I have to make a speech

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I have to make a speech

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Fev 26, 2008, 1:08 pm

I'm taking a psychology of human sexuality class and have to make a short presentation on the history of transvestism next week. I have to keep it under ten minutes, so I'm looking for suggestions on what I should include. Any help will be greatly appreciated.

Fev 26, 2008, 7:20 pm

The "T" in GLBT is generally teken to mean transsexual (or transgendered), not transvestism, which is as much a straight thing as a gay thing. I guess some topics could be the social acceptance of female transvestism (women passing as men) and the social opprobrium of male transvestism (men dressing as women). Also that it's not strictly speaking a gay thing. Good luck on your presentation.

Fev 26, 2008, 8:23 pm

You pulled a bit of a fast one there, sgrt.

Women dressing in traditionally male clothing is socially acceptable in Western society in most contexts (though a tie will still often raise eyebrows), while men dressing in traditionally female clothing is not; women passing as men -- acting as men and attempting to be treated as male -- is a different thing altogether, and much less accepted.

Fev 27, 2008, 10:42 pm

varielle, if you have access to a copy of Peter Ackroyd's Dressing Up, it's well worth checking out. I'd also suggest looking into the long and illustrious theatrical history of drag (Shakespeare's England and traditional theater in Japan are areas of great interest and should provide lots of anecdotes). Transvestism has a rather unusual history in opera, where, in contrast to the more standard boys/men-dressing-as-women tradition of non-musical theater, there's an important and still vibrant tradition of women playing the roles of boys, young men and heroic figures. En Travesti is a good book examining this phenomenon.

British historian Julie Peakman, who specializes in the social history of 18th century sexuality and laws and customs relating to it, frequently touches on the history of transvestism and the brutal punishments (including death, de facto or de jure) faced by those who transgressed the rigid gender-conformist laws of the period. It's sobering but interesting reading. Lascivious Bodies is probably the book that would be most useful to you for this assignment.

Since your class is on the "psychology of human sexuality", as an anthropologist I think it's extremely important to look beyond industrialized, modern Western society and take into account the many ways other cultures deal with questions of gender identity and sexual orientation and the ways in which those overlap (or don't). Third Sex, Third Gender is an excellent book for this perspective.

Depending on your instructor's philosophical and theoretical bent, it may also be important to note that transvestism and transgender are very much NOT the same thing and the desire to dress up in the clothes of the "opposite" sex does not always or inevitably translate into the desire to BE or identify with that sex. I know plenty of stone butches who identify unequivocally as female and quite a few straight men who never feel so truly masculine or sexually potent as when they're wearing high heels, a skirt and fish-net stockings. Human sexuality really is remarkably polymorphous and blessedly perverse and gender identity and sexual orientation are very, very different and frequently unrelated things.

GLBTQ Encyclopedia offers many interesting articles and leads to sources for deeper study of all kinds of issues relating to human, and particularly to queer, sexuality. Check it out!

Good luck with your speech!

Fev 28, 2008, 5:36 pm

Thanks for all the help. There's so much material I'm going to end up running over my time allotment. I've spent the afternoon reading about the transvestite saints of the middle ages, the Chevalier d'Eon, all the women who passed as men and fought in the Civil War, Ed Wood, Kabuki theater and George Sand. I'm overwhelmed. I'll have to spend the weekend compressing it down and practice talking fast to squeeze it all in. Thanks guys! :)