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This article is about cross-dressing in general, see transvestic fetishism for cross-dressing for sexual reasons.

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A place for crossdressers to talk about issues they face in their daily lives.

Cross-dressing is the act of wearing clothing commonly associated with another gender within a particular society.[1] The usage of the term, the types of cross-dressing both in modern times and throughout history, an analysis of the behaviour, and historical examples are discussed in the article below.

Nearly every human society throughout history has distinguished between male and female gender by the style, color, or type of clothing they wear and has had a set of norms, views, guidelines, or even laws defining what type of clothing is appropriate for each gender. Cross-dressing is a behavior which runs significantly counter to those norms and therefore can be seen as a type of transgender behavior. It does not, however, necessarily indicate transgender identity; a person who cross-dresses does not always identify as having a gender different from that assigned at birth.

The term cross-dressing denotes an action or a behavior without attributing or proposing causes for that behavior. Some people automatically connect cross-dressing behavior to transgender identity or sexual, fetishist, and homosexual behavior, but the term cross-dressing itself does not imply any motives. However, referring to a person as a cross-dresser suggests that their cross-dressing behavior is habitual and may be taken to mean that the person identifies as transgendered. The term cross-dresser should therefore be used with care to avoid causing misunderstanding or offense.

Varieties of cross-dressing

There are many different kinds of cross-dressing, and many different reasons why an individual might engage in cross-dressing behaviour.[2]

Some people cross-dress as a matter of comfort or style. They have a preference towards clothing which is only marketed to or associated with the opposite sex. In this case, a person's cross-dressing may or may not be visible to other people.

Some people cross-dress in order to shock others or challenge social norms.

Both men and women may cross-dress in order to disguise their true identity. Historically, some women have cross-dressed in order to take up male-dominated or male-exclusive professions, such as military service. Conversely, some men have cross-dressed in order to escape from mandatory military service.[3]

Single-sex theatrical troupes often have some performers cross-dress in order to play roles written for members of the opposite sex. Cross-dressing, particularly the depiction of males wearing dresses, is often used for comic effect onstage and onscreen.

Drag is a special form of performance art based on cross-dressing. A drag queen is usually a male-bodied person who performs as an exaggeratedly feminine character, in heightened costuming sometimes consisting of a showy dress, high-heeled shoes, obvious makeup, and wig. A drag queen may imitate famous female film or pop-music stars. A faux queen is a female-bodied person employing the same techniques.

A drag king is a counterpart of the drag queen but usually for much different audiences. A female-bodied person (often lesbians) who adopt a masculine persona in performance or imitates a male film or pop-music star. Some female-bodied people undergoing gender reassignment therapy also self-identify as drag kings although this use of "drag king" would generally be considered inaccurate.

Transgendered people who are undergoing or have undergone gender reassignment therapy are usually not regarded as cross-dressing. Namely, a transsexual who has completed gender reassignment surgery is certainly not considered cross-dressing, unless they were to wear clothes of the gender opposite of what they have transitioned to. Pre-operative transsexuals may be considered similarly.

A transvestic fetishist is a person (typically a heterosexual male) who cross-dresses as part of a sexual fetish.

The term underdressing is used by male cross-dressers to describe wearing female undergarments under their male clothes. The famous low-budget filmmaker Edward D. Wood, Jr. said he often wore women's underwear under his military uniform during World War II.

Some people who cross-dress may endeavour to project a complete impression of belonging to another gender, down to mannerisms, speech patterns, and emulation of sexual characteristics. This is referred to as passing or "trying to pass" depending how successful the person is. An observer who sees through the cross-dresser's attempt to pass is said to have read them. There are books and magazines on how a man may look more like a woman.[4]

Sometimes either person of a heterosexual couple will wear it to arouse the other. For example, the Male would wear skirts or lingerie and/or the Female will wear boxers or other male clothing. (See also forced feminization)

Others may choose to take a mixed approach, adopting some feminine traits and some masculine traits in their appearance. For instance, a man might wear both a dress and a beard. This is sometimes known as genderfuck.


