as a Woman. 2010. Web. 20 April 2012. <http://www.crossdressers.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-127057.html>.
Jamie Ann. Crossdressing: He’s a Lady! 2012. Web. 20 April 2012. <http://toselfbetrue.com/transgender/index.html>.
Sandeen, Del. Cross Dressing Interview. Love to Know: Men’s Fashion. 2012. Web. 20 April 2012. <http://mens-fashion.lovetoknow.com/Cross_Dressing_Clothes>.