Saturday, 13 October 2012

Women who Crossdress

Here is an interesting topic: women who crossdress into the male role. When I first started this post, I thought I would only have a few things to write; the trouble now is what to leave out!

Women have been crossdressing as men for centuries. I suppose one of the most famous and best-known is Joan of Arc, who dressed as a knight in full armour while pursuing a successful career as a military genius for the French against the English, before being captured and burned at the stake at the age of just 19. Her career didn't end there, and she has managed to do quite well as a saint and martyr, and heroine of the French.

Fast-forward a few centuries, James Barry managed a very successful career as a surgeon and a soldier in the British Army in the early 19th Century. He was revealed to be a woman only at autopsy. In the following century, a certain "Colonel" Victor Barker managed to have a successful life as a man, despite having been born a woman, including a marriage where his wife never suspected. Some aspects of his life were fabricated by him, including his military rank and career. Barker died in 1960.


Manly: Annemarie Schwarzenbach
A series of similar individuals is described in Chapter 3 of Vested Interests, Prof. Marjorie Garber's scholarly study of "cross-dressing and cultural anxiety". This is a weighty and impressive book, beautifully researched, and undoubtedly the subject of a future blog post (I am indebted to Garber's book for drawing my attention to other figures, such as Lord Cornbury, whom I discuss in another blog post). Garber mentions other colourful characters, including the Reverend Joseph Lobdell, and Dr. Eugene C. Perkins, who lived as men and were discovered only upon death to have been anatomically female. Swiss author Annemarie Schwartzenbach (d. 1942) often dressed and acted as a man and was reportedly bisexual.

Most recently, there is the case of jazz musician Billy Tipton. Garber's book describes him in detail, but there is quite a lot also on Wikipedia. Tipton was married to a woman, and adopted three sons. Ostensibly, Tipton adopted a male role to pursue a successful jazz career, but this fails to explain why he felt he had to carry this role into his personal life. Like Barker before him, Tipton told his wife he had been wounded in the abdomen, which explained why he had to wear bandages (to bind his breasts), and why he could not achieve penetration. Tipton died as late as 1989, making him perhaps the most recent and notable among people born anatomically female who have lived as a man, and as a result, his story was widely reported in the media.

I can't go any further without mentioning that most women can crossdress freely. If a woman wears jeans, trainers and a shirt, nobody minds. But if I want to wear (say) a denim skirt and a pair of tights? That's not going to look good at the school parents' evening. I think that may be one reason why female crossdressers appear to be fewer: if there is any sort of excitement to be had by wearing male clothing, it can be achieved very easily and without any societal condemnation.

All The King's Men, a drag king troupe from Boston
In the popular media, Annie Lennox has seemingly pursued a deliberately androgynous appearance throughout her career. And the movie Yentl (1983) features Barba Streisand as a Jewish girl who is prevented from studying scripture until she adopts the name and role of a boy. According to Wikipedia, there is quite a large drag king culture, where performers born female perform as men; and why not? This probably goes back even earlier than Vesta Tilley, a popular male impersonator from the early 20th century.

I think what unites these stories (performers aside) is a sense that each of the individuals was attempting to escape from the fetters imposed by society's expectations of them as women: that they couldn't succeed as women. In the (Western) world we now live in, full of notable female heads of state, celebrities and scientists, you might think that there would be nothing that a talented, accomplished woman couldn't now achieve, but you would still be wrong. A woman I have tremendous admiration for is J.K. Rowling. Why do we know her as J.K. Rowling and not Joanne Rowling? Because her publisher reckoned that mostly boys would read her books, and might be put off if they thought the author was a woman. So they recommended the initials. Rowling has no legal middle name, so she chose Kathleen, the name of her grandmother, for her middle initial. (I can't help recalling George Eliot, who deliberately adopted a male pen name, because she felt she would not be taken seriously as a writer if she used her real name).

