Cross-Dressing and the Law

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Bloomington, Indiana has a reputation for being a bastion of queerness, an island unto itself marked by inclusiveness of diversity of gender expression and sexual orientation. This page represents an exploration of the history of the law regarding individuals whose personal presentation preferences are atypically matched to their sex-assigned-at-birth, in this self-proclaimed queer-friendly community.

Legal Specifics


In Bloomington, city ordinances are passed by the City Council through a majority vote, after which the mayor can sign or veto it. "Local ordinance" and "municipal ordinance" refer to the same thing: laws governing the municipal area of Bloomington, Indiana. Municipal ordinances are enforced through fines; only the state of Indiana is authorized to create criminal laws, which are enforce through arrest and jail time.

Municipal Code of Bloomington

Research indicates that "crossdressing" (defined as the wearing of clothing associated with the "opposite sex" of one's sex-assigned-at-birth) has never specifically been a violation of the Bloomington Municipal Code.

However, in many jurisdictions, there were laws against "disguise" or "mayhem" that were used to curb crossdressing. Whether such laws were used to such ends in Bloomington is unclear.

In 2006, an ordinance was passed by the Bloomington City Council prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity or gender expression. However, there are no specified fines for violation of the ordinance or any listed means of enforcing it.

Crossdressing in Indiana and the Midwest


In 1971, Mr. Jamie Howell, the director of a transvestite information service, wrote letters to cities all over the United States and Canada inquiring about local ordinances against cross dressing. Three cities in the state of Indiana responded to the letters written. The cities of Hammond, South Bend, and Indianapolis all gave the same response: they advised Mr. Howell to seek legal counsel to obtain the requested information.

Outside Indiana

Although three cities in Indiana stonewalled the Mr. Howell's inquiries, cities in the state of Illinois gave very specific answers to Mr. Howell, including copies of the ordinance and the amount of the associated fine.

Several other cities in the Midwest responded similarly to the Indiana cities, however, by refusing to "offer legal counsel" by answering Howell's question.


1969-02-?? Indiana Daily Student “Opposite gender means sex?”

1970-06-24 Indianapolis, Indiana

1971-10-26 Hammond, Indiana

1972-03-14 South Bend, Indiana

1922 The Chicago Municipal Code - General ordinance 2666 Indecent exposure

1922 The Chicago Municipal Code - General ordinance 2675 Masking in public

1922 The Chicago Municipal Code - General ordinance 2676 Bathing suits

1971-10-26 Rockford, Illinois

1971 Rockford, Illinois Ordinance 19-25

1972-05-2 Chicago, Illinois

1972-05-16 Glen Ellyn, Illinois

1973-10-24 The Advocate “Chicago judge axes cross-dressing law”

1978 Chicago v. Wilson

1983-08-14 Daily News “Boys will be girls at Indiana club”


2009-11-19 Bloomington, Indiana interview with Vicci Laine

2009-11-20 Bloomington, Indiana