Most of us have photographs from our childhood wearing a frock, putting on a bindi or mother’s jewelry, isn’t it boys? A lot of us became a ‘male doctor’, policeman and male dance partner of our friends, isn’t it girls? Our parents and elders cross-dressed us willingly and happily. They clicked our pictures and admired us when we were kids but what happened today? Are they okay with your choice of CROSS-DRESSING as an adult? Seems there’s a slight change in the scenario as we were happily accepted and welcomed then but not today.
For those who don’t know, CROSS-DRESSING is an act of wearing clothes associated with the opposite gender. In simpler words, a boy wearing a top or a girl wearing a boxer could be termed so, but do all clothing items need to be gendered? Often mistaken as a mental disorder, cross-dressers are identified under the transgender spectrum and what not. I believe, if clothes fit you and make you feel comfortable, you can put them on. For that, you don’t have to associate them with any disorder or sexual identity.
The term cross-dresser is usually used to refer to ‘People with Transvestism’. However, transvestism is a less accepted term. Transvestism involves fetish (for clothing) in a way that is associated with the opposite gender. At times, people may term it as a disorder. They may believe that those who are into cross-dressing get begin this while undergoing anxiety or distress. However, cross-dressing is not always associated with these things.
Considering the topic in the Indian context, most of us perceive this as entirely western culture. But not many of us know that India has a long history of cross-dressing and it prevails even today. In terms of religion, male cross-dressing in Hinduism is a part of religious worship where men perform woman’s tasks. They are classed as women and are judged for their physical appearance as per the beauty standards set for women. These men feminize the male costumes, put traditional shringaar and we never see this as a sin.
For example, at the temple in Kottankulangara in Kerala, (near Kollam), hundreds of men dress up as women and worship the Goddess Bhagavathy. This unique ritual is called ‘Chamaya Vilakku’ (make-up lamp). The men come to the temple at night in a long procession with lighted lamps in their hands. The ritual occurs from March to April every year.
We Indians have a strong connection to Bollywood, where movies are made by taking cues from real-life incidents. Surprisingly, Bollywood itself has a long-driven history of movies where prominent cross-dressing has been depicted. Cinemas like Chachi 420, Coolie No.1, Dil Bole Haddippa, Apna Sapna Money Money, Dreamgirl, Laxmi, etc. show cross-dressing. These things are enough to normalize cross-dressings.
All of this is happening around us, in the very milieu that we live in, we just have to accept it in our daily lives. I believe clothes, colors, shoes and accessories must not necessarily be gendered always. Putting forth my own perception and thinking on cross-dressing, I urge the readers to welcome this ever-existing phenomenon. Let’s not categorize clothes on the basis of gender. Happy Pride Month.
Also read: Pink Color Is For Girls, Blue Is For Boys
Shruti is a student of social sciences, doing her majors in geography. Her interest areas are urban, social and cultural geography and planning. She tries to see the world through a societal perspective where emotions and behaviours play major roles. She also has keen interest in dancing and photography.