1943: John William MacIntyre, was X-dressing criminal?

x-dressing John William MacIntyre scanties

A police constable arrested Corporal John William MacIntyre in the Domain in 1943 for the ‘crime’ of wearing makeup, bows in his hair, and ‘scanties’ under his uniform. But was X-dressing illegal?

When Constable Flick detected a strong perfume wafting on the breeze on a Saturday night in the Domain, he traced the scent to a particular park bench. John William MacIntyre occupied the seat. The returned serviceman wore his corporal’s uniform. But he also had two pink bows in his hair, rouge on his cheeks, and traces of lipstick on his lips.

Back at the police station, Constable Flick discovered that under his uniform, John was wearing a pink frock, a string of beads, a brooch, and a pair of ‘scanties’!

The cop charged the X-dressing corporal with offensive behaviour, a convenient catch-all for people not actually breaking a known law.

Makeup for men defended

In Sydney’s Central Court,  the police prosecutor confidently explained the circumstances of the arrest. But then Magistrate Sutherland queried the so-called crime.

“Beau Brummell [famous English style icon] used perfume and rouge, and powdered his hair, yet no one took exception to him.”

“Beau Brummell wasn’t a soldier,” replied the prosecutor.

Magistrate Sutherland turned his attention to the arresting constable.

“Why was it offensive to see a man dressed as a woman? Women get around in men’s slacks.”

“His face was rouged, his lips were covered with lipstick, and there was a strong smell of perfume about him,” replied Constable Flick.

“Well, women smoke,” said the magistrate. “Why was being dressed as a woman offensive?”

“We have had complaints,” said the constable.

Asked if he suspected John William MacIntyre of tendencies to sexual perversion, Flick said no. It seems strange that Flick did not accuse John of soliciting for unnatural purposes. But apparently, the magistrate’s unexpected scepticism unnerved a cop anticipating an easy conviction.

Still not convinced that X-dressing constituted a crime, Magistrate Sutherland found the offence proved but dismissed the case. John could legally wear as many pink bows in his hair as his heart desired.

Also: Throughout history, men strutted like peacocks but by the 20th century, the Western male had become a dull & colourless creature.

More Sydney prosecutions:

Sex in the Domain, Sydney, 1878.

Norman Douglas: from cute little bugger to convicted bugger.

Also: Consensual buggery in colonial Australia.

Consensual Buggery in Colonial Australia

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Destiny Rogers

Destiny Rogers embarked on her career in the media industry immediately after high school, initially joining Mirror News, which later evolved into News Ltd. She fondly recalls editing Ian Byford's 'Passing Glances: A History of Gay Cairns' as one of her most fulfilling projects. Additionally, Destiny co-researched and co-wrote 'The Queen's Ball', chronicling the history of the world's longest-running continuous queer event. Her investigative work on the history of Australia's COON Cheese and Edward Coon culminated in the publication 'COON: More Holes than Swiss Cheese', a collaborative effort with Dr. Stephen Hagan. Destiny's journey at QNews began as a feature writer, and she was subsequently elevated to the role of Managing Editor of QNews Magazine in 2018. However, in July 2022, she decided to resign from this role to refocus on research and feature writing. For contact, please reach out at destinyr@qnews.com.au.

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