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Mar 9, 2011

Men Who Dress Like Women


Friends, finally, the topic you've all been waiting for.  Isn't it time we addressed the 10-ton elephant in the room?  And what better time than MPB Guy Week?

Grab a cup of coffee, turn off the radio, and shut the door -- I have a confession to make. 



You know how in books,  movies, and sit-coms like The Prince and the Pauper, The Parent Trap, Dead Ringer, and The Patty Duke Show, there are always those moments when the identical cousins, or twins, or what have you, will switch places to play a trick on everyone else -- usually the high point of the story?




Well, my beloved cousin Cathy and I....oh, dear, here goes....sometimes we do the same thing and we've been doing it for years!  I'll even share this: in more than one of the more than dozen Cathy photo shoots you've seen here on MPB, you're actually seeing me and not my cousin Cathy.

I bet you'd never have guessed.  That's because we look so much alike!



(I remember once receiving a comment to the effect that, Cathy looks like she's having a bit of a 5 o'clock shadow problem, and it was all I could do not to blurt out, You fool -- that's me!   But of course I didn't.)



In any case, let's talk a little about this.  A lot of people are probably wondering:  What on earth would possess a man to dress up like a woman?

Friends, there are two kinds of men: men who occasionally enjoy dressing up like a woman, and men who would enjoy it if they ever gave themselves the chance.  There are a few other kinds of men too but we can't possibly cover everybody today.

In any case, I think if you men were to ask yourselves -- and you women were to ask the men in your lives -- if they'd ever put on a brassiere, lipstick, or a pair of pantyhose (not necessarily at the same time) the answer would be 100% affirmative.

Rest assured, the ones who are denying it are simply not telling you the truth, likely out of fear of condemnation.  I'd wager that whenever they find themselves safely home alone for more than an hour or two they're rifling around in your makeup kit or trying on your Christian Louboutins. 

But why?, you ask.

Because it's 1) fascinating, and 2) fun!

Have you ever been in a play?  Have you ever experienced the thrill of pretending to be someone else, of putting on a costume and making yourself look (and feel) different?  And if you were actually good at it and elicited a positive response in others, you know it was doubly thrilling.


Men dressing up like women -- cross-dressing, as it were -- has a long and celebrated history, stretching back to the days when women were not allowed to perform on the stage (and probably before).   Women have been dressing like men equally as long, but for too many reasons to go into here, it never seems to have the same power or impact on an audience (says me).

There is something about seeing a man dressed as a woman, say Flip Wilson as Geraldine (above) that packs an emotional wallop you don't get from Lucy dressing like Harpo Marx or Ragtime Cowboy Joe, though neither Flip nor Lucy is especially convincing.



I have always loved watching men impersonate women, and some of the best, like Charles Pierce and Jim Bailey, were often guests on popular variety shows like The Carol Burnett Show.  (Flip Wilson, of course, had a show all his own).  Today's fantastic drag performers have fewer mainstream venues and why this is could be a blog entry all its own.  Sure, there's Ru Paul, but the media landscape is much more fragmented than it was forty years ago.

Which brings me to the final point: male-to-female drag or "gender illusion" as it's sometimes called, can make some people very uncomfortable in a way that a man dressing like a clown does not.  Why, do you think, are there still so many people who don't want to see the lines blurred, or crossed, or what have you, and would punish severely any (male, it's always the male) child of theirs they caught dressing up like a girl?


If a boy likes to dress like a girl, or vice versa, why is this a problem for anybody?  It's not for the boy or girl; it's the soul-crushing social stigma attached that causes the pain and confusion.

I hope that if you have a cousin Cathy you like to dress up as, you will do everything you can to make your Cathy side welcome and cherished in your lives.  Emotional health and happiness comes from embracing everything you are and celebrating it fully; anything less results in frustration, depression, and worse still --projected self-loathing onto others.

Gender identity is too rich a topic to distill into a short blog post but rest assured it's both more varied and more benign than many would have us believe.

It doesn't have anything to do with who we are in our hearts and the positive contributions we can make to the world.

Go for it!



92 comments:

  1. Clowns scare me. Men who dress like women, not so much. ;-) Centuries ago, men's clothes were flashier, same way the male animal in nature often is more colorful than the female. But for the past 100+ years, men's clothing has been pretty much the same. Women have many more options. I can totally see the fascination.

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  2. Peter, I'm absolutely shocked about your confession! I had no idea! ;-)

    As the mother of a toddler, I'm trying to go easy on the traditional gender norms with my son. Still, there are so many messages about "boy things" versus "girl things" bombarding him that I'm afraid it's hopeless.