The actual determination of cross-dressing is largely socially constructed. For example, in Western society, trousers have been adopted for wear by women, and is not regarded as cross-dressing. In cultures where men have traditionally worn skirt-like garments such as the kilt or sarong these are not seen as female clothing, and wearing them is not seen as cross-dressing for men. As societies are becoming more global in nature, both men and women are adopting styles of dress associated with other cultures.

It was once taboo in Western society for women to wear clothes traditionally associated with men, excepting certain circumstances, such as for necessity (as per St. Thomas Aquinas's guidelines in Summa Theologiae II), or in the case of the "holy transvestites" (cross-dressing female saints), of which there were many. The limiting guidelines on acceptability seemed to focus on passing; the taboo was most strongly focused on the blending of genders.[5]. Cross dressing is specifically cited as an "abomination" in the Bible in the book of Deuteronomy (22:5), although even in the Middle Ages, its applicability was occasionally disputed.

The 15th century French feminist Martin le Franc, concerning Joan of Arc:

Don't you see that it was forbidden
That anyone should eat of an animal
Unless it had a cleft foot
And chewed its cud?
To eat of a hare no one dared
Neither of sow nor of piglet,
Yet should you now be offered any,
You would take many a morsel.[6]

While this prohibition remained in force in general throughout the middle and early modern ages, this is no longer the case and Western women are often seen wearing trousers, ties, and men's hats. Nevertheless, many cultures around the world still prohibit women from wearing trousers or other traditionally male clothing.[citation needed]

Cosplaying may also involve cross-dressing, for some females may wish to dress as a male, and vice versa (see Crossplay). Breast binding (for females) is not uncommon and is most likely needed to cosplay a male character.

In most parts of the world it remains socially frowned upon for men to wear clothes traditionally associated with women. Attempts are occasionally made, e.g. by fashion designers, to promote the acceptance of skirts as everyday wear for men. Cross-dressers have complained that society permits women to wear pants or jeans and other masculine clothing, while condemning any man who wants to wear clothing sold for women.

While most male cross-dressers utilise clothing assosicated with modern women, there are some who are involved in subcultures that involve dressing as little girls or in vintage clothing. Some such men have written that they enjoy dressing as feminine as possible, so they will wear frilly dresses with lace and ribbons, as well as multiple petticoats, corsets, girdles and/or garter belts with nylon stockings.[7]

Social Issues

Cross-dressers may begin wearing their opposite sex's clothing as children, using the clothes of a sibling, parent, or friend. Some parents have said they allowed their children to cross-dress and, in many cases, the child stopped when they became older. The same pattern often continues into adulthood, where there may be confrontations with a spouse. Married cross-dressers experience considerable anxiety and guilt if their spouse objects to their behaviour. Cross-dressers may become obsessive and/or compulsive in their behaviour, if not actually addicted to wearing the opposite sex's clothing [citation needed]. Some have periodically disposed of all their clothing, a practice called "purging", only to start another collection later.[8]


Female-bodied cross-dressers

The behaviour of women in general has historically often received less attention than that of men, and cross-dressing is no exception. However, there are some famous examples of cross-dressing female-bodied persons in history (see Famous historical examples of cross-dressing people below).

In modern Western societies, cross-dressing behaviour in women is more difficult to identify as a large number of traditionally men's clothing such as trousers have become socially acceptable for both genders to wear, leaving few types of clothing that are only socially acceptable for men to wear. A woman can even wear men's shirts, trousers, and underwear without it being noticed or considered as crossdressing, as very similar clothing items are produced for women.

Social acceptance plays a large role in the perceived low numbers of women crossdressers for the simple reason that it is far more socially acceptable for a woman to be seen wearing men's clothes than a man to be seen wearing women's clothes. Therefore a woman wearing rugged jeans and a plaid shirt would not garner much attention, whereas a man wearing a skirt and high heels would instantly be deemed a cross-dresser. Since the advent of feminism, women have been held to much more lax standards of gender expression and dress, allowing them to still express their femininity but at the same time not being constrained to the feminine ideal as in ages past. Men, on the other hand, are still subject to the same social constraints that existed before the advent of feminism. Thus, men are being held just as much (if not more) to the same standards of masculinity as in the past, and a display of seemingly opposite gender behaviour on a man's part is socially taboo. Therefore the reason it is so hard to have statistics for female-bodied crossdressers is that the line where non-crossdressing stops and crossdressing begins has become blurred, whereas the same line for men is just as defined. This is one of the many issues being addressed by the modern-day masculist movement, the male-equivalent of the feminist movement.

