Hit & Run: Real men don't skirt the issue

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The Independent Online

Katie Price's tough boyfriend, a cage-fighter named Alex Reid, has revealed that he likes to dress up in women's clothing. Katie is, reports a gabby friend, "100 per cent behind him, and totally comfortable" with his hobby. And before anyone starts calling him names – or wondering how he plans to fill Ms Price's generously proportioned undergarments – we're also told, "Alex is not ashamed in the slightest. On the contrary, he thinks the subject matter is totally misunderstood."

One does not, as a rule, take issue with cage fighters, but does he really think so? Surely cross-dressing has, in recent times, emerged from its cupboard to stand blinking in the mainstream. Hasn't it almost ceased to be taboo, let alone a matter of shame?

He seems to have given up on his womenswear wardrobe lately, but Eddie Izzard's appearance on the comedy circuit, making jokes about Daleks while wearing sequinned skirts, did a lot to "normalise" transvestism, and detach it from assumptions that the wearer was also gay, non-virile and gender-dysmorphic. The spectacle of Grayson Perry winning the Turner Prize in a purple party frock was shocking at the time but showed the world that cross-dressing could be all about embracing a soft, innocent alter ego. David Shayler, the MI5 agent, received journalists at his home dressed as his shadow-self, "Delores Kane," although he also modestly admitted to being the Messiah. "A bloke in a frock," he noted, "is less offensive than blowing up innocent people in Iraq or Afghanistan."

Meanwhile, in America, there's been a virtual epidemic of chaps in bra straps – although acceptance appears harder to come by over there. A photo of Eric Brewer, Mayor of East Cleveland, Ohio, posing in a lilac teddy with matching stockings, lost him the primary election when it surfaced last month. By contrast, Stu Rasmussen, Mayor of Silverton, Oregon, campaigned in heels, plum tights, a leather skirt and surging bosom - and won.

Many men, gay and straight, wonder how it might feel to swan about in a dress, and a few get to experience it. (I had my chance at 21, when I was courting a six-foot rowing blue called Stella, and we swapped clothes for a party; I was startled by how exposed and vulnerable a frock makes you feel, quite apart from the breezes in unexpected places.) But many more men, however, still wonder: why do it? Received wisdom suggests that transvestites grow up to banish certain feelings and suppress certain behaviour from their masculine world, and externalise them into an alternative self, clad in knickers, tights and mascara. No doubt. But Hit & Run still has to ask why – Alex, Eddie, Grayson, David, Eric, Stu – do you want to look so indescribably silly? John Walsh

Wakey-wakey! It's time for nostalgia

The smooth, dark and incredibly rich George Clooney may have done his best to seduce us into becoming a nation of coffee drinkers, but as of this week his favourite beverage-maker has some serious competition: the teasmade. John Lewis report that customer demand for the retro gadget has been so high that it's had to start stocking it again. No wonder – in our post-boom age, mocha-chocca-soya-lattes and expensive chrome contraptions just aren't sexy. What Britons now want is to wake up with a nice steamy brew on the bedside table, courtesy of a device invented in the late 19th century. George and his coffee-making companions should feel very alarmed. Enjoli Liston

A bite-sized guide to 'True Blood'

* True Blood, the latest HBO hit to reach the UK (C4, 10pm tonight), is named after synthetic blood, a substance which has allowed vampires to step out of the dark – not into the sun, mind.

* Bon Temps is the Louisiana town in which True Blood's action takes place. Its inhabitants are a heady mix of Cajun, American and Vampire.

* Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), our heroine, is one of the town's friendlier faces. Vampires aren't the only supernatural phenomenon in Bon Temps: Sookie can read minds...

* Merlotte's, the bar where Sookie works, is run by Sam Merlotte, Sookie's long-time admirer.

* Bill Compton is a charming 174-year-old vampire with whom Sookie becomes intimately involved after drinking his blood.

* Vampire blood, also known as "V", induces pleasurable hallucinations when drunk by humans – a highly illegal practice.

* "Fang-banger" is the insult for those who have sex with vamps, and "fang-banger" murders drive the plot of the series. There will be blood. And lots of shagging. Tim Walker

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