Seven men in a cabaret cast in Miami Beach in 1972, where two of them performed as women and three as transvestites.

Transvestism (also called transvestitism) is the practice of cross-dressing, which is wearing clothing traditionally associated with the opposite sex. Transvestite refers to a person who cross-dresses; however, the word often has additional connotations.[clarification needed]



Eddie Izzard, a famous comedian and transvestite, performing his stand up comedy routine Sexie.

Although the word transvestism was coined as late as the 1910s, the phenomenon is not new. It was referred to in the Bible[1] and traces back to Ethiopia and the origin of man.[citation needed] The word has undergone several changes of meaning since it was first coined and is still used in a variety of senses.

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.[2] 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.[3]

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.[citation needed] 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 people from all over the transgender spectrum.[original research?]

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.[citation needed]


After all the changes that took place during the 1970s,[clarification needed] 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".[citation needed] Therefore, the term "cross-dresser" was coined.[citation needed] Self-identified cross-dressers generally do not have fetishistic intentions,[citation needed] but are instead men who wear female clothing and often both admire and imitate women.

This group did — and sometimes still does — distance themselves strictly from both gay men and transsexuals, and usually also deny any fetishistic intentions. It was probably this development that led to the explicit definition of transvestic fetishism as distinctively different from transvestism.[original research?]

However, when this group of people achieved public attention,[citation needed] they were commonly referred to as transvestites rather than cross-dressers. That led, paradoxically, to yet another usage of transvestism: cross-dressing, male-bodied, male-identified, heterosexual persons. This group typically self-identifies as "cross-dressers".[citation needed]

Echoing the changing history of the term "transvestism", cross-dressing (but not cross-dresser) is now being used to describe the act of wearing clothing of another gender.[original research?]

When cross-dressing occurs for erotic purposes over a period of at least six months and when it causes significant distress or impairment, the behavior is considered a mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders called transvestic fetishism.[4]

See also


  1. ^ Aggrawal, Anil. (April 2009). "References to the paraphilias and sexual crimes in the Bible". J Forensic Leg Med 16 (3): 109–14. doi:10.1016/j.jflm.2008.07.006. PMID 19239958. 
  2. ^ Hirschfeld, Magnus: Die Transvestiten. Eine Untersuchung über den erotischen Verkleidungstrieb mit umfangreichem casuistischen und historischen Material. Berlin 1910: Alfred Pulvermacher
    Hirschfeld, M. (1910/1991). Transvestites: The erotic drive to cross dress.([M. A. Lombardi-Nash, Trans.) Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books.
  3. ^ Hirschfeld, Geschlechtsverirrungen, 10th Ed. 1992, page 142 ff.
  4. ^ "DSM-IV". All Mixed Up. Retrieved October 9, 2010. 

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • transvestism — TRANSVESTÍSM s. n. travestism. (< fr. transvestisme) Trimis de raduborza, 15.09.2007. Sursa: MDN …   Dicționar Român

  • transvestism — transvestic, adj. /trans ves tiz euhm, tranz /, n. the practice, esp. of men, of wearing clothing usually associated with the opposite sex for psychological gratification. Also, transvestitism /trans ves ti tiz euhm, tranz /. [1925 30; < G… …   Universalium

  • Transvestism — Dressing in the clothing of the opposite sex. Transvestism is distinct from both transsexualism and homosexuality. In psychiatry, it can be considered a paraphilia. Also known as cross dressing. * * * The practice of dressing or masquerading in… …   Medical dictionary

  • transvestism — The process of cross dressing or wearing clothes appropriate to the opposite sex. Usually applied in the case of men who dress temporarily as women and not to be confused with either transsexuality or homosexuality . Cross dressing assumes many… …   Dictionary of sociology

  • transvestism — [[t]trænzve̱stɪzəm[/t]] N UNCOUNT Transvestism is the practice of wearing clothes normally worn by a person of the opposite sex, usually for pleasure. Syn: cross dressing …   English dictionary

  • transvestism — transvestite ► NOUN ▪ a person, typically a man, who derives pleasure from dressing in clothes considered appropriate to the opposite sex. DERIVATIVES transvestism noun. ORIGIN German Transvestit, from Latin trans across + vestire clothe …   English terms dictionary

  • transvestism — noun see transvestite …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • transvestism — noun The condition of being a transvestite Syn: transvestitism …   Wiktionary

  • transvestism — trans|ves|tism [ trænz ves,tızəm ] noun uncount a type of behavior in which someone wears clothing typical of the opposite sex …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • transvestism — trans·ves·tism || træns vestɪzm , z n. dressing in clothes of the opposite sex …   English contemporary dictionary

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