First Advisor

Alison Heryer

Date of Award

Spring 5-25-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Arts and Letters and University Honors


Arts & Letters




Transgender men -- Clothing -- West (U.S.) -- History -- 19th century, Transgender men -- West (U.S.) -- 19th century -- Biography, Cross-dressers -- West (U.S.) -- Social conditions -- 19th century, Cross-dressers -- West (U.S.) -- 19th century -- Biography




Clothing is communication. How it is perceived reveals a society's values and anxieties. In the post-frontier American west, moralistic laws against cross-dressing combined with fears of societal degeneration, resulting in the formation and enforcement of normative visions of gendered dress. When trans men Harry Allen and Milton Matson were arrested, images of them were published in newspapers across the nation. Allen's working class wear and close criminal contact with racial minorities reflects one perceived source of degeneration while Matson's high class look and British immigrant status reflects the other. This essay will consider how these men's clothing and bodies were perceived as threats to the colonial familial structures of power through their transgressions of contemporary concepts of dress, gender, sexuality, law, class, race, and especially the looming boogy-man of societal degeneration.


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