Cross-gender acting isn’t new. Male actors played female roles since time immemorial – in theatre productions, in the opera. Shakespearean plays were often almost entirely men, and it was standard practise at the time for men to play female roles.
In 17th century Japan, women were banned from Kabuki theatre and men literally took on their roles, cross-dressing as women. They were called onnagata, which roughly translates to "female role".