The classic psychoanalytic view

Classic psychoanalytic views of cross-dressing emphasized the role of taboo in the behaviour. Only items that were proscribed to a gender would be appropriated, and therefore it is not the general association of an item with one sex or the other but the prohibitions against the item that give satisfaction to those with a fetish attachment to cross-dressing. According to this theory, as articles become acceptable for ordinary wear (e.g. a man's necktie on a woman, which passed from taboo to fashion in the 1970s) they will cease to be sought by cross-dressers.

Some psychoanalysts today do not regard cross-dressing by itself a psychological problem, unless it interferes with the functioning of a person's life. "For instance," said Dr. Joseph Merlino, Senior Editor of the book Freud at 150: 21st Century Essays on a Man of Genius, "I'm a cross-dresser and I don't want to keep it confined to my circle of friends, or my party circle, and I want to take that to my wife and I don't understand why she doesn't accept it, or I take it to my office and I don't understand why they don't accept it, then it's become a problem because it's interfering with my relationships and environment."[9]

The problem of attributing motives for cross-dressing

When speaking of historical figures, when cross-dressing is not clearly related to specific events (like an escape or disguise) it is usually impossible to state clearly what the motives for cross-dressing were. This information was rarely recorded or preserved. Documents on the subject are often either court records (where the cross-dressing person may have said whatever they thought would minimize their punishment) or accounts by other people who might not understand the motivations correctly. Furthermore, historic figures were often unable to identify themselves as homosexual, transgender, transsexual, or transvestite because these classifications simply had no names or social recognition in their era.

It can be equally difficult to be certain of the motives of modern day people who cross-dress. The only real proof of motive is that person's own statement. Yet even this is not always certain, as there are examples of people attributing their cross-dressing behaviour to one motive only to later realize that they may have had another reason. The classical example of this would be a transsexual person who initially attributed cross-dressing behaviour to transvestic fetishism (for trans women) or the utilitarian practicality of male clothing (for trans men).

Another problem which many cross dressers recognize in the attempt to attribute motives for their behaviour is the pathologization of cross dressing inherent in this sort of research. Many cross dressers feel, that rather than attributing motives for cross dressing, research should rather focus on the reasons for why cross dressing is considered taboo by society, or why clothing is gender-segregated at all.

Some famous examples of cross-dressing

In Greek mythology

  • In punishment for his murder of Iphitus, Heracles/Hercules was given to Omphale as a slave. Many variants of this story say that she not only compelled him to do women's work, but compelled him to dress as a woman while her slave.
  • Achilles dressed in women's clothing at the court of Lycomedes.
  • Athena often goes to the aid of people in the guise of men in The Odyssey.

In Norse myths and legends

  • Thor dressed as Freyja in order to get Mjölnir back in Þrymskviða.
  • Odin dressed as a female healer as part of his efforts to seduce Rindr.
  • Loki transformed himself into a mare (thus crossdressing and making oneself look nonhuman) and in that form became the mother of Sleipnir. In Lokasenna, he and Odin taunt each other with having taken on women's forms, bearing babies and nursing them, but the further details of myths behind those taunts have not survived.
  • Hagbard in the Scandinavian legend of Hagbard and Signy (the Romeo and Juliet of the Vikings). After having slain Signy's brothers and suitors, Hagbard was no longer welcome in the hall of Signy's father Sigar. Hagbard then dressed up as one of his brother Haki's shieldmaidens in order to have access to the chambers of his beloved. When the handmaidens washed his legs, they asked him why they were so furry and why his hands were so calloused. Because of this, he invented a clever verse to explain his strange appearance. Signy, however, who understood that it was Hagbard who had come to see her, explained to the maidens that his verse was truthful. Hagbard was, however, deceived by the handmaidens and he was arrested by Sigar's warriors. Hagbard was hanged and Signy committed suicide as Hagbard watched from the gallows.
  • Frotho I dressed as a shieldmaiden in one of his eastern campaigns.
  • Hervor from Hervarar saga. When Hervor learnt that her father had been the infamous Swedish berserker Angantyr, she dressed as a man, called herself Hjörvard and lived for a long time as a Viking.

