Cissy Meldrum

cissy meldrum

Cissy Meldrum (c) BBC

If you found yourself drowning in The Well of Loneliness, here’s the lighter side of 1920s cross-dressing lesbians. A fun genderfuck Friday. Cissy Meldrum (played by Catherine Rabett) was a character in the BBC TV comedy, You Rang M’Lord, and probably my earliest gender-bending icon. The show ran from 1988-1993, and was shown in a primetime family slot. You Ran M’Lord was set in the 1920s and featured the lives of the aristocratic Meldrum family, and their servants—a kind of comedy version of earlier drama series, Upstairs, Downstairs. Cissy was a passionate idealist, had a long term girlfriend, and always dressed in stylish masculine clothing, usually complete with monocle. 

There’s a long tradition of cross-dressing in British comedy, from music hall acts, to pantomime, but as time’s gone on, the characters tend to be men cross-dressing, so Cissy was a rare treat. Even though the whole thing was played for laughs, Cissy was still a great character: strong, feminist, refusing to conform to her family’s conservative desires for her. It’s cool to think that the character was included in such a mainstream family show. I’m sure there were other kids like me who appreciated an early queer icon in their lives.

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