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  3. Proabably a bit of a side issue, but I kept hearing throughout london fashion week about Andrej Pejic a male model wearing womenswear down the catwalk. - a bit more of an androgeny discussion perhaps

    Lizzie

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    1. He's Australian and fairly hot. Only the rags (read trashy 'newspapers' make a big deal about him modelling women's wear- everyone else sees men modelling women's wear as a natural progression of the sticks as models trend women's wear has adhering to for the last few decades). To each their own ;)

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  4. Knock me over with a feather! I had NO idea that you and Cathy were (gasp) the SAME. I was so jealous of her amazing calves, but to find out their YOURS. Well, I'm getting the vapors just thinking about it. Well done Peter, well done!

    I love men in drag. In "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert", I couldn't decide if I like Guy Pierce more as a man or a woman. He was yummy EITHER way.

    Yay for gender bending!

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  5. Oh dear Peter, the first time I came to your blog, Cathy was presenting one of her outfits. I fell for it hook, line and sinker. True!! I did not think she was the most attractive model (snort) but liked her none the less. A few days or weeks went by and Cathy made another foray into the blog and it dawned on me that she was you. I laughed till I cried. I still laugh at the thought of it. How gullible I am!

    On another note..this subject is dear to my heart as my daughter has many friends who do drag as well as those that are TG. I'll never forget the time I was dragged on stage by a diva drag queen and the 'whole crew' and soon tapped on the shoulder by a very large 'girl' who commented, "I like your scarf". Ohhhh I was ever so pleased to be recognized like that.

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  6. As a transguy and frequent reader of your blog I want to say thanks for this great post. Down with silly rigid gender rules!

    I also want to say that one of the reasons sewing and making clothes is so awesome is that it allows people to play with gender expression and whatnot in a way that clothing companies seem to have decided is verboten.

    Oh, but, P.S. I gotta say I disagree with you about the Lucy vs. Geraldine thing. I think girls dressing like boys can pack as much emotional wallop as the reverse. I mean, did you see that episode of Sex and the City with the drag king portraits?

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  7. It has always been obvious that Cathy, um, looks a lot like you. I thought you were not admitting it because it is more fun. I mean, you were shocked, shocked! when Elaine suggested there might be some closer connection there. Of course, that might have something to do with Elaine (too bad she has disappeared into the wilds of Germany).

    Anyway, I like it when you make women's clothes, cause I like seeing the progress. Someone has to wear them when you are done, so a photo shoot is a good way. I like the flicker slideshows you do.

    Beth

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  8. I think cross-dressing is like shaving your head... Everyone should try it once, just to find out. ;) sadly I don't have too many photos from my lumberjack phase...

    Women have been pushing our way into the men's sphere for so long, I think women dressing as men has lost some of its impact... A lot of women's lib involved coopting men's symbols as a means if empowerment and liberation. Which is fine, but means we're a lot more used to it (being almost a century into the process) than the reverse. In some ways I think "men's liberation" lags well behind womens'...

    As for you and Cathy, pshaw! As if you, Peter, could just pop in and fool us. Cathy is the real thing---there's no faking that je-ne-sais-quois.

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  9. Holy crap, I was not expecting that.

    We love you Peter, just like you are. :)

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  10. Peter, you and Cathy are gorgeous! I LOVE a man in a dress!

    I get so attached to all of Ru's lady-boys each season on Drag Race. And I feel so proud when they start to see some fame after the show!

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  11. There seems to be a spectrum, as there are with so many human characteristics, of how keen men are to cross-dress and any point along that line is, and damn well should be in society at large, just fine.

    I have male friends who love to get dressed up in womens clothing for fancy dress parties and one or two who I suspect would, if it were more socially acceptable, do it more often. Then again, at the other end of the spectrum there are men for whom it holds no appeal at all and I don't think they can be accused of lying if they just don't fancy it.

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  12. Nice to see a still from Ma Vie en Rose; such a sweet film. My daughters occasionally play with a boy who loves to come round and dress up in their gowns and fancy dresses, and whilst happy to run around in feather boas and heels in front of me, he whips it all off the second he knows his father is there to pick him up. He's now 11, almost 12 and still does it every time he comes round. It's both sweet and sad, because clearly he enjoys it but has a fear of his dad ever finding out. Maybe when he's old enough, I'll acquaint him with your blog...

