If you see a cross-dresser, thank them!

Clothing is our primary identity badge. This is the first cultural rule we learn as a very young child. Pink or blue, pants or dresses, fabric sturdy or not, , styling,and more. We are born a boy or girl, and all the excited cooing and celebration obscure our painful futures.

Soon enough we are taught the rules for physical grooming- long hair or short, hair on legs or not, use of makeup and jewelry or not, etc. We learn about how to act [literally- to play our designated ,role] and to claim rights to whole regions of the emotional and behavioral spectrum.These externals are woven into a net of gender rules that capture and confine our eager spirits, distort our understanding of who we are, and substitute formalized and ritualistic behavior for the natural expression of who we are.

It gets worse.

This chasm formed and sustained between the sexes leads to innumerable societal ills, abuse, and wasted talent. This is considered normal, when it is nothing like normal.

Cross-dressing is a highly visible and succinct message of rebellion, of taking back what is being taken away.

There are few if any studies on this, but my guess is that 1–2% of males are seriously drawn to and pursue cross-dressing to some degree, and for the most part in hiding. It is abundantly clear from ordinary experience and pop culture that many more men than that harbor an intense curiosity about women’s clothing, and have wished for or actually sneaked a try-on at some point. The joking in locker rooms about feminine clothing is evidence enough of the suppressed desire.

Women are conditioned to think about clothing- a lot. They are enrolled to support a vast industry of media and commercial churning of fashion that imprisons them even as it promises liberation and sexual success. The symbolic power of clothing is not lost on anyone.

It is no surprise then, that rebellion against the inequities and damaging work of cultural gender rules is often succinctly expressed by cross-dressing. To wear the clothes of the group for whom privileges are denied us, is to explicitly say- “The partition of the world into male and female isn’t right for me.”

Rebellion through cross-dressing is allowed for women as a compliant protest, a way of asking for some freedom with the explicit promise not to take it too far- and indicate serious rejection of the social role assigned to females.

However, cross-dressing is not allowed for men, and is suppressed through shaming and other emotional, if not physical violence. The mythology of manhood is that we men are invincible,because we are willing to die, and kill others, to preserve our our status. We agree to die, inside, as young boys, and again and again every time we ignore the call of compassionate empathy. We agree to kill, inside, other boys, and girls, who do cannot live fully within the rules of our prison, by enforcing those rules against them.

It is a terrible tragedy to let this persist.

Data continues to emerge and challenge us. We are being overcome by a deluge of women’s stories of abuse at the hands of men exercising their predatory privilege, ruining lives for a few minutes’ evanescent thrill. We are seeing transgender kids coming out of the woodwork- there are a lot of them [us]. The clear statistics on the relative success of female led companies has deflated the bubble of male virtue attached to executive function. Male vainglory is clearly visible now. What is it we don’t know ?

I know now that I am a mirl- a male girl. I have never wished to be a female, or felt out of sync with my body. But I also feel thousands of things, big and small, physically, psychologically, socially, and culturally, that we associate with, encourage, and approve, for girls.

I am not alone. It is easy for me to see in the men and women around me, and in the boys and girls of my youth, a complex mix of feelings and impulses, many stifled for lack of freedom of expression.I remember many discussions about gender rules and roles with other children all the way through college. I kept my secret to myself, but took heart in seeing that no one asserted that their roles were innate. There was only curiosity, and envy or dismay at the choices we were offered as girls or boys.

The conclusion was unspoken, but obvious. If we had to conform, we would do our best to maximize our privileges in compensation for the losses. We would usually try to honor the dignity of others, but- well- when you are under stress you tend to prioritize your own safety and comfort.

Cross-dressers, like so many others outside the barbaric gender duality, carry the dream of a society that understands that boys and girls share much more than they don’t. Intelligence, kindness, creativity, compassion, forgiveness, are all gender neutral, and these are the things people care about in each other. Sexual anatomy does not determine much about us.Gender is how we style our behavior and emotion in relationships.More flexibility in gender would make for much healthier partnerships.

I’ve staked my claim that cross-dressing is an effective means for public questioning of the gender- differentiation norms that don’t serve us well.I don’t disguise my maleness, or my girlness.

It is clear I am harmless. I am easygoing, unselfconscious, and not asking anything of them. People take one look at me, and decide where they want to stand. Happily, where I live, friendly courtesy is usually the choice. Sure, people are uncertain at first glance, but most relax. No lightning bolt or other divine punishment arrives, and the only thing that makes sense is to live and let live. Some compliment my outfit or legs. Sometimes the first words people say “you are brave.” That admission speaks volumes.

I’ d like to say that there are no cross-dressers who would deny another’s right to express their sense of themselves freely, but it isn’t so. Some boast how well they pass as the other sex, and thereby enjoy their privileges. They have forgotten the painful reasons that led them to rebel in the first place.

So if you see a cross-dresser, thank them. Thank them by simply being yourself, a little more freely. You’ll feel what that means to you, and you both will understand.

Will you join me in updating gender norms?
One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.