WHAT IS CROSSDRESSING?
Cross-dressing is the act of wearing clothes that traditionally are worn by a different gender to your own. For example, a man wearing women’s clothes or vice versa. Cross-dressing has long been used within theatre productions as costumes, throughout history as a form of disguise, and also as a means of self-expression, though it has also become a sexual fetish to be enjoyed.
Despite people commonly misinterpreting cross-dressers as being transgender on online chat forums, enjoying wearing clothes typically associated with a different gender does not necessarily translate to entirely wanting to become or express yourself as a different gender. Many people who cross-dress are therefore not transgender, and instead, simply enjoy wearing clothes of a different gender. Oftentimes, cross-dressers enjoy expressing themselves as feminine for a short period of time, such as a few hours or an evening at a time, and still consider themselves male and enjoy being male despite enjoying sometimes becoming a more feminine version of themselves. Transgender people, however, experience gender dysphoria and feel entirely uncomfortable when dressed or acting as the gender they were assigned at birth. Their experience of femininity goes much further than mere visuals and includes everything within their personality and identity, whereas cross-dressers may enjoy playing around with personality and identity, but are ultimately more interested in visuals and aesthetics.
WHY DO PEOPLE CROSS-DRESS?
Cross-dressing as a means of enjoying a sexual fetish, was initially seen as an act that only men could perform, thereby wearing women’s clothes. However, this has now been understood to be wrong, with women often wearing men’s clothes too for means of sexual arousal. The clothing that cross-dressers wear for sexual pleasure doesn’t necessarily have to mean full outfits that women would wear on a typical day. Instead, some men enjoy wearing nightwear, such as nightgowns, slips and pyjamas, others enjoy underwear such as socks, tights, lingerie, and stockings, whereas others might enjoy full outfits such as dresses and high-heels. In particular, the most popular fabrics and materials for cross-dressing tend to be those of silk, satin and lace, partly due to the silkiness of the fabric but also due to their ultra-feminine connotations. Such fabrics are not only very rarely worn by men and found within male fashion day-to-day, but have also been affiliated with women throughout the centuries, even back to ballgowns and royal dresses. It is common that when cross-dressing, individuals will take pictures of themselves while posing erotically or while pretending to be an individual of the opposite sex, potentially to then remember the moment or the specific look they’re enjoying but also specifically to look back on themselves voyeuristically.
Many people who cross-dress, primarily men, enjoy cross-dressing not just for the clothes but because they enjoy temporarily becoming a more feminised version of themselves. This is often typical for men who work very masculine jobs, whether labour-intensive or in an office where there is an expectation of wearing suits and behaving in a certain way. Therefore, coming home and wearing feminine clothes and becoming their more feminine selves can help break them away from their normal life and routine and can be a form of escapism.
It is common for those who cross-dress to also enjoy being a submissive within a D/S relationship. Oftentimes, dressing as a girl or a woman helps with the act of submission both for themselves and their doms, and becomes another way to obey their doms. Oftentimes, those who cross-dress, especially submissive, find that within a dominant/submissive relationship is the safest place to practice cross-dressing without fear of being ostracised within public society. It can be a way to have their fetish encouraged and catered for, and embracing the personality, traits or behavioural elements of the women they see around them helps to and to their own identity, whether in the everyday or as their submissive self. BDSM is all about pushing each other and taking on and enjoying taboos, and therefore it is the perfect space for many to share their fetishes without fear of the social repercussions that it can be associated with, such as mocking, bullying or even violence.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DRAG AND CROSS-DRESSING?
Crossdressing is a blanket term that can be used when talking about dressing as a different gender. It is often a personal decision so a person can feel good in their own skin on a day to day basis. While crossdressing can be done by any gender, those who dress in Drag are most often men wearing the outfit of a woman.
There is also a performative aspect to Drag, the look is not designed to blend but rather stand out as a Queen! Drag Queens often perform on stage as an over the top often flamboyant character with exaggerated features and makeup. The most popular Drag Queen of all time is RuPaul. RuPaul rose to prominence performing cabaret and eventually earned her own television show. While Drag is most often associated with the Gay community there are a fair number of men who identify as straight who love to perform in Drag.
HISTORY OF CROSS-DRESSING?
Cross-dressing has existed for far longer than humans may expect, as evidence has been seen going back even so far as to be recorded within the Hebrew Bible, though we can also see examples within mythology from all around the world, including Hindu, Greek and Norse mythology. It has also been seen within literature, folklore, and, as already briefly mentioned, theatre. It was common during Shakespearean times for male actors (typically boy actors who were younger than the male leads) to dress up as women for their shows, portraying female characters due to the fact that women weren’t allowed to act. While this would often be used for a means of comedy (in much the same way that we continue to find men dressing up as women in the role of the “dame” in pantomime as funny), it was also utilised for the tragedies as an entirely serious means of enjoying and presenting the arts.
Throughout history, we’ve also heard many stories of cross-dressing for a means of disguise, though often in the form of women dressing up as men to be able to participate socially in the world as they pleased. One such famous example is of Mulan, a legendary folk hero who conscripted in war while dressed as a man in order to take her elderly father’s place in the army. Her story has survived centuries and has even been made into several highly popular films enjoyed by all manner of generations despite having been made for the enjoyment of young children.
Throughout history, in every single human society or community, there have been strict expectations about what is deemed “normal” for individuals to wear based on their gender – often relating to the length of pieces, the style and the colour. These expectations are often only societal guidelines or expectations, but they have often, particularly throughout history, been subject to law, and therefore breaking through these expectations would often have been a criminal act. This, therefore, feeds into the popular enjoyment of breaking taboos within BDSM and also the general public too.
Many people cross-dress not so much because it breaks taboos but because they find a sense of comfort in the clothing of those of the opposite gender, simply preferring the aesthetics and style of the fashion of the opposite sex, as seen on chat forums.
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