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  13. I whole-heartedly agree with Tanit-Isis. Obviously on the head-shaving, but also on cross-dressing. Though I do revel in the lowered fashion expectations our society holds for men, 'cause some days I just don't have the energy to squeeze into my sequins. I'll say it: it's easier being a guy. Even my most meager sartorial attempts are lauded, while my female colleagues are snubbed for the slightest fashion misstep. We boys should have to spend at least a day dressed as women if only to know how easy we have it!

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  14. I tried drag a couple of times in my youth, but I turned out to be such an ugly girl that I decided to stick with the boy clothes. You're so lucky to be beautiful in either gender! :)

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  15. And at my age, it's a miracle!

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  16. I don't mind men dressing up as women. That is, I don't mind men dressing as women until they look lovelier than me! Then I start to feel like Snow White's wicked stepmother...

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  17. Gosh, I WAS kinda wondering how someone could have an identical twin cousin! I'm looking forward to her triumphant, post-incarceration debut.

    Well, these guys aren't dressing as real women; they're dressing as exaggerated women -- as characters in costume. When men REALLY start dressing as women, then you can talk about relaxed gender roles.

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  18. It would be fun to watch a Peter-as-Cathy photo shoot, just to see the reaction on the streets. The double-takes must be hilarious.

    Most men wear clothes that blend in. It's great to see someone with the self-confidence to really stand out.

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  19. Thanks, Peter. Anything to loosen the gender restrictions around men is a good thing!

    You (and your readers) may be interested in this blog by a mom of a "pink boy" -- http://www.sarahhoffmanwriter.com/ . She talks about her efforts to ensure her son, who likes girl stuff, can go through life without being teased or harassed about it.

    (BTW -- this is Luisita's husband posting under her account.)

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  20. OMG I remember seeing that episode of the Flip Wilson Show! How can I possibly be that old?

    Good and thoughtful post, Peter

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  21. Kristin, that's a fascinating point. BUT, don't biological women play exaggerated women too: Mae West, Marilyn Monroe, even Cher?

    But they're still real women. I think the comedy is what makes it more acceptable for these guys: it's a joke and they're (obviously) in on it. They know they look like refrigerators.

    Whereas a Lypsinka is more transgressive because, while not entirely believable as a woman, she totally embodies so much of what we think of as "feminine," which is to a large degree artificial: the makeup, the lashes, the gestures, etc., and sends them up. But the character takes herself seriously. We laugh, but not because she's making fun of herself playing a certain type of women, but rather calling our attention to the artifice of it all. She's not a clown like Uncle Miltie.

    Does that make sense?

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  22. Men dressing up as clowns? Ewwwwwwwww.

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  23. I remember reading your blog for the first time last year in, I think, February. My husband was in the room and I was reading out loud the sidebar where you mentioned your identical cousin Cathy. He started singing the theme song to The Patty Duke Show. I wondered and looked for a photo of Cathy --yep.

    I love to see the clothes you sew for Cathy and the photo shoots. My husband particularly liked Cathy snubbing Svetlana in one of them.

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  24. I think you are beautiful in any gender, which makes me a bit jealous. :)
    Actually, I am only shocked that you just started really sewing in 2009 and you are so amazing at it. I've enjoyed reading your blog and will continue to do so.
    On another note, I can't wrap my brain around the fact that some people don't love their children no matter what they choose to wear, or what gender they identify with. I just don't have the capacity to understand that kind of hate.

    Thanks for sharing!
    Danna

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  25. PS. My favorite cross dressing movie is "Some Like It Hot"

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  26. My 5 year old son loves to play dress up and I encourage it. I have a princess dress, a tutu and some accessories (gloves, jewelry, etc.) that he keeps in his closet and shares with his friends (boys and girls) when they come over. I figure that he's going to school this year and he'll have enough stiffling there; may as well enjoy it as long as he can. :{

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  27. but in fact, the purpose of life isn't that to be happy ??? So if it makes you happy, Go for it !! Life is great !

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  28. On Kristin's point, DC had a female drag queen competition around the end of the year (I saw it in the paper, but was too late to actually attend). It is so intriguing! Women dressing as men who dress as women. I don't even know all the subtexts in that.

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  29. I, too, was fooled completely for a few weeks. And laughed out loud when I realized I had been 'had'. I'be been waiting patiently for Cathy to get out of jail.

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  30. Gasp! What a confession!. I've never wear men clothing, mmmmm.... except one time we went to a river (I was 6 o 7 years old) and I decided to swim with my clothes on and afterward my mom made me wear a pair of my brother's briefs. I did not like it then and I think I would not like it today. But life is short and always changing so do what makes you happy!!!! (sorry for my english... is so basic but I'm learning)

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  31. A lot of it, unfortunately, has to do with sexism, doesn't it? When a girl is a tom-boy there's nothing wrong with it because society sees "masculine" as better, so when a male wants to dress "feminine" it's a totally bizarre concept to them because it's like taking a step down.

