Does Crossdressing stem from Patriarchy?

The other day the thought struck me that in some ways crossdressing seems to stem from patriarchy.  Feel free to disagree or push me on this.  These are just my musings, not something I would stake my life on.  Feel free to point out how I am wrong.  I’m very willing to listen.

My thoughts go like this.  In our culture, especially in the past, we have been very patriarchal.  In some ways, this has been very negative, as I’m sure most of you would agree with.  Men went to work, women were confined to the home.   Men had the most power, the most money, and the most fame.  And to me, one of the signs of patriarchy was that even in the realms that were deemed traditionally feminine, men were the most famous.  So cooking would have been a traditionally feminine realm and yet the most famous cooks on television were men.  The most famous painters.  The most famous experts on raising children. Whatever the case may be.  It’s like, “women, this is your job, your realm.  But look, I can show you how to do it better.”  My point is, even in the realms we had improperly mostly relegated to women, men were still in a sense invading their territory and getting the limelight.  It’s as if men were not content to have all the power and glory in their own given realm, but wanted all the power and glory in the realms that had been delegated to women as well.

Most of us, especially those of us who have struggled with or are currently giving into crossdressing or transgenderism, we notice the bad signs of patriarchy and sexism still in our culture, and we want to get rid of the negative aspects of patriarchy and get rid of sexism.  And yet, I wonder if our desires stem somewhat from patriarchy.

It seems to me to be the epitomy of sexism and arrogance for men to crossdress.  Men have always taken over the areas that were relegated to women and taken their glory and power.  But crossdressers take that to a whole other level.  They take over the very realm of womanhood.  They take the very identity of being a woman.  A crossdresser is in some ways saying, “let me show you how to be a real woman.  I can do it better.”  I think this happens especially for married crossdressers.  At times we get disappointed with our wives.  They aren’t acting sexy enough, dressing attractive enough, or being intimate enough with us.  So instead of going to them, we crossdress ourselves, and become the better woman, the more attractive dressing woman, to replace them.  And then we become intimate with ourselves rather than them, sometimes emotionally intimate with ourselves, sometimes sexually, and sometimes both.

This has happened on a more public level as well.  Most of you know of the male model Andrej Pejic who often models female clothing, even making himself totally over as a woman.  I’m sorry to say I know that there are plenty of other male models who do the same thing, or at least model female clothing and/or very androgynous looks.  Anyway, someone like Andrej Pejic to me is a disgusting form of patriarchy in our culture.  It used to be that it was women modeling to other women how to look good and skinny and attractive, to the point that women felt so bad about themselves that they got eating disorders.  And now we have men modeling womens clothing for them.  Now we have women feeling even more letdown and unattractive when they think that this messed up man is looking better in the clothes than they would.  Do we have to take patriarchy so far that women can’t even model their own clothes to women, so that now we need men to do it for them too?  What vestiges of society are there left that men don’t take over from women?


On a slightly different note, I think patriarchy is causing a lot of our crossdressing or transgender desires.  Because patriarchy still exists in our culture in many ways, it is difficult at times to be a boy or a man.  It’s easy to feel emasculated and put down if you aren’t good enough at sports, if you are too emotional, as a boy.  And as a man, the pressures and responsibility of patriarchy, of leading, of everyone expecting so much from you as a man can be overwhelming.  Patriarchy I think leads us to retreat into femininity.  It’s a false femininity, since there is no reason that true femininity has to be passive and weak and irresponsible.  So it’s a false femininity, but it’s our perceived femininity in our sexist culture.  And we retreat from the pressures of masculinity into this soft comforting femininity away from our responsibilities.  The female clothing helps us to get to those feelings of retreat.  I think the escaping comes out both in crossdressing as a temporary escape, and in transgender feelings, wanting a more permanent escape and feeling like one doesn’t fit into the masculine culture.

