Arresting Dress: Cross-Dressing, Law, and Fascination in Nineteenth-Century San Francisco
Problem Bodies, Public Space
This chapter explores cross-dressing law’s legal operations and effects as it developed as a flexible tool for policing multiple gender offenses, including those of feminist dress reformers, female impersonators, fast young women who dressed as men for nights out on the town, and people whose gender identification did not match their anatomy in legally acceptable ways. Containing cross-dressing threats discursively (within the category of criminal) and spatially (within the private sphere), the law dictated the terms of urban belonging and marked city streets as gender-normative space. In the process it dovetailed with a host of nuisance laws concerned with the public visibility of multiple problem bodies, particularly those of Chinese immigrants, prostitutes, and those deemed maimed or diseased.