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  32. Peter, you would find fascinating (and disquieting..) a PBS NOVA (or Frontline; I don't recall which)program on the potentially devastating effects of prematurely anatomically "correcting" very young children born with ambiguous genitalia.

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  33. Oh hey, I even dress like a woman sometimes :-). It can be fun, as long as you aren't force to do it every single day.

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  34. To be honest I thought it was because of the challenge of sewing women's clothes. I mean, there's only so many ways you can do a mans shirt (long sleeve? short sleeve?), or shorts, or trousers/jeans/pants.

    But the amazing amount of ways you can do womens clothes is, well, challenging and somewhat attractive for someone like you - you're forever thinking of different ways of sewing, and womens clothes presents so many more choices.

    Naturally you'd want to wear them - it makes obvious sense.

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  35. My uncle always dressed as a woman, he belonged to some secret club back in the 50's. The family story goes that when Uncle X came to visit, put away your unmentionables, hide your jewelry and nylon wigs,
    and keep your make up under lock and key because Uncle X didn't line his coat pockets with plastic for nothing. He especially liked cheap perfume.

    I worked with a guy in New Zealand who dressed like a woman, however, he had very delicate hands and was graceful in his movements. He came to work dressed as a woman, and a man. Everybody was OK with it. This was back in the 70's. The problem was he was better looking than most of us.

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  36. Oh, gender identity is fascinating. As you say, far too extensive an area to go into here.

    Having attended a workshop on trans issues at university last year, I am interested to note that you use the term 'cross-dressing' as opposed to 'transvestism'. The workshop leader was commenting on how the two seem to carry different connotations - but unfortunately it's not the same way round for everybody which can lead to some awkward moments.

    That workshop, incidentally, was attended the day after I discovered that my housemate of several months used not to be male. Meh, says I, with a shrug of the shoulders!

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  37. Josette, what a great story!

    Lucy, to me "transvestism" sounds like a diagnosis, while "cross-dressing" sounds like a frolic. Not exactly sure why though.

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  38. Sorry, but the best cross dressing movie is Victor Victoria. I mean, Julie Andrews, cockroaches, fringe, feathers, and sequins? It doesn't get any better than that. What can I say? I like my jazz hot!

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  39. Well, I believe it was the difference between 'transvestite' and 'cross-dresser'. The -ism doesn't help, I agree, but I was trying to keep the grammar tight!

    I think the distinction was to do with which one carried sexual connotations, as opposed to enjoying dressing up in the other gender's clothes just because. For me 'transvestite' implies the former and 'cross-dresser' the latter.

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  40. Hmm.... I'd never thought of it that way, Lucy, but you're probably right about what the terms mean. I'm guessing by "sexual connotation" you mean doing it for the sexual thrill or arousal.

    My only association with the term "transvestite" is "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."

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  41. I'm so happy you wrote this post. Gender and gender expression are rarely talked about outside of certain communities, and especially rarely talked about in fashion/sewing communities except to say how outrageous, trendy, or stunt-like someone is for bending the "rules".

    I'm a strong believer in non-binary gender and all forms of gender expression, so I say hooray for you and Cathy!

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  42. Good post, Peter. In my experience noone likes getting into a skirt (on them, I mean) more than a farm boy. Look at any fancy dress party - on the slightest excuse, half the men will be wearing fishnets or some other parody of women's clothes. And one or two will look very, very good.
    I have never been able to see why people get so exercised about the clothes, sexuality or gender identity (different things, I'd like to add) of other people. It does often seem to be self-hatred or fear turned outwards.

    It's also interesting the place cross-dressing plays in many cultures, from the fa'afafine of the Pacific (this is not my culture so I hope I do not misportray it, but loosely, boys whose dressing as girls and taking on female labour roles in the household is culturally sanctioned from a young age) to the traditional medicine practitioners of many cultures.
    I like what Josette said. I think it is easy for "difference" to become another straitjacket - eg "you dressed as a woman yesterday, why are you dressing as a man today?" This seems to me to be missing the point.
    Love your posts peter - keep going there! And keep sewing...

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  43. BTW according to wikipedia, fa'afafine are seen as a third gender in Samoan culture.

