By KAREN PARKER | Retired County Line Publisher

What is it about men who want to slip into ladies’ lingerie and high heels and slather on lipstick and face powder? For some bizarre reason, the sight of women in overalls and work boots barely lifts an eyebrow, but a man slinking across a room in a feather boa, wig and falsies? Well, just ask Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who last week filed a complaint against the Orlando Philharmonic Plaza Foundation, alleging that the nonprofit group held a sexually explicit drag show in December in the presence of minors.

The DeSantis administration cited a 1947 Florida State Supreme Court case that found men impersonating women as “suggestive and indecent.” And those performances constituted a public nuisance. And, further, they injure “the health of the citizens in general” or corrupt “the public morals.”

1947? Gee, do you suppose the Florida Supreme Courts was looking over the shoulder of the Wilton American Legion. The Monroe County Local History Room has at least a half dozen photos of “womanless weddings” performed in the county from the 1920s to the 1940s, mostly as fundraisers by local American Legion clubs. At least some residents of Wilton will recognize family members or folks they once knew. I did know a few of them myself. 

Cross-dressing has been going on since we shed our animal skins in favor of silk and lace. Many of Shakespeare’s plays include cross dressing. Young men played women, and if there were romantic contact between the actors, well, I guess that was … could … maybe … be translated as homosexual.

Cross-dressing in motion pictures began in the early days of the silent films. Both Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel occasionally dressed as women in their films. 

There are a number of psychological explanations for cross-dressing. One myth is that cross-dressers are gay.

But the fact is that differences between men and women boil down to differences in the DNA of the 23rd chromosome. The rest is primarily hormones and cultural. 

Cross-dressing and drag shows, however, have created a panic attack in 13 states with Republican-led legislatures, all of which have introduced bills to do everything from preventing drag shows to the public to making it a criminal offense to dress in women’s clothing. 

We have a lot of issues in this country — environmental degradation, homelessness, income inequality — and what do we want to focus on? Men in pink nylon panties?

Welcome to the culture wars. I missed Wilton’s 1947 performance of the “womanless wedding,” but my guess is that there were plenty of teens and children there. In this time, in the right state, all of those Wilton cross-dressing performers could be arrested for corrupting the morals of youth and grooming them for the gay lifestyle.

Let that sink in for a while. 

This photo shows the all-male cast of a play called “The Womanless Wedding.” The play was mainly sponsored by the Wilton American Legion and performed in 1947. The cast (left to right, back to front) was made up of the following: Marten Tonn, John Raabe, Carl Kuderer, Gib Fauska, Al Kisser, John Wiseman, Philip Creviston, Eugene Flock, Bill Tillman, Clarence Buchholz, Harold Boetzel, Barnard Steinhoff, Bruce Brandenberg, Frank Clair, Ray Rice, Jack Creviston, Art Brehmer and Ryan Eckleberg. Middle: Kermit Bartz, Gib Goldbeck, Bob Babbitt, Leonard Goldbeck, George Steinhoff, Emil Paeth, Bud Limp, Harvey Wills, Norton Raabe, Tom Wiseman, and Pat Berendes. Bottom: Dan Sullivan, Wayne Welch, Vernel Dunnum, Bill Dunbar, Jemy Ferries, Larry Mitchell, Junior Brandau, Vern Ferries, Glen Buchholz and Ray Brandau. Two cast members are shown in black face, which became popular after the Civil War but began to lose its appeal in the 1930s. Now, the practice is widely considered derogatory. (Photo courtesy of the Monroe County Local History Room)