Nov 9, 2009

The Technology of Cross Dressing

It is natural that we think of ourselves as living in unique times, and in unique circumstances. Many will agree with me when I suggest that if there is something that defines our time today as unique, that thing would be technology. More specifically, the technology underpinning the communications explosion facilitated by what we think of as the Internet. “www” is, by any measure, a unique signature of our time.

But technology has long had an impact on the lives of cross dressers. Sadly much of this rich history lays obscured beneath the rustling crinolines of yesteryear, lost to historians and orphaned from our present day.

We all learned, for example, as school kids that the very first words uttered into a telephone by the great innovator Alexander Graham Bell to his assistant Thomas Watson were “Watson come here I need you”.

What is less well known though is the shocking rest of the conversation. Watson replied:

I’m busy dammit what do you want?”

I need help with my zip

Well baby, we’ve come a long way. As I approach my own mid-century mark I marvel at how different life can be today, for the transgendered, for cross dressers, and by extension, anyone who at anytime in their life asks themselves this question:

Am I the only person in the world who does this or feels that

There was a time in my life where I could only assume that I was the only boy in the world curious about the touch and feel and sensations conferred by women’s clothing. I had no evidence to the contrary.

In my early teen years, I was startled, slack-jawed really while reading a letter to the editors of Penthouse Magazine that began predictably enough with… I am a sophomore at a small mid-western college …. but moved from the mid-west to the darkest recesses of my imagination a couple of paragraphs in, when our hero confessed to how explosively good it had felt to be dressed as a woman by the random (ed. and of course totally hot, playful but somehow menacing, wise beyond her years and yet coltish still) girl from a dorm across campus.

No literary merit in the letter of course, but I felt at the time I suspect very much the same way as the inhabitants of Easter Island must have in 1722 after 1400 years of complete isolation, all of a sudden other humans just pitch up and say, howdy.

Wow. I am not alone.

This perpetually aroused teenager let his inner detective and amateur anthropologist loose on the world in search of evidence of delicate heel prints and lipstick smears where they might surprise and was not disappointed. With a little digging about, I found a good amount of “specialty literature’ and indeed photographic evidence describing and depicting people in outfits (and positions and predicaments) that I fancied I might like to try out, just to satisfy my curiosity of course. Only until I grew out of it all quite inevitably and naturally.

On the predictable path to that not happening, I was noticing a growing number of increasingly public and outrageous flaunters of gender conventions in the arts and culture spaces. Bowie lead a long parade, Boy George, Adam Ant and David Sylvain and countless more made up and laced up, threatening the very moral foundations of our society by … well, by exploring. Not much of a threat as it happens.

I further found around that time in the classified ads of weekly alternative newspapers a growing number of entrepreneurs, veritable Florence Nightingales’ (except that they might dress you as the nurse) who might be engaged with to actually transform the willing into the woman of ones dreams. This discovery was available to me though in part because of my stridently urban life style. I lived in a city. A big city, a cool city, a rich city. 50 miles from where I was may as well have been Easter Island. Isolated, unknown, untouched.

Fast forward, not too far, to today. Most of the world, certainly all of you reading here today, live in a massive city. The greatest metropolis ever imagined and perhaps never imagined. A city of 3, perhaps 4 billon people with another few billion knocking at the gates and sure to take up residence in the next pretty flutter of a generational eyelash. And while many will not have the luxuries of time and comfort in large enough measures to explore their multi-faceted gender compositions, more do have, and many more in the future will have those luxuries. How much easier is the discovery today, and how many more people will make that always unique discovery that they are not alone?

And now, not being alone, what do we say and do with each other, and with the rest of the world through our technologies?

More heavy ponderings along these lines in the never too distant future.

Happy dressing, and etc ...


Lynn Jones said...

Raise a glass to Tim and all those who made the Internet possible. :)

When you're young - and on your own - I think it's all too easy to fall into the trap that it's just you. A freak as it where. Sure, there are words in the dictionary and the occasional blip of trannydom on chat shows or advice columns.

All well and good, but I don't think any of them get across the message as talking with other trans folk or reading their blogs.

Television distorts (or seems to) and problem pages exist because, by definition, there's a 'problem'. It needn't be like that and I think if the Internet has done one thing, it's brought us all closer together.

Couture Carrie said...

Stunning post, darling Petra! Your vast vocabulary impresses me once again...
And no, you are certainly not alone!!


Petra Bellejambes said...

Lynn - quite right and proper of you to recognize Sir Tim. Amazing world he has made such critical and positive contributions to.

Carrie, kind kind Carrie. Thanks as always. You so pick me up. When you get married, I volunteer to be first alternate Bridesmaid in the event that one of your primaries falls ill or has a tragic hair day.

Just send me a bolt of fabric and the pattern and I am on it. I am pretty sure I already have the shoes.

xoxoxo - P

Couture Carrie said...

Darling Petra,
You are the sweetest!
I would love to get married someday and have you as my bridesmaid :)
Whom else could I trust with the responsibility of selecting the perfect hosiery for the big night?


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