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  44. A big part of the reason I make my own clothes is so I can play dress up according to my whims. I get that if other people want to do it, too. Seems only fair. :)

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  45. Great post! I worked at a childcare centre for a while, and I have to say the most popular dress-up item was the tutu. The boys wore it just as much as the girls :)

    I've also heard a fair bit about Andrej Pejic recently. Watching him on the catwalk is amazing.

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  46. When I was an undergrad at Hofstra, I took a course on the psychology of human sexual behavior and cross-dressing was covered under the topic of fetishes. I suppose if it gives you sexual pleasure, it would qualify in that regard.

    I found the topic fascinating because my father took up cross-dressing as a hobby when I was in elementary school. He wasn't your typical tranny; he preferred ladies' loafers and Reebok Princess sneakers to high heels. He never wore dresses, but he had a collection of ladies' jeans that would make your head spin. Remember the ones with the zippers and bows at the back of the ankles? He had them...about a dozen pairs. He wore ladies' sweaters straight out of Fashion Bug Plus and even asked me once where I had purchased my leggings (I was 18 at the time.). I refused to tell him because I was afraid he'd buy himself a pair.

    The truly dark side of this wasn't the extensive wardrobe of the ladies' clothes and shoes. It was his behavior. I'm pretty sure he had a lot of deep psychological problems and he was emotional and verbally abusive to my mother and I. We didn't dare mention the two-ton elephant in the room (dress in pink sneakers). He would be super-conservative for work and church, but wear all this weird crap at home and on the weekends. You just didn't dare even HINT that it was abnormal and embarrassing.

    Oh, and he did take up sewing when my mother refused to make him inappropriately short shorts with a zipper pleat at each side seam revealing rainbow striped fabric inside the pleat. He would have looked better in a dress and maybe a bra for his man boobs...

    I think people should be able to express themselves however they want as long as they OWN it and don't use it as part of an excuse to drag other people down like my dad did.

    You WORK IT!!!! Love Cathy and can't wait to see more of her fabulous wardrobe!

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  47. Only yesterday I spent hours watching Divine videos on YouTube. Today I made arrangements with a friend to go to Brisbane to see a drag show during Pride month. I love men dressing as women. As for Cathy, I am shocked. Have you seen the film Orlando?

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  48. I'm a Child Studies lecturer at a community college. Since I started in this job, 17 years ago, the curriculum has always included "why little boys should be encouraged to dress up and experience a variety of roles, including cross gender roles, in imaginative play; the importance of boys playing with dolls to practice nurturing roles; and why we need to explain these things to parents". This is also stated in early childhood education policy documents, and it is supposed to be common practice in all early childhood education settings in Australia. I like to think the day will come when it is so obvious to everyone, nobody needs to say it any more.

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  49. So Peter, when do we get to see a photo shoot of Cathy dressing up as you?

    Sandi - woah... sorry you had to live through that - I guess an example of why these things should not be repressed.

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  50. Amen Peter! I love a person who explores numerous facets.

    And Sandi, I second Jane. Sorry you went through such a thing...

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  51. Since it's confession time, I admit that I have a problem here. It's really quite upsetting to me when either of you bares your legs. Because they're SO much curvier, sleeker, and of course longer than mine.

    But it's ok, really, I'll get over it.

    However, I want to give a nod to my personal fave cross-dresser, Dame Edna!!!

    Although she also has better legs than mine. :(

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  52. I knew since a long time what was going on.So are you going to admit you are a transvestite,hermaphrodite or male gaga too?

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  53. Peter, LOL and xoxoxox.
    And please don't dress as a clown. That is too scary.
    What is it about clowns?

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  54. Oh goodness! There are so many stories I would LOVE to write about the men in my family, but I think they might get really upset if I posted it for everyone to see.
    I want to make a point about the men getting angry over the little boy dressing as a girl. Really, it's NOT a big deal. My FIL and my step Dad get very upset that my 18 month old plays with Barbies and dresses up in his sister's dresses. That's what HE wants to do. There is even this adorable little white leotard/tutu that he loves to wear at Grandma's house and he runs around in it screaming "Buzz" (because it's his Buzz Lightyear costume) Really, if my husband and I made a big deal about it then he'd see it more as a Taboo thing and be afraid to show us. And really, should I have him hiding things from me at 18 months? If it's made into a big deal, it becomes a big deal.

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  55. Now the real question is if Freddy and Willy are going to get the pink and sparkley collars they've been eyeing at PetSmart. Hmmm? Hmm?

    I think a gallery of Cathy dressing up as you is a splendid idea.

