“Arresting Dress”

In “Arresting Dress” Clare Sears discusses cross-dressing in nineteenth-century San Francisco along with the arrests and laws put into place. She discusses the shift in perspectives with how the government viewed cross-dressing from before and after the gold rush. People where arrested for wearing clothes that did not belong to their designated sex. This often led to the person in question being taken to a surgeon for an examination and, if found guilty, a life long sentence at an asylum. I enjoyed how she talked about how different people in this time period were also discriminated against such as Chinese immigrants and anyone who was seen as “diseased, maimed, and mutilated…unsightly or disgusting object from appearing in public” (1).

I enjoyed reading this book very much, I also liked that she acknowledged people as trans and used their correct pronouns throughout the book, but when it came to people that were non-binary she referred to them as s/he instead of they or them. I also noticed that cross-dressing seemed to only be okay with the public as long as that person was being profited off of (ex. Drag shows, side shows, or freak shows). One of my favorite lines comes from chapter 5 under the “Staging Desire” section where Sears brings up that these types of shows are “amplifying some voices and silencing others” (2). This touches more on my last point about profiting off of the people that were okay with selling their cross-dressing as a show for the public, but that in turn did not help with the people that did it casually for their own pleasure.

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