In Indian mythology: The Mahabharata

  • In the Agnyatbaas ("exile") period of one year imposed upon the Pandavas, Arjuna crossdressed as Brihannala and became a dance teacher.

Famous historical examples of cross-dressing people

Famous historical examples of cross-dressing people include:

  • Hua Mulan, the central figure of the Ballad of Mulan (and of the Disney film Mulan), may be a historical or fictional figure. She is said to have lived in China during the Northern Wei dynasty, and to have posed as a man in order to fulfil the household drafting quota, thus saving her ill and aged father from having to serve.
  • Several tales of the Desert Fathers speak of monks who were disguised women, a fact discovered only when their bodies were prepared for burial. One such woman, St. Mary of Alexandria, died 508, accompanied her father to a monastery and adopted a monk's habit as a disguise. When she was falsely accused of having gotten a woman pregnant, she patiently bore the accusation without revealing her identity to clear her name, an action praised in medieval books of saints' lives as an example of humble forbearance.
  • The legend of Pope Joan alleges that she was a promiscuous female pope who dressed like a man and reigned from 855 to 858. Modern historians regard her as a mythical figure who originated from 13th century anti-papal satire.
  • Joan of Arc was a 15th century French peasant girl who joined French armies against English forces fighting in France during the latter part of the Hundred Years' War. She is a French national heroine and a Catholic saint. After being captured by the English, she was burned at the stake upon being convicted by a religious court, with the act of dressing in male clothing being cited as one of the principal reasons for her execution. A number of witnesses, however, testified that she had said she wore male clothing (consisting of two layers of pants attached to the doublet with twenty fasteners) because she feared the guards would rape her at night.[10]
  • Anne Bonny and Mary Read were late 17th century pirates. Bonny in particular gained significant notoriety, but both were eventually captured. Unlike the rest of the male crew, Bonny and Read were not immediately executed because Read was pregnant and Bonny claimed to be pregnant as well.
  • Ulrika Eleonora StÃ¥lhammar was a Swedish woman who served as a soldier during the Great Northern War and married a woman.
  • Bonnie Prince Charlie dressed as Flora MacDonald's maid servant, Betty Burke to escape the Battle of Culloden for the island of Skye in 1746.
  • Ann Mills fought as a dragoon in 1740.
  • Hannah Snell served as a man in the Royal Marines 1747-1750, being wounded 11 times, and was granted a military pension.
  • Charles-Geneviève-Louis-Auguste-André-Timothée Éon de Beaumont (1728-1810), usually known as the Chevalier d'Eon, was a French diplomat and soldier who lived the first half of his life as a man and the second half as a woman. In 1771 he claimed that physically he was not a man, but a woman, having been brought up as a man only. From then on s/he lived as a woman. On her/his death it was discovered that her/his body was anatomically male.
  • George Sand is the pseudonym of Amandine-Aurore-Lucile Dupin, an early 19th century French novelist who preferred to wear men's clothing exclusively. In her autobiography, she explains in length the various aspects of how she experienced cross-dressing.
  • Dorothy Lawrence was an English war reporter who disguised herself as a man so she could become a soldier in World War I.
  • Rrose Sélavy, the feminine alter-ego of the late French artist, Marcel Duchamp, remains one of the most complex and pervasive pieces in the enigmatic puzzle of the artist's oeuvre. She first emerged in portraits made by the photographer Man Ray in New York in the early 1920s, when Duchamp and Man Ray were collaborating on a number of conceptual photographic works. Rrose Sélavy lived on as the person to whom Duchamp attributed specific works of art, Readymades, puns, and writings throughout his career. By creating for himself this female persona whose attributes are beauty and eroticism, he deliberately and characteristically complicated the understanding of his ideas and motives. More contemporary artists like J. S. G. Boggs, Yasumasa Morimura, and Grayson Perry have also explored cross-dressing.
  • Billy Tipton was a notable jazz pianist and saxophonist in the United States during the Great Depression. He was born Dorothy Lucille Tipton in 1914, but began living as a man in the 1930s. He was married five times to women, and adopted three boys. He led a full career as a musician and, in later life, as an entertainment agent. Other than his birth family, no one knew of his birth sex or cross-living until after his death in 1989.
  • Willmer "Little Ax" Broadnax was a lead singer in several important gospel quartets, most famously the Spirit of Memphis Quartet. When he died in 1994, it was discovered that he was female bodied.
  • Because female enlistment was barred, many women fought for both the Union and the Confederacy during the American Civil War while dressed as men.
  • Edward Hyde, 3rd Earl of Clarendon, colonial governor of New York and New Jersey in the early 1700s is reported to have enjoyed going out wearing his wife's clothing, but this is disputed.[11] Hyde was an unpopular figure, and rumors of his cross-dressing may have begun as an urban legend.
  • Eddie Izzard, a British stand-up comedian, claims to have cross-dressed his entire life. He often performs his act in feminine clothing, and has discussed his cross dressing as part of his act. He calls himself an 'executive transvestite'.

