A long story of women in the man clothes...

Transvestism (trans...- Lat. vestio - to put on; travestism as a synonym), is a striving for dressing up into the contrary gender' clothes. 

We all have already heard about transvestites, but usually the discussion was devoted to men, while woman, who likes dressing up into the male clothes, can be a transvestite too. History of women, wearing male clothes, has much more deeply rooted then it may seem at first sight.

Theatre and cinema
Overwhelming majority has heard about Japanese theatre Kabuki, where men perform all possible roles, including women roles; less amount of people is concerned about another ancient Japanese theatre - Takarzuka, where all the roles, male ones among them, were performed by women only. 

Distinguishing from Japan, in Europe a woman-to-man transition wasn't welcomed. One of the reasons legendary Janna d'Ark' perishing in bonfire was her wearing male clothes - an inquisition couldn't excuse it. Transvestism was considered as a sin in the frames of religious viewpoint: "Woman is supposed not to wear man's outfit. Those who do will not be pleased by God." In spite of this assertion, there were so-called "breeches" - actresses, performing male roles in a 17th century' Britain theatre. 

20th century art, Hollywood in particular, haven't passed by a "woman in male clothes" topic. Marlene Dietrich accomplished a real overturn in official by that time fashion. She was the first famous woman who has put on a silk hat and tailcoat while acting in the film "Morocco". Besides that, in this film it was a first, throughout all cinematographic history, kiss between two women. Subjugated by Marlene Dietrich forever, lesbian hearts do not cease to be delighted with images, created by Marlene on a screen. Another film, shouted in 1930s, was a "Girls in a uniform", being a forebear of drag-military style. In our country it was Lubov' Orlova, who in 1940s presented an image of woman into a man-kind suit. Barbara Streizand in the film "Yentl" easily pretends to be a young tomboy, as well as Larissa Golubkina in "Hussar ballade", 1962. Whoopi Goldberg in "Companion" has brilliantly presented a role of well-to-do businessman. Tilda Wiston into the legendary Saga "Orlando", by Virginia Wolf, presented two roles simultaneously: man and woman. All in all, this list is rather big. 

Musical show business has not set aside a tempting image of semiboys - semigirls: Madonna, Annie Lenox, k.d.lang, Sharlin Spitery, Janna Agusarova and even Lolita Miluavskaya (!) - have personified a male image in their video clips rather successfully. 

It must be noted that there are several forms of transvestism, a couple of them being most pronounced: everyday (latent) and scenic transvestism. 

Everyday transvestism
One historical person - famous saber-maid Nadezhda Durova was masking her female essence brilliantly for the sake of her dream: military service. Huge amount of women followed her footsteps during the Civil War in USA - some of them countenanced their lovers-soldiers, some of them achieved an outstanding success in the soldiering, being an awarded officers. During the Civil war in Russia, in the period of eliminating the distinction between genders, woman-commissar, dressed in breeches and raglan, was rather common, then extraordinary phenomenon. But such dressing up more likely served for the convenience during those severe military times, then for the sake of somebody's pleasure. 

According to the soviet psychiatrists opinion, transvestism – is unambiguously a perversion, ought to be treated. Because "normal person won't disguise into the opposite gender' dress”. 
Contemporary science relates mass human weaknesses much more tolerantly, considering that their revealing doesn't injure anybody. And even, through hearsays, procures pleasure. Annually several hundreds of carnivals sweep across the planet, thousand of people, dressed in bright clothes, are satisfying their madness on disguising (few of them are professional travesty-artists) and being a person of opposite gender; but greater amount of people come only to look at such an unforgettable spectacle. And even failing carnivals transvestites entertain themselves: some of them caper, dressed in male domestic pants, wondering their neighbors and kindred. Some of them join hands in the hobby groups, daubing by Indian ink moustaches and tufts, and arranging improvised home shows for their friends and lovers. These underground drag-fanciers turn to be the main source of becoming real Drag-Kings, coming out in lesbian clubs and travesty-festivals. 

Scenic transvestism
We've got acquainted with scenic transvestism in the kindergarten - do you remember New Year trees and children's morning performances, where the roles of hares, rowdy-boys, Tots and Karlsons were performed by honored women-artists with stridently smoked voices and huge bums, being out of any "childish" panties. 
For example, Lija Achedzhakova (famous russian actress) couldn't "grow" out of travesty image until she became 35 years old, all the more because she was playing in the childish theatre (I guess, there's no need to explain - why). She has told rather funny case in the view of that: once she was in a hurry not to be late for spectacle and got stuck in the elevator with her neighbor. She felt keenly, pulling the elevator's grate and lamenting about the rigger's visit. Her neighbor is complacently clapping her shoulder: "Don't be upset!" Achedzhakova falls on his breast and cries: " You don't understand! I'm late to the spectacle". Neighbor consoles her: "Boy, chill out, you can go there next time!" 
We can also mention Klara Luchko and Marina Neelova ((famous russian actresses) in staging Shakespeare's "Twelfth night". By the way, it was the first film, where Klara Luchko performed 2 roles simultaneously (brother and sister), and where a first kiss through the Soviet (!) cinema history took place. Luchko-Sabastjan was ardently, according to the Soviet yardsticks, kissing the star, beauty Alla Larionova. The fact that Luchko was a "man" hasn't damped furious lesbian's palpitation in 1955. 