Androgynous: Sigourney Weaver
So far, then, each of these individuals has seemed to adopt not just the clothing of men, but the role of men. Each of them seems to have changed role not for personal satisfaction, let alone sexual gratification, but for social reasons, although it's impossible not to wonder if they also derived some personal gratification from what they were doing. In Shakesperean times, women were not allowed on stage, so all the roles were played by men (it's interesting to consider Ophelia, Portia, and even Juliet as being played by men in the first instance!) I can't help thinking that the men who took these roles were doing it for more reasons than just the salary.

But what about the clothes? What about the sensual appeal of freshly-laundered cotton Y-fronts, a pair of polished leather brogues, a crisp white Italian shirt and a silk tie in a double Windsor knot (tied just a little tight? Ooo!). If this makes you smile at the deliberate absurdity, I hope this gives an inkling of how we crossdressers are perceived by "ordinary" people.

Some scholars (such as Ray Blanchard) have denied the existence of female-to-male crossdressers at all. And I am fairly sure scholars agree that there are fewer of them than there are male-to-female. But they are out there, and I dare say they number in their many thousands too. It's interesting to tease out their motivations: for me at least, crossdressing is only partly about the clothes, and a lot to do with roles, expectations, and emotional expression.

Here is EmTheo, writing on the website Daily Strengths:
Is there a term for us? Is there anyone out there like me? I've been cross dressing for about five years, but have never talked about it with anyone except my h [husband] (and a little bit with my therapist). It seems like my h loves it ("it" being me going out as boy, packing, cross dressing, anal sex on him, etc) as much or more than me. The store where I buy my pack and other items is very lesbian oriented. I feel like a small minority of women who shop there. Basically, I feel like a small minority of women in general... I would love to connect with another woman who is in a committed relationship with a man who does this. Maybe it is more common than I think...?
Aha! I want to say. It didn't take much clicking for me to happen on this website, where Briana asks "what makes a woman who crossdresses as a male feel sexy wearing?" The responses are absolutely fascinating. Areyan writes:
i have not progressed to full crossdressing yet (due to circumstances, not desire lol) but i have been wearing items of menswear every day. i am not sure i feel sexy so much as relieved when i put these clothes on. when i think of myself in every sense as the male i feel i am inside i can feel euphoric about it, calm, relaxed and i even feel - beautiful? maybe that's the wrong word, but it's a loving and positive feeling just feeling like myself. i'm not sure the dressing thing would be sexual for me though. good question.
lol, ok... after purchasing my first binder and wearing that with my menswear... yes, do i feel sexy? masculine? handsome? i'm going to have to say yes, having a flat chest does help with that feeling.
And Seamus writes:
Okay, firsties, like the other guys defined, sexy in this context means feeling comfortable and attractive in my own skin. Lemme see. . . I remember really enjoying the feeling of underwear when I first started wearing it (still do). Also, I love the way cargo pants hang off my frame. I almost never wear any other kind of pants. Brown leather gloves (in winter, lol). Men's sneakers, particularly anything brown. I don't really like formal wear, but it certainly helps me to pass better. And I have to say, there's nothing that feels quite like a a great cotton or flannel shirt.
This is all a bit like looking in some distorted mirror! The descriptions of how crossdressing makes these people feel is very close to how I would describe it for myself ("relieved", "relaxed", "beautiful?", "comfortable and attractive in my own skin"). On the other hand, the descriptions of clothing given in these and other replies are very interesting. Brown leather gloves? I've never worn a pair! And even if I owned a pair, I would not attribute anything particularly masculine to them: my gloves would say nothing about my sense of myself as a man. It's really fascinating to read. I can't help thinking: these people are just like me!

There may be fewer women who crossdress for pleasure, but the ones who do seem to do it for exactly the same reasons I do. I've never met such a person (to my knowledge!), but I think it would be a very interesting conversation!

So if you are a woman who crossdresses, please post your insights here!

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Addendum 30th October 2012

I came across this interesting blog post about Joan of Arc on the Jesus in Love Blog maintained by lesbian cleric Kittredge Cherry.

