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Fairy tales seldom feature cross-dressing, but an occasional heroine needs to move freely as a man, as in the German The Twelve Huntsmen, the Scottish The Tale of the Hoodie, or the Russian The Lute Player.
Madame d'Aulnoy included such a woman in her literary fairy tale, Belle-Belle ou Le Chevalier Fortuné.
Cross-dressing that consisted of women dressing as men had more positive attitudes than vice versa; Altenburger states that female to male cross-dressing depicted a movement forward in terms of social status, power, and freedom. While some (The Famous Flower of Serving-Men) merely need to move about freely, many do it specifically in pursuit of a lover (Rose Red and the White Lily or Child Waters) and consequently pregnancy often complicates the disguise.
In the Chinese poem the Ballad of Mulan, Hua Mulan disguised herself as a man to take her elderly father's place in the army.
In Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness series, the main character, Alanna, disguises herself as a boy for eight years in order to become a knight.
William Shakespeare made substantial use of cross-dressing for female characters who took on masculine clothing to carry out actions difficult for women.
In Shakespeare's play The Merchant of Venice, Portia and her maid dress as men to plead in court on the merchant's behalf, and are quite successful in their ruse; in the same play, Shylock's daughter Jessica dresses as a man to elope with her Christian lover.
Lord Byron in his Don Juan, had Don Juan disguised as a woman in a harem.
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I'm a young, smart, funny guy who's new to the scene. i am a crossdresser from Stavanger, i would like to meet some one to have some funn and dress me upp whit, i have never don it whit a man or wommen yet butt i hope to meet a man or wommen so would like to join me when i have dressed me up.
Occasionally, men in ballads also disguise themselves as women, but not only is it rarer, the men dress so for less time, because they are merely trying to elude an enemy by the disguise, as in Brown Robin, The Duke of Athole's Nurse, or Robin Hood and the Bishop.
According to Gude Wallace, William Wallace disguised himself as a woman to escape capture, which may have been based on historical information.
In the cities Techiman and Wenchi (both Ghana) men dress as women – and vice versa – during the annual Apoo festival (April/May).