Arresting Dress: Cross-Dressing, Law, and Fascination in Nineteenth-Century San Francisco
This chapter explores the relationships between cross-dressing law and three entertainment venues that placed cross-dressing performers on display: vaudevillian theater, dime museum freak shows, and commercial slumming tours. These city entertainments commercialized the law’s penchant for display and exploited the fascination that enforcement stirred up. At first glance these venues seemed to undermine the law, promoting and celebrating the public visibility of cross-dressing practices. On closer examination, however, they offered their own strategies of containment that dramatized, popularized, and democratized the normative gender boundaries that cross-dressing law produced.