Parting with my Sex

Cross-Dressing, Inversion and Sexuality in Australian Cultural Life

Lucy Chesser

Regular price $39.95 Sale

Format: paperback
378 pages
ISBN: 9781920898311

Publication: 23 Sep 2008

Publisher: Sydney University Press

In this original and unusual work, Lucy Chesser explores the persistent recurrence of cross-dressing and gender inversion within Australian cultural life. Examples of cross-dressing are to be found in almost every area of Australian historical enquiry, including Aboriginal-European relations and conflict, convict societies, the goldrushes, bushranging, the 1890s and its nationalist fiction, and World War One. The book compares and contrasts sustained life-long impersonations whereby women lived, worked and sometimes married as men, with other forms of cross-dressing such as public masquerades, cross-dressing on the stage, and the prosecution of men who sought sexual encounters while disguised as women.

Lucy Chesser wrote her PhD on cross-dressing in Australian history at La Trobe University, where she then became an honorary research associate in history.


Part 1
1. ‘Extraordinary case of concealment of sex’: Edward de Lacy Evans and the management of disruptive knowledge
2. ‘If he’s a woman he’s a fine ploughman’: public regulation, private tolerance and ‘passing women’ in colonial Australia
3. Mary Rutledge’s mad freak: masquerade, disguise, theatrical impersonation and cross-dressing
4. ‘Mere bundles of clothes’: cross-dressing and inversion in colonial cultural expression
5. ‘She won’t be happy till she wears ‘em’: cross-dressing and sexual politics in the contested 1890s

Part 2
6. ‘I felt no difference between him and other women’: sexual (mis)representation and cultural anxiety in the 1863 prosecution of John Wilson
7. Abominable crimes and strange manias: cross-dressing and homosexual transgression, 1863–1900
8. ‘Woman in a suit-of-male’: working women in male ‘disguise’, 1890–1920
9. ‘When two loving hearts beat as one’: same-sex marriage, subjectivity and self-representation in the case of Marion-Bill-Edwards, 1906–1916
10. Brazen beauties and erotic males: cross-dressing, sensationalism, sexology and the law, 1902–1920


'I was often struck by her respect for the basic integrity of the stories that she tells — yet always confident that I was in the presence of a historian in control of her material and with the wit and imagination not to miss opportunities for interpretation. There is a lightness of touch about the prose combined with a subtlety in the historical explanation that made every page a pleasure.'
Frank Bongiorno   Journal of Australian Colonial History

Format: paperback
Size: 210 × 148 × 20 mm
378 pages
53 b&w illustrations
Copyright: © 2008
ISBN: 9781920898311
Publication: 23 Sep 2008