by Melanie Yarborough


Many crossdressers get seriously angry when compared to (or even mentioned in the same breath as) the more flamboyant crossdresing gay men. Heterosexual crossdressers will be quick to say they have little in common with Queens. First and foremost, because crossdressers aren't gay. And second, because crossdressers don't do exaggerated drag as queens do. Crossdressers have the loftier goal of wanting to present as "real women".

Ironically, crossdressers spend lots of time and money in gay bars, where the queens circulate. And with good reason-it's one of the few public places a man dressed as a woman can safely socialize. The management there may even look on them with wry amusement: "You say you're straight, but you're wearing a dress and hanging around in a gay bar. Hmmmm....."

Angry denials and separatism really don't get us anywhere. Transgender rights are furthered by understanding how and why stereotypes occur and what we can do to change them.

Crossdressing is seen as synonymous with homosexuality for a simple reason: society's machista/heterosexualist ideology. Love and sexual relationships can only exist in one way, through masculine men dominating feminine women. This maintains the heterosexual male power structure. It also puts down women, gays & lesbians, interracial couples, leatherpeople, and anyone else who doesn't fit in.

Transgender confuses this society totally. The only way it can rationalize something so alien is to think: If a man wants to dress as a women, it simply must be in order to have sex with a man. And if a man wants to have sex with another man, it simply must be because he wants to be woman. Plain and simple.

Pretty narrow view of things, isn't it? Straight society needs to be made to understand that gender and sexual orientation are two different things. Gender is how you identify yourself (as male or female). Sexual orientation is whom you prefer as a sexual partner (males or females). Plain and simple.

Another problem is that crossdressers and queens sometimes look the same: Big luxurious hair, thick makeup, ultra-short skirts & ultra-high heels, glittering jewelry. Queens take the idea of femininity and carry it to the extreme. This is a conscious effort to burlesque the sex goddesses of stage and screen. Crossdressers unwittingly do the same, but for different reasons. For many TV's, the image they have of femininity is those exact same sex goddesses of stage and screen-not the quiet housewife or mousy librarian.

What is it about queens that so rankles crossdressers? It may be a sense of "You're spoiling it for the rest of us!". While crossdressers try to convince straight society they're not a danger and don't have to be a visual affront, flamboyant queens appear to set these efforts back. By being openly gay men in drag, they confirm society's worst prejudice: that all crossdressers really are gay.

Interestingly, gay men themselves also are rankled by queens for the same reasons. They're also trying to convince straight society they're not a danger or a visual affront. And here are these transvestite gay men swishing and flouncing and being in-your-face..... So ironically, crossdressers and gay men actually have something in common, that both look down on queens.

Assimilationalism is the belief that if I can just get society to see me as one of them, I'll be accepted. But the sad truth is, by definition transgendered are not like straight mono-gendered society. Prejudices about gender and sexual orientation are engrained. The monogender and heterosexualist ideology can't bend itself to accomodate transgender or homosex. It needs to be convinced to broaden that ideology to accomodate variations. In other words, we'll never find a place under their small umbrella. We need to get them to expand their own umbrella. It may be difficult, but not impossible.

Minority groups have been most sucessful in gaining civil rights by defining themselves as for something, and not just against something. Pro-African American, not anti-white. Pro-Feminist, not anti-male. Pro-gay rights, not anti-heterosexual.

The transgender community doesn't have to define itself as anti-gay or anti-queen. We can stop trying to define ourselves by what we're not, and start defining ourselves by what we are: transgendered and proud.

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