Likewise I think females may crossdress, or struggle with transgender feelings in order to escape patriarchy as well.  But this escape from patriarchy is a more literal escape from their position of weakness.  They struggle with being thrust into the passive femininity and lack of power.  They want to get out of that trap.  They want the good power, prestige, and positions men have.  And in our patriarchal and sometimes sexist culture that can be difficult for them to attain.  So they try to escape patriarchy I think at times by crossdressing or at least dressing less femininely.  Or they may struggle with transgender feelings and think life would be easier as a man for them.  Of course they would not say this, they would say that they feel like they actually are a man at heart.  But I am musing that part of the reason they feel this way is a subconscious desire to escape the pressure against women stemming from patriarchy.


On a personal note, I have seen how my wife struggled with her identity as a woman as she has grown up.  When she was a child she loved feminine things and fancy dresses.  As she grew up she rebelled against the stifling nature of patriarchy.  She refused to wear dresses, and refused many culturally feminine things.  She struggled much with her identity as a woman, and felt more like a man, and had more men as friends.  She pushed and pushed against the rigid boundaries of patriarchy and what women can or can not do.  Finally when married to me, we both confessed to each other our broken feelings about our identities as man and woman.  She was trying to escape being stifled by patriarchy, and I was trying to escape the pressures of patriarchy through crossdressing.  In our marriage, she found new freedom to be a real woman, not a stifled woman under patriarchy.  She found freedom to be the strong, athletic, bold woman she is.  In marriage books, I fit many of the generalities about women, and she the generalities about men.  But we have found freedom being affirmed for who we are by each other, and that has helped me to feel like a true man, and she a true woman.  I think it is because she no longer feels trapped and forced out of her normal self, and feels free to be who she is, that she has been able to embrace more cultural components of femininity.  For example she loves to wear dresses once again as she did as a child, and does a wonderful job of making herself beautiful.  So she is still strong, and athletic and so forth, but also has embraced her identity as a woman.  I’m not at all saying you need to wear dresses, or try to look beautiful, to be a real woman.  I’m just saying suddenly she enjoys doing it again because she realizes dressing like that does not have to go along with stifling her personality.  In essence, she has been able to realize that she doesn’t have to flee her biological womanhood, and even the culture’s way of dressing as a woman, in order to be herself.  Likewise, I have been able to realize I don’t have to flee my biological manhood, and retreat into the dress of women, in order to be my true self.

So let’s all keep chipping away at the sexism and stifling gender stereotypes of our culture, and this hopefully would lead to less people developing crossdressing or transgender desires.


8 comments on “Does Crossdressing stem from Patriarchy?

  1. Ralph says:

    Thorin, you might want to remove that first comment — it looks like it was just posted so the name would link to a collection of sexually explicity crossdressing sites. I know because I clicked on it by mistake 😦

    I know you’re wonderful about giving voice to people who don’t share your views (raises my own hand) but… wow.


  2. Vivienne says:

    This is a question which I have mused over again and again. If I were truly free to wear whatever I wanted, and behave however I wished, with no stigma at all, would I still be a crossdresser?

    In other words, is part of the fun and the spice of it, that it is “forbidden”? I think, truthfully, yes, but not all of it. I think if I were absolutely free to wear whatever I wanted, I would probably wear more feminine clothes when the mood takes me. I am aware now that my desire to dress waxes and wanes, and there have been opportunities when I have dressed, not because I really feel like it, but because I know I won’t get the chance again for ages.

    So, in answer to your question, I think some of the motivation for crossdressing comes from the fact that men and women have different roles (and status) in society. But not all of it. This is only true of me, and there will be a million other viewpoints.

    For me, “cross-dressing” is merely the outward manifestation of an inward desire to be more feminine sometimes. It’s _so_ not just about the clothes.



  3. thorin25 says:

    Thanks Ralph, didn’t catch that, got it removed 🙂


  4. thorin25 says:

    Hi Vivienne, I think your comment hits home the point that there are a multitude of reasons all of us have crossdressed. We can keep finding little pieces of the puzzle, but it is not as simple as, x is the reason why I crossdress. It is more like, a, b, c, f, g, and x, with y working on x in this way, is why we crossdressed. It is the same for me, the forbidden nature of it is a small part of it, but definitely not most of it.