Hirsute: St Wilgefortis
From it I also learned about the obscure St. Wilgefortis, also described on Wikipedia, a saint whose iconography depicts her as a crucified, bearded woman, often with one shoe missing. There are several explanations for this unusual figure. Firstly and perhaps most reasonably, she may simply have been an intersex person (see my later post for the relationship between sex and gender to save myself repeating stuff). However, a good competing theory is that some statues of Jesus on the cross were created wearing a robe instead of a loincloth, and the story of a bearded woman saint was cooked up as a means of explaining this away. Actual details of her life are so sketchy that legends have grown to fill the gaps, including the fact that she prayed to God to be delivered from an impending unhappy marriage-- and promptly grew a beard!

31 comments:

  1. Hello, yes, I guess I sort of cross-dress as a bloke and have been doing so for years. Not all the time - it's still nice on a very hot day to put on a loose long skirt (no leg showing mind you), but it all started so gradually and naturally. I'm quite androgynous, mentally and physically, and the sex-role stereotyping so rampant in our society quite honestly gets right on my pip. The dress codes 'assigned' to men and women by many to support this seem so arbitrary and yet so offensive in support of the bigoted and divisive 'roles' and discrimination that's still so often rampant, if subtle, out there, that anything we can do to undermine it 'rocks', if you ask me! Plus women's clothes are so often much less well made and so skimpy on material! And bras are the least comfy article of clothing I've ever come across! I've never worn one since I first thought I 'should' try one out in my very early teenage years. I very quickly learnt how stupid that was. Luckily, although fairly broad around the chest, my cup size is nothing to be envied by those who'd like boobs. Boxer shorts are nice and loose, and keep thrush as a word only used as a name for certain winged friends. I never wear anything else on the undies front. Men's trousers are often hardier, better looking and cheaper than women's. Shirts the same, and often much smarter than silly little blouses. Jackets too. I'm not too keen on ties - too tight round the neck, and that whole thing of the conventional look is a little fishy, but a leather one on the odd occasion may be permitted. So many clothes are appropriate for both sexes - vest tops, t shirts, shorts - and the men's versions are so often better made and sturdier. I do buy women's clothes if there's something I fancy - there's no hard and fast rule, but I just so often don't. I often buy men's boots too - for all the same reasons. I don't know how many people notice. My closest friends all seem to take it for granted, and I don't think anyone else has ever commented. I think it's probably very easy to get away with this sort of 'cross-dressing' when you a bit of a scruffy woman like me. I've got short hair, don't wear make-up, but I'm not trying to 'pass' as a man - no additions of facial hair or anything like that. I have been called 'sir' on a few occasions though! (Hmmm, never 'son'...)

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    1. Hi Annie,

      Thanks very much for posting. Your points are very interesting. As mentioned above, women can buy and wear men's clothing whenever they want, and it can look attractive and feminine! Why doesn't this work the other way around?? (It sounds like you have found a comfortable "best of both worlds").

      It's a little off-topic, but I have often wondered the same about smoking. How can the same activity be considered alluring (read "feminine") for women and macho (read "masculine") for men? I accept there are differences in the techniques, postures and body language used, but is that all there is to it?

      Is it rude of me to ask you about your sexuality? No need to respond unless you want to.

      Vivienne.

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    2. I came across this article ,and found it extremely amusing , I don't think my boxer shorts will ever dry !and no I don't wear my women's boxer shorts for a sexual thrill , or my baseball cap either, when I was growing up as a Tomboy that wasnt for a sexual thrill either !

      I am quite surprised as a lesbian someone could infer , a lesbian wearing suits shirts ties ,or even boxer shorts , was doing so for sexual purposes ?

      Yes some lesbians do find Stone Butches attractive , and many lesbians will drag up at Drag King events , but you have missed the point , we do this to point out how pathetic stereotypical men are ! To make fun of them !I feel sure , female to male Transgenders ? only do so to be normal

      Like Drag acts Parody women in oversized wigs , and camp behaviour to make fun of them !

