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The World Turned Upside Down

From Planet 215

Peter Stevenson explores the honourable tradition of cross-dressing and political subversion in Wales and beyond.

It was April 2013. Moustachioed men were posting photographs of themselves on social media dressed in women’s clothes. Nothing unusual, you might think. This is Wales, where Nicky Wire honoured Rebecca by looking fetching in a flowery frock, and blokes fall off high heels every Saturday night in seaside towns, ripping fishnets and smearing rouge. However, these men were Kurds, offering solidarity with the women of Marivan on the Iran-Iraq border, who had taken to the streets wearing red robes, only to be met with police violence. The women were protesting in support of a male prisoner forced to wear women’s red robes as a humiliation. Come May, a woman in a red dress became an iconic figure as she was attacked with tear-gas by riot police at the Gezi Park protests in Istanbul. Earlier, in February, men in Bangalore wore skirts as a protest against the rape of a woman in Delhi. A year earlier, at the annual Mummer’s Parade, a headline declared, ‘Some Cross-Dressing Banjo Players Got Into A Brawl In Philadelphia On Sunday’, while in Newfoundland a hand-written cardboard sign said, ‘Wanted your bras. That’s right. Mummer’s Festival needs a whole load of bras.’ On the death of Margaret Thatcher, a landlady at Goldthorpe in South Yorkshire celebrated by dressing as a miner while an effigy was cremated…



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