But it was the end of woman transvestism development in Soviet Union. Unlike male transvestism, prospering in the gay-clubs out from their (clubs) appearance. But before this moment in Russia there wasn't even "Queen" clips and film "Tutsi", where Russian travesty could derive an idea of wearing tights only for the sake of pastime. Nowadays male travesty-shows are reaching rather lofty level. Expensive scenic suits are sewed, footwear and wigs are purchased not anywhere, and a repertory is gleaned rather thoroughly. Holyday Show "Dream Factory", "Gay Broadway", "Birds of Paradise" are familiar even to the ordinary man in the street, who haven't ever visited gay-club. Male travesties appear in clips, films and TV-programs in increasing frequency. But there is no woman travesty-shows in Russia. 

So who are they - women-travesty? 
A splash of modern woman' transvestism falls on the end of 90s in the 20th century. After 1969s occasions - meaning Stonewall, when gay-movement has spoken out openly and at the top of their voice, overcomprehension of social stereotypes leaded to relatively greater women's liberation out of prevailing in the society stereotypes of woman beauty. Butches were first to come out. More precisely, they existed for all times, trying not to reveal themselves actively and candidly; the reason was misunderstanding in heterosexual and lesbian environment. Then a long butch struggle for the right to be called "woman" started, because initially they were considered to be a man in the woman body, FtM-transsexuals, there were even an attempts to change their sex forcedly. Not very long ago society, including lesbian-society, estimated beauty and fascination of masculine women on their true worth. 

Exactly masculine women, being, as a rule, sexually and socially active lesbians (but it's not an obligatory condition), reveal an inclination for transvestism. 

Official sexology has for a long time considered transvestism to be one of the forms of sexual perversion, characterized by the way of reaching sexual satisfaction: wearing the clothes of an opposite gender. But, according to the investigations' results, transvestism is rather dissimilar phenomenon, because the reasons of one's striving for wearing opposite gender clothes could be very diverse. 

It is a widespread nickname of transvestites in the Western countries - Drag. And we all heard about drag Queens - man in woman clothes, seeing them in the clips and magazine's covers. But what do we know about a Drag King - a woman into a man clothes? Drag is an abbreviation, first it was written as "D.R.A.G" - "dressed as a girl". Women-transvestites were called "D.R.A.B" - "dressed as a boy". But then, for the sake of convenience, an abbreviation was reduced to the Drag, being applied to man and woman-travesty both. Then appeared a prefixes: "Queen" - considering man and "King" - considering woman. Crossdresser is one more term for signing transvestites, as well as CD (crossdresser), TV (travesty), FtMTV (female-to-male travesty). There exists certain mishmash between two definitions: "transvestism" and "transsexuality". They usually say that if a woman is disguising into a man, imitating him – it means that she wants to be a man, changing her gender. It may be rather far from truth! We can’t deny the existence of this dependence, but this relation is not direct, not obligatory and not consequent. For example, cake-fancier is not always stout person, but at the same time there is greater amount of cake-fanciers among stout people. Transvestism is an art, grotesque, slapstick. Transvestite is craving for being like a man, but a man as a “superman”, may be even comical, hypertrophied, conventional. Every drag-style exists and develops according to the certain scenic rules. Transsexual regards his male image very seriously, tending to look as “naturally” as it is only possible. Transvestite conceives his disguising as a play, while for transsexual it’s a necessary, everyday element of his existence. Transvestite needs a delighted and upholding public, he needs a viewer, transsexual endeavors not to attract too much attention to his person. That is why FtM-transsexuals (before and after changing gender’ operation) do not take part in drag-shows. 

To become a real travesty sticking moustaches and pulling a dinner jacket is not enough. Travesty is a show. Every drag has his own role (image, style) and repertoire (scenic gags), he is an artistic and liberated person. Generally, travesties perform gags with the help of phonogram, presenting a parody towards the famous artist. Drags are coming out both solo and in duet, or in a team, if they are parodying any famous boy-band ("Take That", for example). There is a number of favorite drag-styles: cowboys, sailors, disco-dancers, rappers, rockers, bikers, etc. While Madonna being a favorite image for imitation among male travesties, Elvis Presley remains to be a beloved symbol among drag-kings. Drag is a travesty artist, being an unalienable part of foreign lesbian culture. Any respected and self-respected lesbian club has its King, usually – local instigator, DJ, evening show’ leader – he is a club’s “face”, its soul. It happens sometimes that Drag Kings unite their show-programs with Drag Queens – most frequently it happens during gay-parades, drag-festivals or gay-clubs, visited by “mixed”, gay-lesbian public.

 Vdova © Drag.Lesbiru.Com, July 2002