      The difference between a man who gets sexually exited at the thought of slipping on a pair of frilly knickers and stockings ,inst the same , as a lesbian in a suit ! only a crazy man could draw that parallel ?

      I have been in enough gay clubs and seen many Transvestites with an erection whilst dressed up , I have also seen enough Transvestites mistakenly thinking lesbians are turned on by ,”his “, dressing up !

      There's enough Lippy Lesbians about to satisfy that thanks , but who know there may be a few Bi-Sexual or Pansexual women out there who may go for what it is you have to offer ?

      So you all have to understand most Transvestites , are only tolerated on the gay scene by Lesbians in mixed clubs , you aren't welcome in Women only bars , don't make advances on a lesbian in a suit she inst the opposite of you !
      She inst turned on by you !
      I cant speak for any Transsexuals as I don't know any

      And as was quoted by someone who should know on Loose women , stay out of the Ladies loos !
      apart from that , enjoy whatever it is you do ?

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    3. Thanks very much for dropping by to post your comments. I have certainly heard elsewhere that crossdressers are tolerated, rather than welcomed, in the gay scene. I don't think anyone I know would consider that a lesbian in a suit would be the "opposite" of a man in a dress.

      Vivienne.

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  2. Grok again. Their are comments about this topic, Fashion Freestyler blog under "social standards." (One question comes to mind-could certain women have an affinity for CD males?)

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    1. Truthfully, I think not. I think women are educated and habituated to want masculinity in a partner, not femininity. I think that the women who love crossdressers fall into three groups: those who found out after the relationship was solid, and managed to hang on; those who have had it with "traditional" men and are actively seeking a polar opposite; and those very rare women who are completely open-minded about it and don't mind it a bit.

      I think women who seek crossdressers are exceptionally uncommon. On the other hand, I think women can learn that a crossdressing partner can still have a lot to offer a relationship, provided they are willing to listen.

      Vivienne.

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    2. Hi Vivienne - i guess i am one of those exceptionally uncommon women as i like and get turned on by male partners who i can persuade to crossdress - quite a few actually, although only 2 of them were/are bisexual and none of them regular crossdressers. I am however bisexual so i guess that's where it comes from although i like my women in both feminine and male attire but not into butch. I think it's the fluidity, androgynous thing that turns me on. Funnily enough most people see me as very feminine although i feel androgynous and like men's style clothes, I'm just as happy to dress 'womanly :)

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    3. Hi Annabella. Thanks for posting your answer; it's always nice when exceptionally uncommon people drop by to post their thoughts!

      I am sure you would have a very long queue of people interested in taking advantage of your attractions.

      In your case, from your answer, it seems to be a sexual arousal thing. How would it be if you had a partner who was biologically male but wanted to dress as a woman 24/7. Could that work for you?

      Vivienne.

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    4. Annabella: I was led here by Google in a search for a woman just like yourself, I wasn't even sure if it existed! I like to crossdress and act feminine, but when I'm not I am your typical guy, my ideal relationship would be with a woman that is the exact opposite so we could switch between roles at any time. It has been so hard trying to track down any information in the subject as like previously mentioned, it is very uncommon. I guess the best way to explain it is like multiple personalities without them being actually separated, just one is a man and one is a woman, but they are both me, if that makes sense. Like when I am male, I could not tell you Te difference in attractiveness between a group of men, but when my brain flicks back the other way I could just as easily as rating females when I am a male. Finding this blog has inspired me to continue my research into it as I had almost given up and started regarding myself as an anomaly, so thank you!

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  3. I have my doubts that women get sexually aroused by dressing as men–though I could be wrong. But women and their clothing are so sexualized that they almost stand for sex. So it makes sense that putting on women's clothing could easily be arousing. Men's clothing– and men–aren't really sexualized. (Drab is more like it) They don't have that same symbolic sexual power. Maybe a few women could get aroused for idiosyncratic reasons, but the symbolism is much less strong because the culture isn't creating it and supporting it.

