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My novel, Cevin’s Deadly Sin, is about a hetero teen cross-dresser. He’s contemporary, but cross-dressing is as old as recorded history. In fact, lots of cross-dressers can be found in mythology. The identities of some of them might surprise you.

In popular culture and in fiction, cross-dressing is usually carried out in pursuit of some goal that has the end purpose of furthering the plot. Female to males have traditionally used cross-dressing as a means of moving about the world more freely. Athena, for example, frequently assumed the form of a man in order to visit and counsel Odysseus as he wandered about the Mediterranean. Males to females have typically used cross-dressing as a disguise or to gain access to one they love.

Though cross-dressing was seldom performed for its own sake, some gender bending in mythology seems to have been written purely for entertainment purposes. A case in point are stories about the Greek Gods.

Hercule et Omphale by Bartholomeus Spranger, 1585

Hercule et Omphale by Bartholomeus Spranger, 1585

For example: Hercules was the son of Zeus and a mortal woman. As punishment for having murdered a man, he had to allow himself to be sold into slavery for a year. As luck would have it, Hercules was purchased by Queen Omphale of Lydia. Since no doubt Hercules was quite the stud, Omphale decided to use him as a lover rather than a fighter. Apparently having some kinky tendencies, Omphale amused herself by dressing Hercules in women’s clothing requiring him to do women’s work…along with a few other things. Stories of their escapades abound.

In one such story, Hercules accompanied Omphale on a visit to one of her vineyards. One thing led to another, and they found themselves exchanging clothes, with Hercules ending up wearing a purple gown with gold embroidery. Seeing Hercules from afar, the god Pan fell in love with him/her and followed the couple on their journey.

That night, Pan snuck in to their chambers and eased himself into bed with Hercules. Needless to say, a mighty kick from Hercules sent Pan hurtling across the room. The outraged Pan went back to Greece, and “outed” Hercules as a habitual and perverse cross-dresser.

Achilles on Skyros, by Nicolas Poussin, 1656

Achilles on Skyros, by Nicolas Poussin, 1656

Another example is Achilles. Achilles was a Greek hero of the Trojan War and the central character of Homer’s Iliad. Achilles was the son of the nymph Thetis, and Peleus the king of the Myrmidons. Achilles mother disguised her son as a girl to keep him from going to war. She sent him to live among the maidens at the court of Lycomedes. A heterosexual cross-dresser, Achilles, fell in love with a princess, the king’s daughter, Deidameia, and married her. She subsequently bore him a son. Achilles did eventually fight in the attack on Troy, where he died in battle. (He should have stayed in his frocks; it would have been a lot safer.)

Ariadne and Bacchus, by Antoine-Jean Gros, 1821

Ariadne and Bacchus, by Antoine-Jean Gros, 1821

Dionysus (or Bacchus), the god of wine, was the son of Zeus and the mortal Theban princess Semele. This understandably angered Zeua’s wife Hera. To protect Dionysus from Hera’s wrath, Zeus placed him under Persephone’s care. Persephone placed him in the women’s quarters of a nearby palace and had him raised as a girl. When Dionysus reached adulthood, Hera recognized him as Zeus’s son, even though he had taken on quite an effeminate appearance. Her rage drove him out into the world where he sowed his wild oats, had lots of affairs (along with military victories) and spread the cult of wine far and wide.

My opinion is that the Greek gods weren’t the only ones taking part in gender bending. The fact that they often exchanged clothes for their own amusement indicates that ordinary men and women must have known to do the same thing.

Cross-dressing is still taboo today, and knowledge of such activity continues to be used against people. Even outside of religion objections, cross-dressers are still discriminated against. My novel, Cevin’s Deadly Sin, addresses the stigma and emotional angst that cross-dressers experience in our society today.

You’ve probably had your own fantasies about gender bending, haven’t you?

Cevins Deadly Sin 72dpi2inSally Bosco ( writes young adult fiction. Novels include Death Divided, The Werecat Chronicles, Shadow Cat (written as Zoe LaPage) and Cevin’s Deadly Sin. Recent publications include a chapter in Many Genres, One Craft and stories in Small Bites, Hazard Yet Forward and Cellar Door anthologies. She has an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University.

Her newest book, Cevin’s Deadly Sin, is the story of a hetero, teen cross-dresser: his struggles with first love, self-identity and bullying during his senior year in a small, Florida town. It is published by QueerTeen Press.


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