Cross-dressing, the act of wearing the clothing of the opposite sex, has been practiced throughout recorded history. Reasons vary. There is no known medical cause. Mostly the practice is men dressing as a woman. Society has a pre-occupation with the practice and it is often commercially exploited in theatrics. Outside of the theatre it is a violation of an unwritten dress code. Society’s reaction varies from harmless taboo on the one hand to charges of perversion and sinful behavior on the other, prompting harassment, ridicule and, in some cases, physical harm. Overall the practice seems to uncover a sense of gender anxiety that underpins the mainstream. Abrahamic religions and society in general exude strong support for a fixed male-female binary where gender conflates with biological sex. Cross-dressing disrupts the binary in favor of gender fluidity.
In this blog I share a different view of cross-dressing. I see it as a spiritual act, like a Sunday morning sermon. Depending on the surrounding it also lends itself to being carnivalized like a rowdy Saturday night outing. Thus, it is like having Sunday morning on Saturday night. Can you accept that modern Western gender norms are contrived and prevent you from being the spiritual person you are designed to be?
Joseph Campbell (d. 1987) was a famous mythologist. He spoke to the power of the myth to subtly influence human behavior in the cultures which are heir to it. A dream, he said, was to the individual person as the myth is to mankind. And, I know, at one time or another, we have all fallen under the influence of a dream. I am a believer in cause and effect; every effect has a cause. When there is no known scientific response to an observed effect, then the investigation must look to the paranormal for answers. Some force is influencing cross-dressers to do what they do, like the proverbial ghost from the past. It doesn’t just happen. Perhaps it is myth power, or maybe something in a past-life (called karma)…I don’t know. But I do know that it isn’t random. It happens too often to be answered with chance. And, its purpose is to deliver a message.
Campbell’s myth-power theory makes the most sense to me. The Bible’s creation story as told in Genesis is a myth which attaches to the Abrahamic religious population. In it we learn that God made man and woman, Adam and Eve; two human creatures of different biological sex. But, in verse 2:25 we learn that the two were made genderless. Gender differs from biological sex. It is the way the individual finds identity and expression. We read: “The man and his wife were naked, but they felt no shame.” Thus, the couple had the capacity to look through biological differences and find sameness. To Eve, Adam just was. And vice-versa. Neither cared what the other wore. The word “gender” was not in the official Garden of Eden dictionary.
Then disaster struck. The couple took a bite of the forbidden fruit. Suddenly they saw their nakedness. Genesis 3:7: “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked…” Now, rather than looking through each other, they looked at. God gave them something to look at and the word “gender” entered the dictionary. First He made clothing, kick-starting what would eventually become a multi-billion dollar fashion industry that is laid out in male-female categories, solidifying the notion of differentness. He then made role assignments, creating a patriarchal society with the woman subservient to the man, further separating the two by gender.
What I am getting at here is that cross-dressing is an act that neutralizes the male-female binary and moves in the direction of the pre-Fall condition of the Bible where gender did not exist. The cross-dresser may or may not realize the spiritual side of his (or her) actions. That is the way karma and myth-power work. We sometimes do the things we do under the influence of an invisible guiding hand. I know I have experienced it and I suspect you have too. It is on the level of that eerie feeling that someone is staring at you or thinking of someone only to have them appear unexpectantly in your presence some time later.
At issue here is the undoing of a rigid male-female binary which is held sacrosanct by the Abrahamic religions and validated by mainstream society. In religion’s binary, biological sex and gender conflate. A new born with a penis is a he, his favorite color is blue and he is conditioned to behave to society’s non-debatable male standard. Those with a vagina get pink for a favorite color and are conditioned to behave to society’s feminine code. The barrier that separates conflated gender is concrete hard. Those who cross it are treated harshly by society, particularly the male. The gender assignment and subsequent conditioning is blatant human rights violation since the child has no say-so in decisions that are made on its behalf and which affect his or her life going forward. Once the blue or pink onesie comes out, everything else proceeds on automatic pilot. I should mention that a recent US Supreme Court decision clarified that the person has the legal right to a gender identification that is different than than the one assigned at birth, much to the disappointment of orthodox Western religion. The fixed male-female binary is a ravage of sin and it is simply beyond belief that religion has such support for it. Kudos for the cross-dressers for taking on the establishment.
Can you accept that modern Western gender norms are contrived and prevent you from being the spiritual person you are supposed to be?
I find it interesting that since Jesus’s death and resurrection, not one single person (with the possible exception of His mother Mary) has duplicated the feat here in the West. Think about it. Of the billions of people who have died in the last 2,000 years, not one has resurrected. The Eastern culture is not much better although it has a few hundred thousand or so who departed the planet by resurrection. It is a Tibetan Buddhist tradition called rainbow body. The underlying practice is teachable, but demanding. A requisite condition is the elimination of all duality of thought. That is, like the pre-Fall couple, practitioners learn to look through visual perceptions and find sameness. Binarys such as short/tall, skinny/fat, smart/ignorant and so forth are eliminated, but especially the male/female binary. In the Gospel of Thomas Jesus conveys teachings that resonate with those the Tibetans use to realize rainbow body (Dzogchen). There He instructs His disciples to make the “…male and the female into a single one so that the male will not be male nor the female be female…” In other words, become genderless.
Of all of nature’s binarys, the male-female is arguably the most difficult to overcome. First, there is the natural sexual attraction. Deeply buried in the male mindset is the notion that the female body is separate from his and something he can do something to. Secondly, biological differentness is amplified by the way it is commercially exploited through dress code. The female code creates flirting opportunity through flesh exposure and accentuation of smooth body features and silky flowing hair. Third is the cosmetic effect; paint, powder, perfume and dangling trinkets to make the body more attractive. Lastly, while religion teaches we are made in God’s image, the image is particularly suited to the male. God, a Father who has a Son, is the ultimate expression of masculinity, the archetype of strength, defender of the weak. While a crossed-dress man speaks to the genderless, sameness that is sought, it also neutralizes the patriarchal role that religion imposes on the male through God imagery. This is something that gives the male difficulty and society concern.
In summary, there is more to male to female cross-dressing than meets the eye. Train yourself to look through your sense perceptions, not at. The world is not always as you perceive it to be through the naked eye. The cross-dresser, perhaps unbeknownst to himself, is balancing the male-female binary by challenging the dress code which visibly separates male and female, advancing the notion of the sameness which is needed for spiritual perfection and called for in the Bible.
The next time you see a man in a dress just remember; the male-female binary is under attack and the attacker may not be fully aware of why he is attacking. As the saying goes, “judge not lest ye be judged.” Amidst the rhetoric, mockery, ridicule and hullabaloo reminding of a Saturday night fever, be aware….. Sunday morning is coming down.