    I'm not sure if there's a specific word for it, but I also like when you transgress the boundaries by making your menswear out of the baby or feminine fabrics. Maybe you need a pair of pink or flowered jeans for the sewalong? You know, I wonder if the whole golf clothes exceptions are a form of rebellion against the menswear of the times. After all, it's a Scottish game, and they have that whole kilt thing.

    Oh, and my seven year old has no problem wearing his older sister's lacy socks to school.

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  56. Awesome post, Peter.

    I agree with Anonymous above; I just love Victor/Victoria. But nobody cross-dresses like Dietrich and Garbo. I don't know if there's a male cross-dresser that has that kind of royal presentation.

    Also agree with transguy above: there's something super-subversive about making our own clothing, because we get to choose, 100%, how we're presenting ourselves. I can make a dress shirt that fits my small frame and camoflages my bust. And the sleeves will be long enough, darn it!

    I suspect, that as with sexuality, gender presentation is perhaps toughest when you're fluid. There's strong pressure toward the binary model.

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  57. Scooter, you put that so well - strong pressure toward the binary model. That was what I was stumbling towards saying. At one time there was a strong pressure in the GL communities towards a new orthodoxy in dress, manner,politics and practically everything else, which could be just as stultifying as any other. I think (hope) things have moved on!

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  58. With regard to the Cathy/Peter switcheroo, I don't believe a word of it. No man is as lithe and graceful as the lovely Cathy. I wonder if Cathy has hacked Peter's account to try to pull a prank on us? Hmmm? Is that you, Cathy?

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  59. I've been reading your blog for a while, not sure how I found it. I truly know nothing of sewing, but I love wearing clothes, and the ones I enjoy most are usually labeled for women, and when I saw Cathy, I have to say I was pretty sure it was you. But maybe I'm not playing along sufficiently, or maybe it's the "takes one to know one", but no matter what, you have a wonderful blog, no matter which cousin is showing up in the posts, and I always love seeing the topic of gender and fashion and crossdressing addressed in a positive and open way! Great post, and a great blog, thanks for sharing! And really, the hardest part of crossdressing is the blasted 5 o'clock shadow. :)

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  60. When I lived in SF, a friend I worked with at a sewing shop made quite a bit of extra cash sewing for the drag queens there. Crazy elaborate amazing costumes. So much fun.

    I did a little of that sewing too, but I like the challenge that you take, with not so much a performer costume, but a real frock.

    Ive always wanted to do vintage butch (huge in the 20s women wearing mens suits, short bobs and monocles), but I cant pull it off. Im just too girl shaped.

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  61. Sometimes men dressed as women are completely sexy. A friend of mine did it for a party and discovered that he was suddenly 10 times hotter (to both the men and the women in the room, equally). Needless to say, he pulled that night.

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  62. I discovered your blog when Cathy's photo shoots were more plentiful. I admit, I was a little put-off at first. But I opened my mind and discovered I really enjoyed the blog and found it very entertaining. Isn't that always the way. Keeping an open mind almost always brings good results.

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  63. Wow -- so many great comments.

    Sandi, I will echo others and say that I'm sorry you had to live through what sounds likes something of a nightmare. Your description of it was so vivid and compelling and I wonder if there isn't a book or short story in there, I'm serious. (I don't mean to trivialize your experience, just the opposite.)

    Thanks, everybody!

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  64. Peter and Cathy! You can have the bras, panty hose, makeup and dresses......I personally hate wearing all Four LOL. Like Elaray, I found your blog through a link to another I read and at first Thoguh "what the he'll???" and then I just starting enjoying it and ESP. your wit and style of writing. Now I never miss a post, We should all be thankful for you, your honesty and willingness to share your life with strangers. Tina in Va

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  65. My 8 year old son struggles with gender identity issues. His father and I support him, but the rest of the family has not been so supportive. He doesn't dress like a girl as much as he used to and he very rarely wears "girly" things to school, but when he is at home he wears make-up or dresses up. I've never stopped him from leaving the house dressed up even if that meant very strange looks from fellow shoppers at the store because I'm with a 7 year old boy in high heels. The funny thing is he has refused to cut his hair so now he just resembles a tomboy and most folks think he's a girl anyway. Funny how hair what people actually pay attention to most when deciding gender. He's starting to realize that the general public does not approve. It's just such a shame that children and adults alike are so close minded that they would rather break the spirit of a young child than accept that perhaps their line of thinking is too narrow. Thankfully, his father is very supportive and actually was the first one to buy him a dress. I think even if society isn't accepting of him as long as his father and I are there for him it will make a difference for him in the future when it gets harder.

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  66. Blogger Peter said...

