World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Article Id: WHEBN0000162483
Reproduction Date:

Title: Transvestism  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Cross-dressing, Drag queen, Transgender, Cross-dressing in film and television, Drag (clothing)
Collection: Cross-Dressing, Transgender
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


A Sicilian boy cross-dressing as a Spanish woman, photographed by Wilhelm von Gloeden in the late 19th century.

Transvestism (also called transvestitism) is the practice of dressing and acting in a style or manner traditionally associated with the other sex.


  • History 1
    • Origin of the term 1.1
    • Cross-dressers 1.2
      • Culture 1.2.1
  • Image gallery 2
  • See also 3
  • Notes 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


Coined as late as the 1910s, the phenomenon is not new. It was referred to in the Hebrew Bible.[1] The word has undergone several changes of meaning since it was first coined and is still used in a variety of senses. According to some sources, the term transvestite today is considered outdated and derogatory.[2]

Origin of the term

Magnus Hirschfeld coined the word transvestism (from Latin trans-, "across, over" and vestitus, "dressed") to refer to the sexual interest in cross-dressing.[3] He used it to describe persons who habitually and voluntarily wore clothes of the opposite sex. Hirschfeld's group of transvestites consisted of both males and females, with heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, and asexual orientations.[4]

Hirschfeld himself was not happy with the term: He believed that clothing was only an outward symbol chosen on the basis of various internal psychological situations.[5] In fact, Hirschfeld helped people to achieve the very first name changes (legal given names were and are required to be gender-specific in Germany) and performed the first reported sexual reassignment surgery. Hirschfeld's transvestites therefore were, in today's terms, not only transvestites, but a variety of people from the transgender spectrum.[5]

Hirschfeld also noticed that sexual arousal was often associated with transvestism. In more recent terminology, this is sometimes called autogynephilia. Hirschfeld also clearly distinguished between transvestism as an expression of a person's "contra-sexual" (transgender) feelings and fetishistic behavior, even if the latter involved wearing clothes of the other sex.[5] When speaking of to or about an individual who identifies as transgender, the term transvestite is typically seen as derogatory.


Yakkun Sakurazuka cross-dressing as a schoolgirl

After all the changes that took place during the 1970s, a large group was left without a word to describe themselves: heterosexual males (that is, male-bodied, male-identified, gynephilic persons) who wear traditionally feminine clothing. This group was not particularly happy with the term "transvestism", therefore the term "cross-dresser" was coined. [6] Cross-dressers are men who wear female clothing and often both admire and imitate women, but self-identify as different from both gay men and transsexuals, and generally deny having fetishistic intentions.

When cross-dressing occurs for erotic purposes over a period of at least six months and also causes significant distress or impairment, the behavior is considered a mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and the psychiatric diagnosis "transvestic fetishism" is applied.[7]


In some cultures, transvestism is practiced for religious, traditional or ceremonial reasons. For example, in India some male devotees of the Hindu god Krishna, especially in Mathura and Vrindavan, dress in female attire to pose as his consort, the goddess Radha, as an act of devotion.[8] In Italy, the Neapolitan femminielli (feminine males) wear wedding dresses, called the matrimonio dei femminielli (marriage of the femminielli), a procession takes place through the streets, a tradition that apparently has pagan origins.[9]

Image gallery

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ Hirschfeld, Magnus: Die Transvestiten. Berlin 1910: Alfred Pulvermacher
    Hirschfeld, Magnus. (1910/1991). Transvestites: The erotic drive to cross dress. (M. A. Lombardi-Nash, Trans.) Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books.
  4. ^ Hirschfeld, Magnus. Geschlechtsverirrungen, 10th Ed. 1992, page 142 ff.
  5. ^ a b c
  6. ^ Bullough, Vern L. Cross Dressing, Sex, and Gender. University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993. ISBN 0812214315
  7. ^
  8. ^ Meet the crossdresser saints of UP. CNN-IBN. Retrieved 21 January 2013
  9. ^ Il mondo del "femminiello", cultura e tradizione. Retrieved 21 January 2013


  • Ackroyd, Peter. Dressing up, transvestism and drag: the history of an obsession. Simon and Schuster, 1979. ISBN 0671250914
  • Mancini, Elena. A Brighter Shade of Pink: Magnus Hirschfeld. ProQuest, 2007. ISBN 0549700552
  • Ambrosio, Giovanna. Transvestism, Transsexualism in the Psychoanalytic Dimension. Karnac Books, 2011. ISBN 178049307X
  • Gravois, Valory. Cherry Single: A Transvestite Comes of Age (a novel) Alchemist/Light Publishing, 1997 (Available to read free, online), ISBN 0-9600650-5-9

External links

The dictionary definition of transvestite at Wiktionary

  • Transvestism at Britannica Online Encyclopædia
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.