What Is Transvestism?
Transvestism, most commonly referred to as "cross-dressing," usually refers to the act of experiencing sexual arousal from wearing clothes normally associated with the opposite gender. For example, a man may become sexually aroused by wearing a bra and skirt while a woman may become aroused by wearing a jock strap. Cross-dressing is normally a brief, private activity. Transvestites rarely go outside dressed up, a behavior commonly referred to as going out “in drag”.
General transvestism or cross-dressing is different from transvestic fetishism. Transvestic fetishism is when cross-dressing becomes a person’s only source of arousal and is more similar to object or clothing fetishism . Transvestism is also different from transgenderism, when individuals feel that their sexual anatomy does not match their gender identity. Transgenders dress as the opposite gender as a lifestyle because they view themselves as trapped in the wrong body and desire to be that gender. Many cross-dressers identify themselves as heterosexual; therefore, cross-dressing is not necessarily a homosexual act.
Reasons for Cross-dressing
Transvestism can be appealing to some for several different reasons. Some transvestites enjoy the feeling of violating a taboo that is associated with wearing the other sex’s clothing. Some people view cross-dressing as a fun version of role-playing. Others may enjoy escaping the gender roles imposed on them by society. Still, others cross-dress out of curiosity of knowing what it is like to be the opposite gender. There can be an unlimited amount of other reasons why people might choose to don the other gender’s clothing.
Males are more likely than females to cross-dress for sexual arousal. Men are more likely to have sexual fetishes in general because men have more erotic-sexual experiences when they are younger. This provides more opportunity for them to be conditioned and learn what arouses them sexually. This means they are more likely to respond to visual images and tactile stimuli (such as wearing women’s clothing) in a sexual way. Men also have more practical opportunities to cross-dress because there are many more garments exclusively labeled female, such as skirts, thong underwear, dresses, bras, high heels, etc. Women seem to cross-dress less frequently than males. This may be because women in Western societies are socially permitted to wear men’s clothing. Sociologists argue that this can either take away the thrill of cross-dressing or make cross-dressing less noticeable.
Individuals vary in the extent to which they cross-dress. Some men may try on their partner’s skirt or bra once or twice for fun and would not label themselves as transvestites. Some men regularly incorporate wearing women’s clothing with masturbation or sexual activity. Frequent cross-dressers may have a different name for their alter-gendered ego. Some transvestites even take hormone treatments or get breast implants to make their bodies look more feminine for when they are dressing up, although this is an extreme and is infrequent. Transvestites that alter their bodies vary from transgendered people in that they do not want to be the opposite gender, but rather that they enjoy certain aspects of that gender. The transvestites do not feel trapped in the wrong body and still identify as their assigned sex.
It can be very difficult for a transvestite to open up to a partner or friend and explain their sexual activity. They are afraid that people will judge them as freaks or perverts and ostracize them from society labeling them as devients. Many transvestites are happily married or partnered to people who understand and except their behaviors. Others have had relationships ruined by exposing their cross-dressing. Some transvestites feel guilty and uncomfortable for their behavior and may try and seek treatment to “cure” them, while others are completely fine with their activities. There are numerous support groups designed to help transvestites, their partners, and sometimes their families understand and accept the behavior.
Last Updated 21 May 2013