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    1. I agree that women's clothing, bodies, cosmetics and other accoutrements are sexualised in our culture, much more so than men's. On the other hand, the commentators in my above post do suggest that a number of women do achieve some degree of satisfaction from wearing men's clothes which looks extremely similar to the satisfaction I achieve from wearing women's clothes.

      I think the symbolism of men's clothing is different. I just realised (without having consciously chosen this) that all of the photos in my above article are of women wearing a suit and tie. I think that says something about the symbolism of the suit and tie. Not sex, but power? Authority? (Why not greasy overalls or combat gear or fishing vests, or other "masculine" garments?) That says to me that the suit has something extra (over just masculinity) which those garments lack.

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  4. Hi. Frances here(that's the female form of the name, my assigned name) and actually, I am a condenser who gets sexual pleasure from dressing as a man. That's not all, but that's part of it. Also, it feels more comfortable, and just right for me.
    But, just today I picked my children up in male clothes, and yes, it went without a second glance. Normal. But that's ok with me.
    I dint own a suit, though I wish I did. I Stahl most of my purified from my husband. I'm so lucky we're close I size.

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    1. Hi Frances,

      Looks like you've been a victim of the automatic spellchecker!

      I think, overall, it's much more acceptable for women to wear men's clothing publicly than the other way around.

      I would be very interested to hear more about you, if you would be willing to say a little more about yourself.

      Best wishes,

      Vivienne.

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    2. Its very difficult and not at the same time im a 32 m I personally hide it under regular clothing for example I just came home from shopping with mens jeans mesns t-shirt mans sweater and mens jacket I however underneath us a different story altogether with ny pink panties black guarter belt fishnet stockings black soon to be pink hopefully and pink little pink with flowers push up was hoping nearby thrift store was open but it was not:( would it look suspicious at xmas for a man to go to a retail store and purchase lingerei? I wonder?

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  5. Hello there, my name is Katt..I came across this post tonight while Googling "is there such thing as a female crossdresser?".
    I'm a 28 year old married mother of four.
    Since I was around 6 years old or so I've often dressed as a boy and in my head always felt like a man? Its strange and hard for me to explain.. when I was a teen I thought I was Bisexual and tried it out..it didn't quite work for me, I'm not sexually attracted to woman and I find myself grossed out by my own female body. Crossdressing has never been a sexual thing for me, when I put on my trousers and a button down tee I feel comfortable, I feel like me. I enjoy baggy cargos to pleated dress pants and I go back n' forth. I am a crossdressing woman who likes men.

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    1. Hi Katt. Thanks very much for posting your comments. This is exactly the sort of conversation I was hoping for when I wrote this post.

      It certainly seems as if sexuality and gender are not the same, although it's understandable that we might expect them to be. I like to dress as a woman but I have never been attracted to men.

      How do you feel about your identity as a mother? I ask because you mention being a mother. Is being a mother a different thing from being a woman?

      And how does your partner feel about the way you dress?

      Vivienne

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    2. Hello, Vivienne.
      It's most certainly a strange situation, I have 3 daughters 9, 7, and 3, and 1 son who is 2. I am maternal by nature and really enjoyed the experience of my natural home births. I find myself showing both feminine and masculine sides to my parenting. My children (especially my oldest) embrace and sort of get a kick out of having "two dads" at times. When I started coming out to my partner before we were married he was surprised, but supportive.
      I feel as there can be a difference from mother to woman, depending on how each individual embraces it, I often feel "motherly" towards my children as does my husband,. I guess it is difficult to give a definition between the two due to the fact that when one thinks of mother we think woman because it is woman's body that give life, So I have a difficult time explaining what exactly it is for me...

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    3. Many thanks Katt. That's a fascinating perspective.

