Why Do Men Wear
Dresses? (And Why Do Some Women Get So Upset About
Few activities seem to attract
more venom and contempt than crossdressing.
One newspaper writer who found out that her ex-husband was a
crossdresser described him as a `pervert' and dumped a pile of her own old
clothes on his mother's doorstep to make her point.
What inspires this
level of anger among so many women? Fear, I suppose. But fear of what? Fear of
the competition for the underwear drawer? Fear that he might be gay? Fear that
he'll stretch everything and ruin her tights? Fear that the neighbours will find
Dressing up in the sort of clothes usually worn by women is one of
the most harmless activities imaginable and yet it is also one of the most
Lots of men dress up - as freemasons, soldiers
or special constables - and transvestism is just a fun variation on the dressing
up theme but our society has developed in such a way that what we choose to wear
does, to a very large extent, define what we are, who we are and what others
think of us.
The judge wears a gown and a wig. The priest wears a gown.
The bishop wears a particularly fine gown. Kings wear robes and crowns. Hotel
porters, car park attendants, railway staff, airline stewardesses and people in
a thousand other different types of employment wear clothes that help identify
them. Plumbers wear overalls. Doctors wear white coats. Nurses wear uniforms.
As our society becomes more and more complex so the uniforms become
increasingly important. We define people by whether they have `white collar' or
`blue collar' jobs.
Men who crossdress are throwing an enormous spanner
into the works of this finely balanced piece of social machinery. It is,
perhaps, hardly surprising that crossdressing produces so much confusion,
bewilderment and resentment and so many pejorative remarks.
popularity of transvestism hardly anything is known about this `hobby' - other
than the fact that a lot of men do it. (Lots of women crossdress too but
transvestism among women is socially accepted. Millions of women regularly wear
trousers and suits.).
The idea of men in clothes usually worn by women
may sound like a joke. But it isn't. Putting on female clothes is, for thousands
of men, the best way to deal with stress and escape from the responsibilities of
being a man. `If I didn't crossdress,' one man told me, `I'd be dead. I had high
blood pressure which pills couldn't control. Wearing feminine clothing brought
my blood pressure under control.'
Precise figures are difficult to
obtain but my research shows that in an average week 100,000 in every 1,000,000
men dress - for some of the time - in something soft, silky or frilly. Often
they just wear a camisole and panties underneath their male clothes.
Most crossdressers live in constant fear of being found out. Around a
quarter of male transvestites have never dared share their secret with their
wives. That means that around the world millions of women are married to
transvestites - and don't know it. In every million women there will be around
25,000 who are unknowingly married to (or living with) transvestites.
Transvestism crosses all social and professional barriers. Your best
friend, your golf partner, your doctor, your boss or your husband could be a
secret transvestite. The chances are high that someone you know well is a
Here are some facts I uncovered in a survey of 1014
British transvestites: (It is, I think, the biggest ever survey of
* Well over three quarters of all transvestites regularly
wear the sort of underwear worn by women under their male clothing. Many of the
rest would do so if they weren't frightened of being found out by wives.
Less than half of all transvestites go out of their homes fully dressed as women
and most of these are honest enough to admit that they don't fool anyone. But
for most this isn't important. They want to dress in the sort of clothes worn by
women - not become women.
* Transvestism must be one of the most harmless
hobbies. And yet nearly three quarters of male transvestites admit that they
live in constant fear of being found out by prejudiced relatives, neighbours or
employers. One man who wrote to me to help with my survey drove to a nearby town
to post his anonymous letter. Many say they don't understand why women can wear
male clothing - but men can't wear female clothes.
* Some wives are scornful
and dismissive. Others are patronising and refuse to try and understand. Time
and time again I have read pitiful letters from transvestites whose wives
`allow' them to dress for one hour a week - as long as they do it in secret.
* Three quarters of all transvestites' partners know that the man in their
lives dress in women's clothing. But a quarter of partners do not know.
There is good reason for the secrecy since most wives or girlfriends who know
about their partner's cross dressing disapprove. They miss a lot of fun by being
so selfish, narrow minded and disapproving.
* Happily, just over a third of
wives and girlfriends actively help their men dress as women by helping with
make up and clothes. Many women admit they get a sexual turn on from seeing
their male partner in silky, feminine clothes. It is common for transvestites
whose partners do approve to have sex while dressed as a woman.
* The vast
majority of transvestites are heterosexual.
* The average transvestite
spends 12 hours a week dressed as a woman - but would like to spend 70 hours a
week (rather more than half the `waking' week) dressed in feminine clothes.
* A growing number of men have discovered that putting on stockings and a
frock is the quickest way to escape from the stressful responsibilities of being
a man. I have little doubt that more men would live longer if transvestism was
more widely accepted.
I believe that transvestism is one of the least
harmful of all hobbies and one that no man should feel ashamed of. It is, I
believe, a perfectly acceptable way for any man to escape from the day to day
stresses of being a man in a stressful world. It's fun and clearly gives a lot
of men a great deal of pleasure and it is difficult to think of any activity
which is less likely to do harm to anyone.
Men who dress in womens'
clothes bring out a normal, healthy part of their own femininity, broaden their
outlook on life and enjoy a temporary respite from the responsibilities and
demands of being male.
I'm always sad to read of the number of women who
do not accept their husband's crossdressing. Time after time I have opened
letters from men whose wives have treated them horrendously badly.
think it is appalling that any woman should have the nerve to say to her
partner: `Oh, well if you must then I suppose you must - but you can only do it
for an hour a week and you must make sure that the curtains are drawn and that
I'm well out of the house and by the way I don't want to see any sign of your
silly women's clothing and so on when I get back.'
No woman would, I
hope, dare say anything like this to a man who took up golf or model making.
I think it is sad that transvestism should be regarded as so much more
horrendous than anything else - though I believe that deep seated and completely
false prejudices are probably at the root of it all.
Many women probably
assume that most transvestites are either homosexual or else candidates for sex
But, on the whole, there is a huge difference between
transvestites and transsexuals. Transsexuals are like golfers - they lose their
balls. Transvestites are keen to keep theirs.
My survey has made it
absolutely clear that the vast majority of transvestites are heterosexual and
happy to be men. (Curiously, crossdressing is so misunderstood and commonly
reviled that some women would doubtless prefer it if they found out that their
husband was gay or wanted to change sex.)
The full results of my survey
into crossdressing appear in my book `Men in Dresses' which appears in full on
Copyright Vernon Coleman 2004