Social rules were evolved by civilisations or applied by Governments or imposed by religions. These are supposed to maintain the working system and conserve it. If a new trouble comes up people need to look into these rules and decide how this needs to be handled. If existing social rules does not handle, then rules need to change so that the system works. But, what if the rules are so strong that it cannot change even if the system is collapsing?
Cheat! , that’s what various societies do instead of relaxing the rules a little bit. If you need examples here is one – Afghanistan.
In Afghanistan, as you know, is a country run by men. A woman/girl cannot do even 10% of social activities a man/boy does. So obviously it’s better be a boy than a girl. On the other side there are boys dressed as girls to do one thing – prostitution. Rules never changed in Afghanistan for long time, and will never change till some serious influence from outside world takes place on this society. Till then, cheat.
For the first problem, there are girls who cross-dress as boys to help family to fulfil social duties. Here is an article from NY-times. This tradition is called “bacha posh” means dressed up as a boy.
Afghan families have many reasons for pretending their girls are boys, including economic need, social pressure to have sons, and in some cases, a superstition that doing so can lead to the birth of a real boy. Lacking a son, the parents decide to make one up, usually by cutting the hair of a daughter and dressing her in typical Afghan men’s clothing. There are no specific legal or religious proscriptions against the practice.
Afghan Boys Are Prized, So Girls Live the Part - image via NY Times
For the second problem, there are boys dressed as women called “Bacha Bazi”. Here is guardian report on it:
The practice of taking young boys to perform as dancers at private parties is known as bacha bazi and is an Afghan tradition with very deep roots. Under Taliban rule, it was banned, but it has crept back and is now widespread, flourishing also in the cities, including the capital, Kabul, and a common feature of weddings, especially in the north. The bacha dancers are often abused children whose families have rejected them. Their “owners” or “masters” can be single or married men, who keep them in a form of sexual slavery, as concubines. The bachas are usually released at the age of 19, when they can get married and reclaim their status as “male”, though the stigma of having lived as a bacha is hard to overcome. The Afghan authorities and human rights groups are aware of the plight of bacha boys, but seem powerless to stop it.
My intention is not to pick Afghanistan, these are just examples. There could be similar stories or variations of these practices exist in different parts of the world.