    Oh, Michele, yes and he is SO fortunate to have you as parents. I'm so touched by your story and can only say, just keep loving and supporting your son. Kids can have a hard time for all sorts of reasons; the important thing is that he isn't shamed at home.

    You and your husband's approach is an inspiration to me and to many others, I'm sure.

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  67. Yay Michele, you sound like such great parents. I have a cousin whose boy is similar. I was impressed when his dad rocked up to the ballet teacher and said 'look, my 7 year old son came home crying because you won't let him wear a tutu. He wants to wear a tutu to ballet, just let him wear a *&$ tutu!'.
    I just want to echo what Peter said - that love and support you give at home is the most important thing. You are an inspiration. Kia kaha.

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  68. Hi Peter! Thank you for sharing your secret identity with us! I just want to respectfully disagree with you (to a point) regarding female drag. I think it can be done extremely well and can have a big impact on audiences. One of my favorites is ATKM - a female drag group from Boston. They are also the subject of a great documentary called Play in the Gray that focuses on gender identity. My husband and I own a theatre in Provincetown, MA that shows mainly drag shows in the summer. We've been asked how we feel about raising our three kids (ages 4,4 and 6) in this environment and it's a question that I always take offense to. The only acceptable way to raise a child is to ensure them that they are loved and valued for who they are, no matter what. Michele is indeed an inspiration:)

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  69. In the early '80's, when I was 19 and married with a new baby, my sister and one of her male friends would come over and borrow my clothes (that I couldn't get into any more) and dress up to go out. It was really fun dressing Willie up and we did learn how to apply makeup to minimize things like the strong chin, larger nose and make him more convincingly female.

    I think Cathy is someone I'd like to hang out with-- and I love her clothes.

    I also agree with Michele's child-rearing-- loving the child she has exactly the way he is. It may be helpful at some point to involve a therapist before there are problems-- not to change him, but to help him adjust to the reactions and to learn to be as "at home" in the world as he is with his folks.

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  70. Peter - I've actually written a book (well, a scrapbook) with my mom. We call it "Sunshine" because that's one of her ironic nicknames for him. I do want to write a book someday, but between my dad, some other whack-a-doo relatives and earning my living in a sea of adolescent hormones (I teach middle school English.), I don't know where I want to begin. I think I may embark on it as project once I have grad school complete in a few months.

    On a humorous note (b/c if you can't laugh at this stuff, you'll go nuts): my dad died on St. Patrick's Day in 1995 - cancer (b/c apparently going to the doctor EVER was for suckers) and to celebrate the anniversary of our freedom, my mom and I always go shoe shopping in honor of my dad, the wanna-be Imelda Marcos of Reeboks. I've been eyeing up some cute red sandals that will rock with a dress I have on the cutting table. ;-)

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  71. I see three different reasons mentioned in this discussion for wearing gender-bending clothing:
    To dress up/be fancy/just for fun
    Because it turns you on
    Self-expression/to wear what makes you feel most like you

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  72. I think men have and have long had a lot more choices than they allow themselves. If you look at men's clothes in the 70s they were fun, fun, fun! But people mock them now. Why? I don't get it, really.

    And if men strike "classist" attitudes, for example, they will reject all the amazing stuff that people like Elvis wore. Why? Because it was working class? Take a good second look. Seriously, did they come any more "dandy" than Elvis? And the band Queen in the eighties, and glam rock? Where are their descendants?

    There's a TV presenter in the UK, Laurence Llewellyn Bowen (yes, and that's his real name!) who dresses very flamboyantly. But he doesn't accept that there's anything "feminine" or trans or cross about his dressing and he's right. He just wears flamboyant men's clothes! And good on him.

    Poor designers of male clothing, they keep on trying and for some reason, you men just won't buy it (or even make it for yourselves). They must get sooooo frustrated!

    Hat

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  73. Thanks for posting this. Made me think of issues I haven't put words to in a long time.

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  74. Glad to hear it, Alexus. Great comments, everybody!

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  75. I thought you were going to confess you dressed as a clown- now that would have scared the shit out of me!
    Love all the above comments- God bless, some had no idea...but what's that expression? 'takes one to know one' Cathy 'conveniently' had the same size shoe as you...sure.
    All the best, Amanda...I mean Don.

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  76. I loved Flip Wilson. Thanks for the memories!
    Meanwhile:
    http://www.myprincessboy.com/index.asp
    Perhaps acceptance is not far away.

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  77. I knew Cathy was your alter ego from the beginning and I didn't think it was an "elephant" in the room. People were much more interested in what Cathy was wearing and where she was going.