Cultural examples of cross-dressing

Cross-dressing is the subject of many works of literature and plays a significant role in popular culture. References to cross-dressing are frequently used for comic effect. And some established events are centered around cross-dressing, such as Southern Decadence in New Orleans, where the official festivites are coordinated by the Grand Marshals, who are traditionally cross-dressers.[12]


Ballads have many cross-dressing heroines. While some (The Famous Flower of Serving-Men) merely need to move about freely, many do it specifically in pursuit of a lover (Rose Red and the White Lily or Child Waters) and consequently pregnancy often complicates the disguise.

Occasionally, men in ballads also disguise themselves as women, but not only is it rarer, the men dress so for less time, because they are merely trying to elude an enemy by the disguise, as in Brown Robin, The Duke of Athole's Nurse, or Robin Hood and the Bishop. According to Gude Wallace, William Wallace disguised himself as a woman to escape capture, which may have been based on historical information.

Fairy tales seldom feature cross-dressing, but an occasional heroine needs to move freely as a man, as in the German The Twelve Huntsmen, the Scottish The Tale of the Hoodie, or the Russian The Lute Player. Madame d'Aulnoy included such a woman in her literary fairy tale, Belle-Belle ou Le Chevalier Fortuné.


In Ludovico Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, Bradamante, being a knight, wears full-plate armor; similarly, Britomart wears full-plate armor in Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene. Intentionally or not, this disguises them as men, and they are taken as such by other characters. In Orlando Furioso, Fiordespina falls in love with Bradamante; her brother Ricciardetto disguises himself as his sister, dressing as a woman, persuades Fiordespina that he is Bradamante, magically changed into a man to make their love possible, and in his female attire is able to conduct a love affair with her.

In Arcadia, Sir Philip Sidney had one of his heroes, Pyrocles, disguise himself as an Amazon and call himself Zelmane, in order to approach his beloved Philoclea.

Lord Byron in his Don Juan, had Don Juan disguised as a woman in a harem.

In Terry Pratchett's novel Monstrous Regiment, he has an entire regiment of females (of assorted species) dressing as males to join the army, satirizing the phenomenon of crossdressing during wartime.

In Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, Éowyn disguises herself as man under the name Dernhelm to fight in the battle of the Pelennor Fields outside the White City, Minas Tirith.


