Arresting Dress: Cross-Dressing, Law, and Fascination in by Clare Sears

By Clare Sears

In 1863, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors handed a legislation that criminalized showing in public in “a gown now not belonging to his or her sex.” followed as a part of a broader anti-indecency crusade, the cross-dressing legislation grew to become a versatile device for policing a number of gender transgressions, facilitating over 100 arrests ahead of the century’s finish. Over 40 U.S. towns handed comparable legislation in this time, but little is understood approximately their emergence, operations, or results. Grounded in a wealth of archival fabric, Arresting Dress strains the occupation of anti-cross-dressing legislation from municipal courtrooms and codebooks to newspaper scandals, vaudevillian theater, freak-show performances, and advertisement “slumming tours.” It exhibits that the legislations didn't easily police normative gender yet actively produced it through growing new definitions of gender normality and abnormality. It additionally tells the tale of the tenacity of these who defied the legislation, spoke out while sentenced, and articulated various gender possibilities.
 

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