by Shane Foster
In today's modern society we use the term ‘trans’ as an umbrella term for people who don’t primarily identify with the gender / sex they were assigned at birth. This includes binary trans and non-binary trans such as gender-fluid, non-binary and many more.
Now whilst most people understand such categorisations, there are still some parts of the LGBTQ+ community that are commonly intermixed and often confused as being the same. One of the more common misconceptions arising from such intermixed categories is that those who crossdress and those who are drag artists are the same.
With that in mind, it is important to note the differences between crossdressers and drag artists and to ensure that people only use the term preferred by the individual, since the distinction helps advocate for the future generation that not every trans person is the same.
The phrase ‘crossdresser’ is a slightly blurred line, as the term itself doesn’t really define the aspects of what it's about, nor the lifestyle of the people who crossdress. While drag is more about dressing up over the top for the public’s admiration, crossdressing is a more private and personal lifestyle choice.
Crossdressing has been practised for thousands of years and the old fashioned term ‘transvestite’ is now widely considered to be offensive, since gender identity is a big part of how we dress the way we do.
Some crossdress and go out in public so they can feel what it is like to be a woman and blend in the world, whereas some crossdress in private to be comfortable and in a safe space. Most crossdressers do not live or want to live in feminine clothes full-time or want to undergo any surgical intervention to change their body permanently - they are just trying to discover parts of their gender identity.
They want to be themselves and express their femininity and blend in with the world, feeling normal in their own skin, which is a large part of the desire to want to crossdress in the first place, unlike drag which is all about wanting eyes on their glamorous selves while they are performing.
There are also countless myths about the crossdressing community, which most of us are more than familiar with, such as all crossdressers being homosexual, having a mental illness, or being a pervert - yes this type of bigotry still exists even now!
The term ‘drag’ became commonly known in the 1870’s when theatre started to have more actors wear opposite gender’s clothes. Dressing in drag is an over the top way to dress up, either in clothes that are different from their gender identity or just an extravagant version of themselves, with heavy makeup and eye-catching outfits complete with wigs and jewellery.
Drag is considered a performance art which is often linked to the gay community. Even though many drag artists are from the community, it is not a necessity and one can perform in drag just because they enjoy the aspect of it, regardless of their gender identity and sexual orientation. Indeed, it is commonplace for many actors when appearing in pantomime, since being in drag is a key requirement for them to play the panto dame.
The world famous drag artist RuPaul once commented that “we’re all born naked and the rest is drag”. The quote doesn’t mean to invalidate the idea and the importance of gender identity, but focuses on personal freedom about how to express your charisma, uniqueness and talent without fear of judgement.
Above all, ‘drag’ is a vibrant way to present yourself and perform; it’s perfect for people who live for the stage, glamour and attention. However, there are also many myths attached to drag artists, such as being automatically considered gay, secretly wanting to change gender, or that anyone can be a drag artist - yet it is a lot more challenging than that.
Whether you choose to keep to yourself when crossdressing, or you choose to get on a stage to let everyone see the Queen you are, we should all take pride in following our hearts and letting our true selves be who they need to be.
Whatever your life choices, be who you want to be and look after yourself.