Far from being a recent phenomenon, the depiction of characters who cross-dress goes back to the very beginning of film as an art form. The modern characterisation of crossdressing in film predominantly depicts crossdressing individuals either for comic effect (She’s The Man and White Chicks) or to highlight mental instability (Peacock and Silence of the Lambs), something potentially problematic for the challenging of gender binaries, but this wasn’t always the case.

Girls Will Be Boys
excavates the rich history of gender-bending film roles, enabling readers to appreciate the wide array of masculinities that these actresses performed — from sentimental boyhood to rugged virility to gentlemanly refinement. Taking us on a guided tour through a treasure-trove of vintage images, Girls Will Be Boys helps us view the histories of gender, sexuality, and film through fresh eyes.

Girls Will Be Boys
Laura Horak spent a decade scouring film archives worldwide, looking at American films made between 1908 and 1934, uncovering 476 titles featuring cross-dressing women and some 200 surviving examples of these. Questioning the assumption that cross-dressing women were automatically viewed as transgressive, she finds that these figures were popularly regarded as wholesome and regularly appeared onscreen in the 1910s, thus lending greater respectability to the fledgling film industry. Horak also explores how and why this perception of cross-dressed women began to change in the 1920s and early 1930s, examining how cinema played a pivotal part in the representation of lesbian identity.

Click on the links below to read more about this exceptionally relevant and well researched book:

"Fascinating and timely ... As the lesbian subject is being normalised in Hollywood and far beyond, this study of cross-dressing’s early filmic transition from heterosexual ideal to queer deviance is particularly valuable." 
-Times Higher Education

"It is thoroughly researched, well argued, insightful and readable. Anyone interested in LGBT history, film studies, or the early 20th century will appreciate this recommended book."
- Huffington Post

“Horak has produced a meticulously researched, astutely argued, and highly readable text … her use of archival materials is impeccable and her filmic and historical analyses clearly display a nuanced understanding of her topic.”
- Publishers Weekly

"Drawing on the early archives of American cinema, Horak questions the assumption that cross-dressing actresses were inherently transgressive ... and provides a new lens through which to view gender, sexuality and film." 
- Autostraddle