These Men Dress Up As Rubber Dolls (And It's Not About Sex)

Photo: Courtesy of Robert Sherry.
Children all over the world use costumes and dolls to play pretend. After they're grown, most lose interest in the toys of youth. But some men are less keen to give up on make-believe.

Meet “Robert,” who has been a masker for almost two decades. A resident of Southern California, Robert likes to relax poolside and unwind. But when he gets home, he has little interest in sweatsuits and leisurewear. Instead, he transforms into “Sherry.”

Sherry is blonde and feminine, outfitted in dresses and bikinis to laze around the house. She is Robert — only wrapped in a full bodysuit called a FemSkin and topped with a Rapunzel-esque wig.

As Robert tells it, “most maskers…dress in private and in secret.” Although so much of what was once anathema has become mainstream, the masker movement is still considered taboo. “I don’t think it will ever be a popular pastime,” Robert concedes. And yet there are a few online communities where maskers gather to chat and share tips. These “sympathetic sites” have become a virtual home for the subculture. For maskers, a second skin is more and less than armor. It is freedom.

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What motivates maskers to inhabit these other bodies?
"They do it for a variety of reasons — to hide their identities, to look more feminine, to [change] their identity. Some just enjoy the feel of masks."
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When did you get involved in the movement?
"Seventeen years ago. Although, at the time, I wasn’t aware that other trans [people and] cross-dressers wore masks."
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When did you start photographing yourself in your full suit? What do you want these photos to capture?
"I began photographing myself when I began masking because I was amazed I could look so [feminine]. I didn’t begin wearing my female suit until I came out of my solitary closet and discovered other dressers and amazing new products, like the FemSkin suit, that were available. That was over 10 years after I began dressing. The suit allows me to appear to be a naked, or semi-naked female. And so, a whole new world of pictorial expression is now open to me."
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How do maskers use fashion as a medium of expression?
"I cannot speak for others in this regard. In my case, being able to be able to change from an old man into a sexy, young woman in minutes is a constant source of excitement, unbelievable amazement, and self-satisfaction. I try to copy/express any and all women's fashions from every period in history that I find attractive or challenging and appealing."
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What is most misunderstood about maskers?
"Probably that folks think they wear masks for perverted, immoral, or dishonest reasons. Most maskers just enjoy escaping to a new identity occasionally."
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Do you wish maskers were more mainstream?
"Yes, I do. I quite enjoy Halloween, when masks are accepted out in public — where I live in [Southern California], anyway. I go to many events masked around Halloween time. Instead of being creeped out, folks seem to enjoy seeing you in a mask and inventive identity."
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Ideally, what would it mean for maskers to be “accepted”?
"There are so many maskers and [cross-]dressers that will never go out in public because of their fears of what could happen. Most would love to come out if there wasn’t such a stigma attached to masking."
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