Wilson (2006) expresses that Victorian male impersonators were seen as figures of anarchy who emasculate men and threatened to topple down gender boundaries. The New Woman was a rare species that ignored societal gender rules and lived as she wanted. Both the male impersonator and the new woman were subject to scrutiny and satire.The theme of lesbianism in the Victorian era is fraught with ambivalence and internal struggle. Nan’s cross-dressing clearly depicts this dilemma of shifting from one gender to another depending on the situation. “For Victorian women, clothing was one way of expressing their femininity and for Nan, constantly changing costume and altering the visual signifiers of gender creates a conflict between those norms she can subvert and those she cannot.” (Wilson, 2006) She further learns that gender and sexuality can and must be performed and finds herself doing so in most of her situations. She also knew how to manipulate the use of her clothing and costumes both onstage and off, as if she herself changes her sexuality during each costume change.A parallelism is discovered between her stage performances and her actual life. In both, she puts up a front, carefully hiding inside her true self. In her performances, expressions of sexuality and intimacy encourage the development of her sexual and personal identity expected by her audience. With both Nan’s music hall education and a traditional Victorian woman’s education in music, economic and social support is gained in the form of employment for Nan, and a husband, for the traditional. In A Constant State of Painful Ambivalence.
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