      It's clear you have masculine tendencies; I wonder whether you think there is something feminine about your husband? I ask because Helen Boyd (whom I idolise) commented that when her partner came out, she realised that she had some masculine tendencies of her own, and was attracted to men with feminine tendencies. This may not be true of you, of course, but you do say your husband can also be "motherly".

      Vivienne.

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    4. Vivienne, that is interesting ...I do agree that my husband does have some feminine qualities. Not by appearance though, he is very masculine, and wears a suit very well. At home though he is very much like a housewife at times, he cooks dinner nightly (often with a toddler on his hip), and spends his days off cleaning house, he also enjoys love story sort of movies like Shakespeare in love and the notebook. So, I suppose it could be the feminine side to his personality that attracted me to him along with his masculine appearance. I never put too much thought into that, but now I do think it could be a valid conclusion ..

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  6. Crossdressing for me is a little different, being gender fuild I tend to feel comfortable in both male and female clothing. When I feel feminine... there is a certain sexual appeal to dressing in men's clothing and going around town in those garments, particularly if I'm wearing boxers or a a pair of briefs along with some heels. Then, you have the sensation of finally being in your own skin. Where you feel attractive, relaxed and comfortable. I experiment both things, the sensual factor of dressing in men's clothes and acting as such along with the nonsexual emotions of comfort and 'fitting in' to my state of mind. My sexuallity also helps blur and confuses things further for me, being bisexual and gender fluid make crossdressing all the more fun and comforting for me.

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    1. Sorry to keep you waiting for a reply. I appreciate you posting your thoughts.

      I find it fascinating that you say you wear men's clothing when you feel feminine. Though I can completely relate to your comment about the sensual pleasure along with the sense of comfort and fitting in.

      For me I wear manly clothes when I feel manly, and feminine clothes when I feel feminine. Could you elaborate on that just a bit? (And please sign your post with some sort of name to distinguish yourself from the other anonymous posters).

      Vivienne.

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  7. Hi, Vivienne. You've got a very nice site here.

    First of all, let me say this. I do not believe in transgenderism.

    So, if some XY goes around proclaiming to be a woman, I'm not buying it.

    So, cross dressing as an expression of gender just sounds like a lot of baloney to me. To me, Caitlyn Jenner is still a man. Through and through.

    Now that being said, I am a woman who cross dresses.

    Everyday? Not really. Do I bind my breasts and cut my hair. No. But I have. And I could.

    I think you hit the nail on the head in saying that women cross-dress not for pleasure but for societal reasons. Or maybe it's just me?

    I had a boyfriend and as it were, I took over his underwear drawers and stole all his wonderful cotton boxers. We were both very much heterosexual, but I just loved his boxers and wore everyday. I offered him my own (female) underwear to trade, but he refused lol.

    Growing up I often fantasized about designing the perfect "suit," one that looked just like a man's but made to be worn by a woman. I was consumed by shoulder pads (yea or nay?) and oxford heel height. I'd cut my hair for the first time by then, crew cut, and I did wear a tie to meetings and interviews. I was a teenager/early twenties.

    Eventually, I stopped all that and started dressing very girly again.

    But really, I have found I am most comfortable in men's clothing. Perhaps not head to toe, but I cross-dress piecemeal consistently, and it doesn't garner a big reaction at all.

    Some of the main things I really appreciate in "men's clothes" (is it really mens clothes? I think it must be women's clothes, since I'm a woman and I'm wearing it!):

    More durable
    Easy to wash in laundry machine (no more ruined lace or wool cardigans)
    Keeps me warmer (I get cold very easily)
    Mens socks are HIGHLY superior (My feet also get very cold, even in summers!)
    Mens underwear is more comfortable and breathable
    Pockets

    Also, moving on from just how very nice and practical men's clothes are. I feel very much more comfortable, in a sociological sense. The men who pass by me do notice, and often look somewhat uncomfortable by my dress. Women too in fact! Everyone is slightly uncomfortable with me. But I am so very comfortable.