Cross-dressing characters

William Shakespeare made substantial use of cross-dressing for female characters, who take on masculine clothing in order to carry out actions difficult for women. In Shakespeare's play The Merchant of Venice, Portia and her maid dress as men to plead in court on the merchant's behalf, and are quite successful in their ruse; in the same play, Shylock's daughter Jessica dresses as a man in order to elope with her Christian lover. Twelfth Night, or What You Will deals extensively with cross-dressing through the female protagonist Viola. She disguises herself as Cesario, and immediately finds herself caught up in a love triangle. She loves Duke Orsino who loves Countess Olivia who loves Cesario. Luckily, all is resolved when Viola's presumed dead twin brother Sebastian comes along. We only see Viola as Viola in one scene; for the rest of the play she is dressed as Cesario. When Rosalind and Celia flee court in As You Like It, Rosalind dresses, for their protections, as a man. However, as a way to further complicate the situation for comedic affect, Shakespeare has Rosalind's male character dress as a woman to help a male friend practise wooing the girl he is smitten with. In other words, it is a man (the actor) dressing as a woman dressing as a man dressing as a woman.

David Henry Hwang's 1988 play M. Butterfly focuses on a love affair between a French diplomat and a male Beijing opera singer who plays dan (?), or female, roles.

In the musical Rent, Angel is an example of a modern drag queen.

Although there is some dispute as to whether the character is transgendered or simply a cross-dresser, the character of Hedwig from the musical and subsequent movie Hedwig and the Angry Inch is another modern drag queen (the musical also features a male character played traditionally by a female actress, although the character's true gender is deliberately left with slight ambiguity).

Bugs Bunny frequently cross-dresses in his cartoons for comedic effect or to confound a male opponent.

Dr. Frank 'n' Furter in the Rocky Horror Picture Show wore nothing but women's clothing the entire movie/play.

Doctor N. Gin from Crash Bandicoot series, wore in Crash Tag Team Racing a ballerina dancer outfit as an alternative costume, and said he was more pretty in tutu.

Cross-dressing actors and actresses

In Renaissance England it was illegal for women to perform in theatres,[13] so female roles in the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporary playwrights were originally played by cross-dressing men or boys. (See also Stage Beauty.) Therefore the original productions of the above-mentioned Shakespeare plays actually involved double-cross-dressing: male actors playing female characters disguising themselves as males.

All roles in Japanese Noh dramas are traditionally played by male actors. Actors playing female roles wear feminine costumes and female-featured masks.

Japanese Kabuki theatre began in the seventeenth century with all-female troupes performing both male and female roles. In 1629 the disrepute of kabuki performances (or of their audiences) led to the banning of women from the stage, but kabuki's great popularity inspired the formation of all-male troupes to carry on the theatrical form. In Kabuki, the portrayal of female characters by men is known as onagata.

In ancient China, nearly all the characters in Chinese Opera were performed by men, so that all the male actors, who played the role of a female were crossdressing. A famous cross-dressing opera singer is Mei Lanfang.

The Monty Python troupe have been known to cross dress for comedic purposes in their TV series and films. The troupe usually dress up as older, more unarousing women referred to by the troupe as "pepperpots". Although member Terry Jones was most famous for his female characters, all the members have been seen in drag in one sketch or another; members Michael Palin and Eric Idle have been said to look the most feminine, Graham Chapman specialized in screeching, annoying housewives and John Cleese, whom the troupe has said is the most hilarious in drag, appears so extremely unfeminine that it is funny. Cleese also wore female clothes while appearing as himself in a magazine advertisement for American Express. For more information about cross-dressing in movies and television, see the article Cross-dressing in film and television.

Matt Lucas and David Walliams regularly cross-dress in the Little Britain television comedy show, with Lucas in particular often somewhat more feminine and convincing in his appearance and performances than cross-dressing comedians of the past. The two also sometimes play a pair of unconvincing transvestites as a parody of some cross-dressers who try to act in a stereotypically feminine way while not succeeding in "passing" as women.

The British writer, presenter and actor Richard O'Brien sometimes cross-dresses and ran a "Transfandango" ball aimed at transgendered people of all kinds in aid of charity for several years in the early 2000s.

The Takarazuka Revue is a contemporary all-female Japanese acting company, known for their elaborate productions of stage musicals. Takarazuka actresses specialize in either male or female roles, with male role actresses receiving top billing.

In pantomime, plays which are traditionally adaptions of fairy tales and performed around Christmastide, the role of lead male was once commonly played by a principal boy - a young, attractive, female. Though this practise has fallen out of favour somewhat recently with the rise in popular male television and pop stars taking these roles. Conversely the role of a pantomime dame, a middle aged woman played by a man for comic relief, is still one of the mainstays of the Pantomime.

