Be Careful What You Wear in Oakland

Boys, put on your suits and girls, put on your dresses. In some places, wearing clothing made for your gender is not just a question of social acceptance but it’s dictated by law.

According to Oakland’s Code of Ordinances, cross-dressing is illegal. Immoral Dress Code 9.08.080 says: “It is unlawful for any person in the city to appear in any public place nude or in the attire of a person of the opposite sex, or in any indecent or lewd attire.” This outdated law was put in place in 1879 but remains in Oakland law today.

Oakland is one of the biggest metropolitan areas in the United States, with a sizable population of LGBT people. But cross-dressing isn’t just an issue affecting LGBT people. It isn’t only masculine women or feminine men who cross-dress, but women on the police and fire departments or men and women who don’t devote themselves to strictly following gender norms. People of all sexual orientations and gender identities could easily be charged with a misdemeanor for cross-dressing.

Androgyny and blurring gender is a popular style embraced by mainstream culture and stores such as American Apparel. So what happens to all these “immoral” cross-dressers?

Luckily, the law isn’t being enforced nowadays. But it is still a dangerous law to leave in place. As political climates change, vague laws can be used to discriminate against minorities and punish people who did nothing wrong. Oakland should remove the prohibition of cross-dressing from the law.

It’s especially offensive that the cross-dressing law falls under the Immoral Dress Code and that cross-dressing is listed alongside appearing nude in public or wearing indecent attire. There is nothing indecent or morally questionable about choosing clothing from a different section of a clothing store. If clothing is suitable and appropriate for one sex, it should be perfectly fine for the other sex also. Laws that are based on sexism and prejudices should be removed from the books before they harm innocent people, who simply want to choose their own style without government interference.

Photo credit: combust