What is a Transvestite?


The term transvestite is used to refer to individuals who dress in clothing of the opposite sex and adopt gender-associated mannerisms. However, it is important to distinguish this from fetishism or the sexual arousal associated with cross-dressing that leads to a diagnosable disorder called transvestic disorder.

People who dress in drag and personify female gender stereotypes are considered gay, while transgender refers to a different sense of gender identity that differs from their biological sex.


The term transvestite is used colloquially to describe a man who likes wearing clothes typically worn by the opposite gender for sexual arousal. This is a form of cross-dressing, which is different from the more serious disorder called transvestism.

The difference between a transgender person and a transvestite is more than just clothes. Transgender people believe that the sex assigned to them at birth does not match their internal feelings, and they wish to change their appearance to better align with their gender identity. This often involves sex reassignment surgery.

A transvestite, on the other hand, is someone who enjoys dressing in the clothing of the opposite sex for nonsexual reasons. This includes drag queens (heterosexual men who dress in feminine clothes and act as female stereotypes) and drag kings (women who dress in masculine drag and personify male gender stereotypes). People who dress this way do not usually identify as transgender or as part of the LGBTQ community.


Long before Hirschfeld’s 1910 book, Die Transvestiten, people around the world had developed their own terms to describe ‘trans’ people. For example, Galli priests from ancient Sumeria wore feminine clothing and identified as women; they are believed to be the earliest transgender people known to history. In Brazil, travestis are males who wear female clothes and hair, use feminine names, and sometimes take black market female hormones to build prominent breasts and thighs.

The term transvestite gradually distanced itself from the pathology of cross-dressing used for sexual arousal, which became known as transvestic fetishism and is listed as a paraphilia in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. But even as the word transvestite was evolving, a misunderstanding of it and other gender variant terms developed.

For example, the popular media conflated transvestism with homosexuality until the 1990s. Despite this confusion, the world today has come to a greater understanding of transvestites. Many now recognize that transgender people do not necessarily wish to change their sex and enjoy the freedom of being able to cross-dress from time to time.

Gender Identity

People who dress as the opposite sex for sexual pleasure are called transvestites. They are different from people with transvestic disorder, a recognized mental condition that is treated with psychotherapy and other therapies.

Most transvestites are men who feel comfortable in women’s clothes but do not want to change their sex. They also differ from transsexuals, who seek to become the opposite sex and often cross-dress for extended periods before surgery.

The term transexual has fallen out of favor, as it implies that one’s gender identity is about their sex, while the trans community finds the word offensive because it denies those who do not have access to medical treatments and may never be able to live as females.

Similarly, it’s unhelpful to refer to transpeople as It (except Pennywise the dancing Clown, who is a character and not a person). It can also be insulting. People don’t use it to address their own gender identity, so why do we say it about others?


Generally, transgender individuals and their partners experience discrimination that affects the quality of the relationship. However, a qualitative study of 17 TG-CW couples found that their partners maintained relationships through transition. Personal resilience and years in the relationship before transition were associated with relationship commitment. Relationship satisfaction mediated the association between personal resilience and relationship commitment.

Whether to use the term transgender or transvestite can be a private issue. Many people choose to keep their gender identity private or only share it with certain close friends or family members. Regardless of which word is used, it’s important to respect the person’s choice of how they identify.

While the term transvestite is often associated with cross-dressing, this is not always the case. Cross-dressing is a form of paraphilia, in which individuals enjoy wearing clothing typically associated with the opposite sex. This is different from transvestic disorder, in which cross-dressing causes distress or interferes with work or social life.