In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, the male alien bounty hunter Greedo was portrayed by both a male and a female, each acting in different shots.

Michelle Ehlen plays a butch lesbian actress who gets cast as a man in a film in the comedic feature Butch Jamie.

Eddie Izzard, a British stand-up comedian and actor, claims to have cross-dressed his entire life. He often performs his act in feminine clothing, and has discussed his cross dressing as part of his act. He calls himself an 'executive transvestite'.


An entire cross-dressing genre of operatic roles, called "pants roles", "trouser roles", or "travesty roles". These are male roles performed by women, typically mezzo-sopranos but occasionally by sopranos. Some female opera singers specialize in these types of roles.

A major artistic reason for "pants roles" was that some storylines required young boy characters, but the actual performance required an adult's vocal strength and stage experience in addition to a high, boyish voice. Women were thus better suited to these boy roles than actual boys. Some examples of these boyish pants roles are Cherubino in "The Marriage of Figaro" and Hansel in "Hansel and Gretel". Other pants roles were created due to the need for an adult male character to seem other-worldly (Orpheus in "Orfeo ed Euridice") or unmanly (Prince Idamante in "Idomeneo," respectively). In some cases, the casting of a woman in a "pants role" may have been just an excuse to have an attractive actress appear in tight-fitting trousers. During the Grand Opera era, women typically worn voluminous dresses onstage. Some male operatic roles originally written to be sung in the voice range of castrati (men castrated in boyhood, whose voices never descended into the normal male register) are now usually cast with female singers in male costume.

Beethovens' only opera, Fidelio, is unusual in that it features a female character who cross-dresses as part of the plot. Fidelio involves a woman who disguises herself as a young man as part of a plan to rescue her husband from prison.

In the early 20th century, German composer Richard Strauss included a major trouser role in two operas: the Composer in "Ariadne auf Naxos" and Octavian in "Der Rosenkavalier."


Pete Burns, the lead singer in the New Wave band Dead or Alive, crossdressed in the bands' music videos, performances, and in his appearances on TV.

The late Harris Glenn Milstead, aka Divine, crossdressed in the movies he's in due to the part he plays, which is usually a woman. He also crossdressed in his music videos.

Marilyn Manson often used crossdressing in their performances, music videos and public appearances.

Kurt Cobain The lead singer of the American grunge band, Nirvana often cross-dressed at home and on stage.

Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day wrote the song King for a Day about cross-dressing.

Mana Japanese musician and fashion designer.

Brian Viglione, member of the punk cabaret group The Dresden Dolls, has crossdressed since he was 12 years old.

The Who's song "I'm a Boy" is about a young boy dressed as a girl.

The Bitch and Animal song "Drag King Bar" is about cross-dressing.

Cross-dressers from other fields

The British writer and doctor Vernon Coleman cross-dresses and has written several articles defending men who cross-dress, stressing they are often heterosexual and usually do not want to change sex.

See also


  1. "cross-dress." The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 25 Sep. 2007. [1]
  2. Rainbow Reader, Fort Wayne, Indiana
  3. See the television series M.A.S.H. for an example of a cross-dresser who didn't want to be in the military (Klinger); although, the character was played for laughs, this is based on military regulations prohibiting cross-dressers.
  4. Transformation magazine; interviews for Rainbow Reader, Fort Wayne, Indiana
  5. Schibanoff, Susan. "Fresh Verdicts on Joan of Arc", Transvestism and Idalotry, p39
  6. Merkle, Gertrude H. "Fresh Verdicts on Joan of Arc", Martin Le Franc's Commentary on Jean Gerson's Treatise on Joan of Arc, p182
  8. Rainbow Reader, Fort Wayne, Indiana
  9. Interview with Dr. Joseph Merlino, David Shankbone, Wikinews, October 5, 2007.
  10. Joan of Arc, Male Clothing Issue
  11. The Straight Dope: Did New York once have a transvestite governor?
  12. Southern Decadence Official Website
  13. Globe Theatre Female Roles

Further reading


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