by Julie Freeman
Transgender Forum, March 7, 2005
Julie Freeman is a significant other who has been active in the gender community for over nine years, particularly with significant others and couples groups. Julie is a regular columnist for the DVG newsletter and has also contributed to the TGSF newsletter, Tapestry and the Femme Mirror.
One of the difficulties that many genetic women have with accepting crossdressing is the negative way in which some crossdressers and many drag queens portray women. It is the inability of some crossdressers to distinguish between what is truly womanly and what is merely a mockery of the feminine that bothers us. Dragging women down should never be the result of crossdressing behavior.
Very few women want their picture taken constantly and persistently. Very few women discuss their underwear with other women, let alone pass around breast forms for discussion. Very few women share their clothing with other women. Very few women dress in exotic attire reminiscent of Heidi Fleiss. But these behaviors are not that uncommon within the gender community. Although we, significant others, try to understand why these behaviors are so prevalent, we are still far from happy when crossdressers believe these are OUR behaviors!
It appears to us that when crossdressers appear to mock the feminine by exaggerating female characteristics that they are really demeaning women. This may be exactly the opposite of what they are trying to portray. Are they just not savvy enough to understand the difference? Certainly we, significant others, understand that portraying a woman in a positive manner is not easy to do. Time is needed to learn how to apply makeup correctly and wear clothing that accentuates the softness of women, not the harshness portrayed so often by performers in drag.
Since drag queens are in the business to titillate their audiences, we are not going to find any changes in their exaggerated portrayals of women. And many of us enjoy watching drag queens and don't find anything wrong with the exaggerations; we just consider it show biz.
But when this exaggeration comes closer to home, we feel uncomfortable and slightly peeved, that this is how women are perceived. We do realize how hard this is for the crossdresser who may have no other role model, but his favorite drag queen. Very few crossdressers plan to perform. They just want to go on quietly with their lives, dressing as women when possible. But it becomes their responsibility to learn to dress in as feminine a manner as possible and understand that their clothing should fit the occasion. This may mean a simple shirt, jeans, and tennies, not the short skirt, tight blouse, high heels, and flashy wig seen on stage!
There are unfortunately many men and women in society who have no real knowledge of what makes crossdressers different from those drag queens who depict over-sexualized females. Therefore, their hostility (especially women's) towards crossdressers may actually be the result of what they consider drag queens' negative portrayal of women. Some are quite vociferous in their belief that "drag like blackface features insulting stereotypes" ("Dragging Women Down" by Kelly Kleiman, In These Times.)
In order for society to begin to understand what motivates crossdressers, they have to understand that crossdressers are different from performers. This will only begin to happen when crossdressers depict women in as positive and respectful manner as possible.