Arresting Dress: Cross-Dressing, Law, and Fascination in Nineteenth-Century San Francisco
A Sight Well Worth Gazing Upon
This chapter shows how cross-dressing law increased the visibility of cross-dressing practices under the sign of criminality. The law consisted of a legal text that formally prohibited public cross-dressing practices and a set of legal and cultural procedures that brought them into view. Everyday law enforcement mobilized intimate forms of surveillance and spectatorship, as multiple actors looked for and looked at cross-dressing criminals in police photographs, court sketches, and newspaper crime reports. Visibility was partial, however, as newspaper reports focused on white cross-dressing criminals only and looked past similar offenses by Chinese and Mexican men and women. These representations played a crucial role in the operations of cross-dressing law, linking the politics of gender normativity to whiteness and framing cross-dressing offenders as criminal nuisances and queer freaks.