Dr Colin Cremin startled his sociology students at Auckland University when he turned up to his lecture in high heels, pantyhose, full makeup and jewellery.

Now two years later, as Ciara Cremin, she is releasing a book to the world to help break down barriers on cross-dressing and gender stereotyping.

The book, Man-Made Woman - The Dialectics of Cross-Dressing, tells how that day - July 27, 2015 - ended a lifetime of repressing his, now her, desire to dress as a woman.

"I'm hoping to break the taboo... on male-to-female cross-dressing," said Cremin, who travels to the United Kingdom next week to promote the book, released today.

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Cremin said the book was a frank account of her desire to dress as a woman and the reality of doing so in the workplace and in public.

She said the desire is a common one among men but few are in a position to act on it, except in parody.

"It's extremely rare to see... any male dressed in women's clothes," Cremin said.

"I think that... tells us something about the kind of society we live in, where in this day and age it's still so rare for a man to cross that... kind of invisible boundary. It's not like you'd be arrested for dressing the way I do, but people obviously police their own behaviour."

Cremin, 48, tells in her book how when she was a young boy she "dreamt of having my own Bat Cave... I would slide down a pole... and enter a space full of women's clothes, boots, makeup and so forth that I would put on and roam around in freely".

"That's something else I want to also draw attention to," she said. "That it's not that these desires... come somehow later in life, and that you think to yourself, oh it might be nice to wear women's clothes, I wonder what that's like?

"It's that these things happen at a very, very early age."

Dr Ciara Cremin, sociology lecturer at Auckland University. Photo / Dean Purcell
Dr Ciara Cremin, sociology lecturer at Auckland University. Photo / Dean Purcell

Cremin said while she was comfortable with dressing as a woman since age 20, it took her until her 40s to openly do so in public.

"Partly because of fear of how people would react. But also... 'cause as soon as you dress like this, as soon as you go to work dressed like this, then you're defined by this.... It's not that I want to be labelled as a transvestite or transgender or even a woman, it's that society demands that we define ourselves."

Cremin switches between dressing as a woman and as a man.

"In my book I describe myself as a criss-cross dresser... I always dress as a woman to work... I dress weekends off and on...

"Part of the reason why I still dress as a man is because... you have to deal with prejudices and there are some places where it's just not safe to dress as a woman." That included some rougher areas overseas.

She also wondered in her book: "How would I carry off wearing a bikini during the long New Zealand summers that I like to spend on the beach?"

Cremin said the most common reaction she received when dressed as a woman, was: "People feign indifference... as if there is no change whatsoever... I think... that behaviour, that kind of appearance belies what goes on underneath because... people, they don't think that you see them (but) they're staring."

Cremin, who has a PhD in Sociology from the University of Leeds, grew up in London and moved to New Zealand eight years ago. She has been known as Ciara for the past two years, but hasn't changed her name on her birth certificate.

"I sometimes go by Colin, if I'm dressed as a man for instance."

She has a female partner, with whom she has been for about five years. Cremin said her partner was supportive - "really she's quite indifferent about it". But that "she would prefer that I'm sometimes dressed as a man".

Cremin said she did not wish to become a woman biologically.

"I have no desire to go through [an] operation, hormone treatment.... I just like wearing women's clothes."

She did not subscribe to gender characterisations. "I reject all labels, including man and woman... but society imposes labels on us."

Cremin said of 'cross-dressing': "All forms of dress are artifice. We're all cross-dressing in a certain way, it's just that I'm dressing in a way that's inconsistent with how people imagine men should dress."

Man-Made Woman - The Dialectics of Cross-Dressing, by Ciara Cremin, is published by Pluto Press and available through Amazon.