fanny and stella

People in History: Boulton and Park

Lord Arthur Clinton (in chair), Park (standing), and Boulton (on floor). Wikimedia Commons

Thomas Ernest Boulton and Frederick William Park were two middle-class Victorian men who were involved in a national scandal after being arrested and tried for cross-dressing in public.

Boulton was the son of a stockbroker; Park of a Master of a superior court. The two met at a young age and became friends, forming a theatrical double-act as Stella Clinton and Fanny Winifred Park, which played to favourable reviews. Boulton, particularly, was very attractive, with a sweet soprano singing voice.

Fanny and Stella were more than just parts they played, however. From an early age Boulton’s mother had encouraged his fondness for dressing as a girl and calling himself Stella, and starting around 1868, when they were approximately twenty, they both began to cross-dress in public. Fanny and Stella became a frequent sight around the West End, where they were removed more than once from the Burlington Arcade and Alhambra Theatre, and were even sentenced by a magistrate for their behaviour, being bound over to keep the peace. They also attended the Oxford-Cambridge boat race. Continue reading →

Posted by Kate Aaron in Biography, Queer Blogging

The History of Homosexuality: Drag

Drag is the practice of cross-dressing and pastiching the mannerisms and behaviours of the opposite sex for comic effect. Drag queens run the gamut from over-the-top professional comedians such as Lily Savage, all the way through to serious (and seriously impressive) female impersonators such as RuPaul. Generally speaking, drag is a costume donned for a performance and doesn’t stimulate sexual excitement in the wearer (transvestism), nor does drag implicitly suggest that the performer identifies as trans* although, as with everything, there are always exceptions.

As an expression, “drag” may have been around for a century or two, but the history of men impersonating women for entertainment purposes is of course much longer. Many of Shakespeare’s works played on the fact the actors on stage were men dressed as women (and often the female characters pretend to be male, creating truths within truths which audiences find amusing). Continue reading →

Posted by Kate Aaron in History, Queer Blogging