Another View On "Cross-Dressing"
a letter to The Civil War News, 1991
TO THE EDITOR: As a male reenactor/living historian and a transvestite I'd like to offer a few thoughts on Dennis Kelly's letter labeling cross-dressing as deviant behavior. Sometimes it is important to speak up against narrow-mindedness and provide information that will diffuse the level of conflict so that these pages in your fine paper can be used for more important issues such as preservation and research.
1. If a woman can portray a soldier undetected, it is OK with me.
2. Wearing a Civil War soldier's uniform is socially acceptable where dressing in the clothes of the opposite sex is not in our culture (unless you are Milton Berle or Flip Wilson) for a man. A woman isn't accepted as a Civil War soldier, but she can wear men's slacks, shoes, or shirts, etc.
3. Current professional thinking on transvestism indicates that only about 15 percent of those who cross-dress are homosexual.
4. One percent to 5 percent of the U.S. male population are cross-dressers or transvestities. From 200 to 1000 of the reenacting male population may also be wearing "fancy" drawers under our kerseys.
5. I put a lot of effort into being authentic as a 19th century soldier (in public), and as a 20th century woman (in the privacy of my home).
6. I don't hate myself or my male body, but I do enjoy expressing my feminine side.
7. I won't try to portray a19th century woman because I can't do it authentically enough to go undetected. It is unfortunate that a woman reenactor had to resort to legal action. Unfortunate for the living history community and unfortuate to have dragged the N.P.S. into an ongoing "Reenactor's Rhubarb."
Let's open out minds and get on with business. I don't see hundreds of women wishing to join the ranks, and from what I know of most women in living history tody, if they all wanted to they'd probably put 100 percent into being authentic soldiers -- more than a lot of us guys.
Obviously, the lesson here is Know Who You're Tenting With! - Jonah
To read about some real, historical cross-dressing, click here!