I’m bisexual; I lean gay. Whenever there was ever any hint of same-sex romance in the fiction I was exposed to while growing up, I eagerly fixated upon it. Books, movies, live theater–I vividly remember the moment in high school when I was so inspired by the idea that one could think about Holmes and Watson as a couple that I stayed up all night writing songs about them. (And this was way before the internet made slash easily accessible to young people!)
However, sometimes heterosexual fiction likes to play with us, and evoke us to titillate without ever actually giving us representation. Specifically, I’d like to address the trope of situational crossdressing.
By situational crossdressing, I mean the plot device in which a cisgender, heterosexual character is crossdressing not for the sake of their own gender expression or even for fun, but because of something like “if I dress as a man, I will be able to find employment in a traditionally male field” (which is probably the most common.) Examples of this trope are Mulan from Disney (and Chinese legend), Eowyn from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, and Yentl from Singer’s Yentl the Yeshiva Boy. Cisgender heterosexual women can also crossdress for other non-gender-expressive reasons, as does Leonore in Beethoven’s opera Fidelio. Her disguise gets her a job in the prison where her husband is being unjustly held for political reasons, and she winds up saving his life. [Read more…] about Situational crossdressing and the LGBTQ audience