    If I'm wearing my dad's polo and khakis, I look very silly indeed. But I also look very unsexy. You're gonna have to knife my belt off and swim through layer after layer of finely milled cotton to get to the goods. You know? And even then, would you even want to? I think that has got to be pretty unappetizing for a lot of men. And that's a liberating thing, for anyone.

    I love long sleeves. One of my major quibbles is covering my clavicle. It's the junction of your collarbones. If you wear a tie, it's covered.

    One of my most distressing issues before cross dressing wholesale is that my clavicle was constantly exposed. Anyone who wears womens clothes (and even young men who wear V-necks) will know.

    It doesn't seem to bother others, but to me it violated the principle of equality. Men are allowed to cover their clavicles everyday, so why can't I? I was outraged. For a long time I only wore turtlenecks, even in summer.

    Now, I am much less rigid but I still always wear a under T-shirt with a close fitting neck.

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    1. Hi Jay. Thanks for posting your comments.

      The second point you make (if I distil it down) seems to be that you enjoy men's clothing because of how it looks and because of how it makes you feel, and concur completely from my side.

      Your first part is much more challenging though. I agree that simply insisting one is a woman isn't enough to become a woman (and for the record, I don't insist I am a woman). However, if one has surgery, hormones, lives full-time in the role of a woman, looks and dresses like a woman, why would you not call that person a woman? I put it to you that you may even have met some transwomen without knowing. Would you really go up to them and say: "I wasn't able to tell you were a trans woman, but I regard you as a man through and through"?

      I guess what I am asking is: what criteria draw the line for you between "male" and "female"?

      Vivienne.

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  8. This post helped me a lot in that it echoes the feelings I have when I cross dress but from the conext of cis women who do so. The things they admire in the clothing (sturdiness, cut, style) as compared to what I love about feminine clothing (style, texture, colors, etc.). It helps me to read how they love things like boxers (really?) probably engenders similar thoughts when they read about people like me enjoying panties.

    But more importantly at least for me are the descriptions of how it feels to wear those clothes. There is no single word. It just feels good, even for a short time. Reading about it from their perspective kind of validates the feelings I have. I'd like to read much more about this.

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    1. Thanks Emma. Some of the other comments left above have been very interesting. You're right that it would be great to hear more stories and perspectives on this issue.

      Vivienne.

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  9. G'day...I am androgynous and a tomboy, I am also bi. I work in a mine so have to wear mens clothes. I often cross dress at home and in public, and I'm involved with local theatre in which I play male and female roles (people just give me male roles for some reason). I also go between male and female haircuts, have a deep voice for a female, and an androgynous name. I'm single but my friends, workmates and family don't seem to mind and people comment that I'm a tomboy or they thought I was male at some stage but, or even ask me if I'm gay, but it's never in a negative way. I dunno, maybe people just accept that I'm a manly woman? I live in rural Australia so this surprises me. Also, I find dressing as a male much more sexually gratifying that dressing female, mainly because I like to be dominant/aggressive, although in every other facet of life I'm extremely quiet. I even used to wear a suit regularly when I was about 16-18 and no one ever said a thing (except for a teacher who once said when we had to dress up for something 'oh you don't need to worry, you wear a suit anyway').

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    1. Kia ora from across the ditch in NZ!

      One of the themes of this blog is gender ranking, which is that society considers it praiseworthy for women to aspire to be more like men, while it is the opposite for men who aspire to be more like women. Therefore tomboys are celebrated and often encouraged, while the word "sissy" or similar equivalent is considered an insult.

      I suppose the caricature of Australia is that it's very gender-polarised ("Bruce" and "Sheila" archetypes are common). The truth is probably much more nuanced than that, although, like all caricatures, there is more than a grain of truth in it, I suspect. So it doesn't surprise me that a masculine woman would be tolerated and welcomed in a country where masculine stereotypes are celebrated.

