TV Sets and The City - Why Men Wear Frocks?

By london_mecca Last edited 167 months ago
TV Sets and The City - Why Men Wear Frocks?
Grayson Perry

Wednesday night on Channel 4 and you can't really miss watching a TV programme with that title - specially when you know it's not going to be about pantomime Dames or David Beckham's latest "fashion" statement. The documentary was hosted by Turner Prize winning artist Grayson Perry who we probably all remember going to pick up his prize in a little baby doll dress, complete with puffed sleeves and full petticoats.

I must admit to not being particularly PC when it comes to transvestites, so I was looking forward to finding out why men dressed up as women, and was really hoping that some wives of transvestites would be featured in the programme.

It was refreshing to see that Grayson Perry didn't dress up as a baby doll, all the time. When not in his alter ego Claire, he looked....well....OK as a woman and certainly one of the best in the Scarborough Transvestite Weekenders. Perry brought out the air of slight sadness about the weekend though and when the "wonky wigged" men packed away their dresses and returned to everyday life, I really wanted to see how they felt back in their nine to fives.

I felt the programme focussed a bit too much on what it was like to be a "man" in 2005. Perry interviewed a group of macho bikers in an attempt to show that choosing leathers and dressing up in leathers was similar to wearing dresses. There was also a section in an inner London school, where Perry asked a group of teenagers what they felt about trannies. Considering the lads looked and sounded like they were auditioning for Blazin Squad, they were remarkably articulate, and when it was clear than men who wore dresses weren't "shirt lifters", you felt that might have some sympathy for any TVs they might come across in the future.

Most fascinating for me was an interview with a woman who had been married to a transvestite for 20 years. She found out the "hard way" before she got married, discovering a large pair of knickers in her then boyfriend's drawers. She skirted round the issues of whether she felt gay or even less of a woman for sleeping with a transvestite.

There was also a rather confrontational and hostile interview with a transexual, who clearly had fairly unhappy relations with TVs. This was the most uncomfortable part of the programme with Perry and the transexual both arguing that they were men - even though one clearly didn't want to be a man and the other spent the majority of his life dressed as a woman.

It was also interesting that Perry was quite happy with the Little Britain rubbish tranvestites "they've got it just right", but horrified by Dick Emery's "Ooh you are awful", Mandy from the Seventies. The dilemma of deciding which toilet to go into is apparently a very real one. Whereas, not surprisingly, pulling your tights away from your knickers and walking along with bandy legs isn't.

Why Men Wear Frocks may well be repeated on E4 and was a diverting and interesting hour.

Last Updated 18 February 2005