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  78. Peter,
    I just came across you blog and have to say how much I love it. I was googling around looking for "men" and "sewing" and your site came up.
    It didn't immediately dawn on me that Cathy wasn't exactly what she appeared to be although it should have...as I have an identical cousin myself named John!

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  79. hahaha Cathy is the only reason I keep coming back to this blog (no offense Peter, you're attractive and all but you lack the glamorous 'je ne sais quoi'-essence-de-Cathy. Kudos to all the people who have the courage to be who they are. On a slightly less related note, Cathy must come to Melbourne, Australia. This city is the capital of wearing what you want (and I don't mean track pants although there are suburbs where people wear those out of the house for non-athletics reasons).

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  80. Hi. I am a male but with the gender identity that of a female,or at times gender queer or neutral. I either wear womens' slacks or unisex pants mostly with a t-shirt and exercise bra underneath to both flatten me down when in public and to also feel good. I also am taking SUDDENLY FEM hormonal products like ESTRO BOOST and breast success because my goal is to appear feminine in physical body.I guess I am not coming out as transgender anytime soon,especially in Northeastern Pa,where this kind of behavior is shunned. Most of my family,especially on my dads' side,the "everything is a sin" catholics,would never understand transgender or wanting to look like a female,as I want to. My results are happening slow,as I am not taking prescribed hormones,but I am seeing some results,like softness and jiggles in the behind and thighs. But to get properly prescribed meds under the watchful eye of an understanding M.D is something I'm not sure how to go about doing where I live. Plus as a school bus driver,and the yearly physicals,changing my appearance by dressing and living as a female at all times seems almost impossible right now. So I equate my behavior as a feminine minded woman in an almost feminine body concealing her curves by dressing butch or unisex. Something I feel like I must do at this time in my life,though I commend,admire,and envy all those transgenders who come out fully and live as the sex they feel they should have been born with. A feeling I share each day I shave my face,or I am called,"Sir",or "Mr" instead of Miss or Mam.

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    Replies
    1. If you're not familiar with the blog Femulate.org, please check it out. Stana's site could provide you with a lot of resources (and validation). Hang in there!

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    2. thank you peter.

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  81. I loved it !" men or boys should too dressed in pretty" dresses?" I did this too my Sissy," like boyfriend when I got him a little tipsy!" so sweet didn't know what hit him!" I stripped him and put female undergarments on him too!" Then the dress,nylons, shoes and makeup, also a sexy wig? Rebeca H.

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  82. I'm an older fella. I believe that all people young and old, should be allowed be themselves as long as it causes no physical or mental damage to others. every one has their own comfort zone. I find that for myself trying to impersonate a woman is a lost cause, mostly due to my facial features. from the neck down I could pass if I wanted to, as the loss of testosterone over the years has taken it toll. so now I go for comfort and to alleviate certain possible health issues if left unchecked. occasionally I must wear support hose and panty hose provides what I need without breaking the bank. my regular prescription hose is $65.00 a pair, as opposed to 3 pair for under $10.00. And as you all know, pantyhose under jeans or polyester pants is quite uncomfortable, especially when its hot here in texas.So I opt for a skirt or dress around the house when the need arises. I have also found that I can find clothes that fit straight off the juniors rack instead of haveing to have all my clothes tailored. Just need to point out that I am on a fixed income. I decided to post because I noticed that comfort, health and practicality, were left out of the discussion. As it is on most sites of this nature. Have a comfortabl Day,and thanks for letting me post.

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  83. I don't cross dress anymore, but when I did, it was always to dress up and re-enact specific women in a specific action or pose. I don't know if it's simply just a form of female impersonation or just "drag queen" actions, but I've never been able to find anyone else who ever did that. I hardly ever dressed fem simply to look like a feminized version of myself.

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  84. I released my 'Cousin Cathy' on the world a few years ago, after keeping her locked away form many, many years before that. I have never been happier! I don't sew - my 'Cousin Cathy' (who goes by the name of Rachel) buys her things. Or has me get them for her :)

    Your article is wonderful, and your revelation, however light-hearted, a bold thing to have done. I salute you :)

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  85. As far as man dressing as woman or a woman dressing as a man, they have that right. I thank as a person I would try to look as normal as possible.I have seen some very beautiful men and awfully manly looking women. If its for real than it should be all the time, not just in your house or your own privet closet. If its a game or just for fun than it should be kept that way. You should never push your life style on your family. If you have under laying issues maybe you should look at a peaceful desperation if possible.I know it can be rough on a family where gender issues are at hand. A lot of that comes from religious believes or down right ignorance. I say live and let live, God knows are heart

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