      I am very interested about what sort of partner you would choose. Would that be a man or a woman? And would it be someone uber-strong, more dominant than you? Or someone more passive, over whom you could exert your dominance? Or maybe an equal?

      Best wishes,

      Vivienne.

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    2. Hello! I have never understood why men who are feminine are pegged as sissy at all, I think it is incredibly brave and they probably understand themselves better than the real blokey men. I see nothing wrong with men who want to be feminine or more like a woman but there is certainly hostility towards it here in Australia I have noticed. I could quite easily do metalwork and woodwork at school whereas my male friend had a hard time doing cooking, and guys who wanted to play netball instead of football...well. It's actually quite sad. There is a guy at work who is openly gay and he seems to get along ok, I have so much admiration for him it's crazy. On the other hand he's very quiet, and I have the feeling that if he was loud and proud he would be in a lot of trouble.

      Another thing is that I can go to a pub and drink beer, my prefered drink, and people either don't care or think it's cool (e.g. I went to a 70s party at a local pub in this ugly, totally ridiculous costume, and got hit on from someone because I was 'a girl drinking beer') but a male friend of mine drinks vodka and orange and gets called 'a poof.' It's shocking.

      Another thing I remember is that my brother, who's completely straight, works in a bar and likes to have neat and clean nails. Once someone commented that he was gay due to his manicured nails because they looked 'girly' and he was really upset. He told me this story and asked me, being female, if it was ok for a guy to have nice nails...how bad is it if a guy can't have manicured nails??

      Well the partner thing is a problem, which is why I'm currently single. I'm attracted to the very powerful and masculine, and the very effeminate, they can be male or female. I like to feel powerful and in control....but if someone can make me lose this control then it's a good feeling too. Of course, someone completely equal is nice because then you can have moments of both. I have had all three types.

      I love your blog, keep it up, and keep being you.

      Adrienne/Adrian

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    3. Hi Adrienne/Adrian. Thanks for your reply, and sorry for the delay.

      You've touched on a lot of areas which I would sort of expect in Australia. Gay men are tolerated, provided they don't rub anyone's face in it. Straight men are expected to act and look straight (which means no neat nails, and no drinking poofy vodka and orange!).

      Your insights about your preferred partner is very interesting.

      Do you prefer to be called Adrienne or Adrian? I mean at work, or socially?

      Glad you like the blog. I intend to keep it up!

      Vivienne.

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    4. No worries Vivienne, I am even slower at replying to you!

      Both names are pronounced the same, at least in my accent they are. I'm female so it's spelled the female way but I like both. I use the male one often when I'm writing, or online, basically anywhere where I don't have to do something in person.

      Yes,heaven forbid a man drinking vodka! I say that if you're feeling feminine, then put some nail polish on! I remember my dad saying once that he liked to have neat nails so he got a manicure once in Bali, and at first my mum thought it was weird (they went on a honeymoon there or something) but he said that there's nothing wrong with it then she was ok.

      I think the issue is that people don't like what they don't understand. I was talking to a friend last week who is a single, straight female, and she said that her other friends say that they are 'threatened' that she has been single for so long and is happy. I have been reading your other posts and enjoy it.

      Adrian!

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    5. Hi Adrian.

      At my end we pronounce "Adrienne" as Ah-dree-ENN.

      I had an interesting encounter with a makeup assistant at a cosmetics counter. I was in male mode, but she was totally fine with me browsing cosmetics, and gave me a hand to choose some stuff. Some of it was a bit striking, but she was like: No! It's fine! If you want to wear it, wear it!

      I find that level of acceptance seems pretty common among younger people. This girl showed me pictures of a male friend who does drag; she helps with his makeup, and he looks beautiful. For her, it's no biggie.

      But older people can be much less tolerant, and have much more expectation of the whole gender binary. Though there are some exceptions: some accepting people and some threatened people of all ages.

      I have certainly found getting to know people tends to break down my own prejudices and boundaries. People have a lot in common, even if they express their gender differently.

      Vivienne.

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