Why a man in a dress is just not funny.

The long standing joke of a man in a dress is becoming a drag. Literally. How often have you heard of a man losing a bet and having to put on a dress? The implication being that it is humiliating for a man to become a woman, that a woman is still somehow less than a man. A woman in pants is not even worth mentioning and would pass only as simple fact or description and likely without any gestures or innuendos about her sexuality either. How many really really bad movies have men even as recently as last year where men dress up as women in the lamest effort to be funny? That these movies are geared toward young men is not an accident and without question helps to perpetrate the idea that a man in a dress is hysterical. But If you stop for a moment and really think about it........is it that funny? And if it is funny, can you pinpoint exactly what you are laughing at?

The photo to the right is gorgeous. It is poignant and relevant at this moment in our history where transgender people are fighting hard for recognition and equality. It was shot in a photography workshop by a student and was one of the few images of the man in the dress that was more serious and I think that gives it power.

The background story goes like this:  When the scheduled model called up to say she was running late, this amazing and courageous young man stepped up and stepped into the dress to model for his classmates. He was not afraid to stand in and allow the other student photographers in the workshop to photograph him in a dress until the "real" model arrived.  This photograph was later posted to a Facebook page and generated a lot of comments most of which were positive and supportive:
  • Awesomely creative! Love it! 
  • this guy is awesome 
  • Your expressive face, with all your hair pulled back so we can see every dramatic emotion, the joy at finally being allowed to wear women's clothing in public. 
  • He rocks that dress better than a lot of women would...and with much more confidence as well!
But sadly many of them were the same old rhetoric :  
  • Hard to drink her pretty!  
  • Nice dress .. Hhahahaha  
  • Horrifically awesome is an apt description! poor guy..
  • ...........no comment................
  • Yikes! 
  • this is just wrong
I debated whether or not to post a comment of my own and finally decided I would because I want to change the way people see transsexuals. I want people to look beyond the clothes and see the beautiful, brave souls wearing the skirts and the shirts and ties. I think it is time to bring awareness about transgender issues back into the collective consciousness so that we aren't falling into the trap of just repeating old tired rhetoric. It's time to be thoughtful and kind and fight with those who still don't have the privileges afforded others. I know it is a hard fight, particularly now in this time of garbage they call news: fear-mongering gossip and titillating sexual scandals. But let's at least try.

How many transgendered women are beaten, raped, or murdered because they are seen as "a man in a dress"? How many LGBT youth are bullied, disowned by their families or commit suicide because it is less terrifying and painful to die than to carry on living as the butt of some tired patriarchal joke? Some people will say I am over reacting and I understand it may seem like it is a little bit out of proportion with the content but where is it you start to draw the line? A stupid comment? A hate speech? Bullying? A physical assault? Rape? Suicide? Murder? Until no person is being killed for the clothes he or she chooses to wear, I will continue to try starting a conversation to help people understand the challenges faced by transgender people. Education is one way to alleviate fear and hopefully by talking about gender identity we can stop to consider the implications of these old jokes on the people who suffer the consequences.

It is time for this joke to end because really, this is no laughing matter.

1 comment:

April said...

Dear Jack,

A great post, I still cringe when I see a typical sitcom guy in a dress played for cheap laughs.

Such portrays in popular culture helped keep me in the closet/in denial for years.