  5. John says:

    I recently commented about this in another section but I wanted to add to it that Vivienne brought up another good point about how limited opportunity certainly can drive the behavior and has for me in the past. Now that I have relatively unlimited opportunity and I don’t actively desire to crossdress, when an urge to do so strikes me, I just let it pass. At other times in my life, I would have given in to the urge, knowing I might not have another chance later. It is more than just self will I know, as my work in 12 step and giving things over to God is a factor in my restraint.

    I often do at times envy (of course, I don’t think envy is something God wants for us to do) women’s freedom to express themselves with things like nail and hair color. Many times I wish that I could paint my nails out in the open without the risk of public ridicule, criticism, stares, harassment, etc. I do think in general there are times I would soften my look if it were more acceptable, but perhaps not exactly the way women do it, since after all I am a man.

    Maybe this is a tangent here as well, but I have often been self-critical for not having the courage to challenge the rigid gender norms out in the open and felt shame about it. I wonder if in the past, this has also fueled my crossdressing urges and whether this occurs for other crossdressers as well. I’m even reticent to compliment a woman’s makeup, clothes, etc. too openly for fear I will appear odd or unmanly. In certain behaviors, I probably am a bit guarded, since I know that I have a historical propensity for crossdressing and want to appear as a “normal” man… However, in other areas of my behavior and my interests, I really do not act like a “typical” man, including certain interests, career choices, etc., and don’t feel shame about that.


  6. thorin25 says:

    John I also envy things that women can do, like painting their nails, makeup, clothing styles etc. I think our crossdressing cannot be limited solely to a confused sexual attraction placed upon ourselves as the woman. That certainly is a part of it. But another part of it may be a natural propensity to enjoy beauty, fashion, colorful things, etc. As just a normal, even good, part of our personality.

    How do we deal with that as Christians? I think we need to keep upholding the gender boundaries of our culture, and not be the ones to try to make healthy changes, for example in mens fashion. It’s too dangerous for us to do. Our motivation would never be pure. But we can encourage other men when we see them do things that open up more choices for men. I’m talking small changes like softer fabrics, colorful clothing, etc. I think there is also room for us to enjoy fashion, color, etc. in ways beyond ourselves. I enjoy nail color like you mentioned, but I have learned to enjoy it on my wife rather than myself. I desire to see a certain “beauty” and let’s say that beauty is polished nails. There is no reason I can’t enjoy seeing it on somebody else rather than myself. There is no reason I can’t enjoy talking to my wife about what looks good on me, and what looks good on her. I don’t have to give in to crossdressing to enjoy that interest and topic of conversation.


  7. Cd says:

    You sound like a total sexist. Or feminist. Crossdressing is just a form of expression about a individual. The reason women have eating disorders is because of the society we live inn. Not because of men modeling women’s clothes. Society set the standards on sexy and feminine and masciinr and men. Men don’t always want top have to deal with there problems of society. If they want to feel subbmicive they can. Of women want to no feel feminine it’s that simple act like a dood don’t care what others think. But society is the issue not crossdressing men.


  8. thorin25 says:

    Cd, at first glance it might seem like criticizing crossdressing is sexist, but when you understand the ways that crossdressers actually objectify women and also keep unhelpful gender stereotypes going, then you can see that crossdressing can actually promote sexism. You said I sound like a feminist. Sure. Because feminists are not sexist. You seem to be a bit confused. How can I be both sexist and feminist? It is true that many feminists are vehemently against crossdressing. I don’t like the hate I see from many feminists towards transgendered people. But I do agree with them that crossdressing objectifies women, and it is men trying to take something that doesn’t belong to them.

    I highly highly disagree that crossdressing is just a form of expression. If it were so, then why do people get sex changes? That goes beyond outward expression. If it is just a form a self-expression why does it destroy marriages? Why do I have people coming to this every single day, week after week, coming and saying that they feel enslaved to crossdressing, want to stop, but don’t know how to , and it’s ruining their life? That doesn’t sound like simple self-expression. If I am a painter, and I paint as a hobby and way of self-expression, you don’t see painters coming and pleading about how it is ruining their life and they feel enslaved to it.


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