One of the things we find here at Salvo is that our Fake Ads, designed to parody aspects of contemporary foolishness, sometimes come incredibly close to depicting the reality. The same thing happened with my feature in Salvo 11, ‘Gender Benders: Is My Sexual Identity an Accident Just Waiting to Happen?‘ and the add (below) which accompanied it.
In the article I quoted various scholars who have argued for a more fluid concept of gender, and then I suggested (in jest, of course) that I worried I might wake up one morning to find I had slipped into a state of womanhood.
I didn’t know it at the time I wrote the article, but the children’s book Bill’s New Frock had already explored the concept of a male waking up to discover he was female. According to an LGBT organization that uses the book in schools, the story is about a boy who “wakes up one day as a girl and is horrified to be sent to school in a frilly pink frock with fiddly shell buttons.” It doesn’t take Bill long for his gender stereotypes to be undermined, not least because boys begin flirting with him (who is now called ‘her’) instead of bullying him. As the day progresses he finds that being a girl isn’t so bad after all.
It would be nice to say that cross-dressing is limited to fictional school children like Bill. However, in a Stonewall teacher training DVD, teachers have shared their experiences encouraging boys to dress up as girls. A class teacher for St. Matthew’s Primary School in Cambridgeshire boasted that “I had a group of boys last year and every day they came into school they wanted to wear the dressing up dresses. And they really loved wearing dressing up dresses and it went on for several weeks, and within the culture of the classroom I wanted to say that that was ok.” The teacher went on to explain how she reprimanded other boys who criticized the cross-dressers. Tony Davies, the head teacher of the same school, explained how the school had a cheer-leading club in which boys dressed themselves in pom-poms and put in “I think that is absolutely wonderful.”