From the reading Transgender History by Susan Stryker, we can come to an understanding that cross-dressing is “the practice of wearing gender-atypical clothing rather than associating that practice with erotic impulse” (Stryker, 2008). This translates into individuals changing their physical appearance through external items such as clothes, make up and accessories in order to move away from their biological gender and allowing them to be identified as the opposite sex. Stryker also explained cross-dressing to be part of politics, for example, the old tradition of women not being able to wear pants. Therefore, it has had many motivations and taken several stances in the history of fashion. We can also associate cross-dressing in a celebratory sense, for example, when it comes to Mardi Gras or Halloween events. (Stryker, 2008)
When we consider cross-dressing with individuals who are in the process of transitioning from one gender to the other, the severity of public exception towards it changes in comparison to cross-dressing for holiday purposes. For instance, in Cortez’s Sexile article, we can conclude many cultures are against the process of individuals changing their gender and how they’re perceived in society. In Cuba, a man dressing as a woman was determined illegal. “I met queens who were captured in the 60s and forced into labor camps to get “fixed”” (Cortez, 2004). This explains cross-dressing to be viewed unnatural and far from the culture’s norms and traditions. Therefore, cross-dressing is very controversial when it comes to one’s serious intent to be viewed differently from their biological sex.
The term cross-dressing plays a major role when individuals are transitioning from one gender to another. It’s important in transgender studies because it allows us to develop a better understanding of the steps taken and behaviors shown to allow an individual to identify themselves as another gender. Cross-dressing is significant in giving individuals the opportunity to identify as the gender they feel themselves to be, this can be done through external clothing and doesn’t necessarily entail surgery or major body alterations, but allows for a big change on physical appearance. Through learning about cross-dressing, we can gain greater understanding of the social and physical pressures the transgender communities have. For example, those who cross dressed faced discrimination, as we saw in Screaming Queens, they were refused service in public areas and verbally harassed. We also saw physical complications in Screaming Queens, where they were beaten by others including authorities because of their physical attire, reasons as small as their buttons facing the opposite way.
Cross-dressing is important within transgender studies because it plays a large role in the emotional stability and confidence of those who identify themselves as another gender. When explaining Adella’s experience, Cortez includes “I finally got a hit of girl power and it left me high and mighty” (Cortez, 2004). This allows us to understand that cross-dressing is not only important for the physical appearance of transgender individuals but it also acts as a way for them to express their personality, their fashion taste and for them to feel attractive and comfortable with their own appearance. This lets them be confident and happier because they are representing themselves and their body the way in which they wish to be seen.