Transvestite: Definition, Lesson & Quiz

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Chevette Alston

Dr. Alston has taught intro psychology, child psychology, and developmental psychology at 2-year and 4-year schools.

This lesson defines what a transvestite is. It also gives a description of other sexual orientation and gender identity disorders, as well as how they're different from being a transvestite.

We also recommend watching Sexism and Patriarchy: Definitions and Forms and Religion: Key Concepts and Definitions

What Is a Transvestite?

A transvestite or cross dresser is a person who likes being able to dress in opposite-sex clothing. Some transvestites may have what's called a fetish, or a strong desire or compulsion for an object or non-genital part of the body that causes a habitual, erotic response or fixation. For example, a man may get sexual pleasure from wearing different types of women's clothing or shoes. They do not live this way, so it is not done on a daily basis.

A transvestite is not considered a drag queen, because a drag queen is a male who wears women's clothing for public performance. Also, a transvestite should not be confused with someone who is considered transgender or transsexual. These are people who actually desire to live as the opposite sex. Lastly, transvestites, transgender individuals, and transsexuals are distinct from people who are homosexuals, because homosexuals desire same-sex relationships, and usually identify as/accept the gender with which they were born.

male to female

Transgender/Transsexual

A transgender/transsexual person is someone who usually lives his or her life as a member of the opposite sex without surgery to change his or her gender. However, many transgender or transsexual people pursue surgery or hormone treatments that help them not only live as the opposite sex but to physically become the opposite sex as well. The version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders used through spring 2013, known as DSM IV-TR, considered transgender and transsexual people as having gender disorders. In the more recent DSM V, the word 'disorder' was replaced with the more neutral term 'dysphoria.'

Gender Identity Disorder/Gender Dysphoria

Transvestites used to be diagnosed as people with a gender identity disorder because people believed they were confused about their gender. This is not the case. Gender dysphoria is a feeling of being ill at ease with one's sexual identity and is what currently defines gender disorders. Transsexual people are considered to have gender dysphoria because many are described as being disturbed because they believe they're in the wrong body. This disturbance can be so pervasive that it causes mental distress. Therefore gender dysphoria is a strong or persistent feeling of belonging to or being identified with the opposite sex.

Gender Identity

It is important to remember that those who choose to cross dress or live as transvestites do not identify as or desire to become the opposite sex, which makes it more of a fetish or personal pleasure preference. Furthermore, cross dressers are predominantly heterosexuals and do not necessarily have the same sexual orientation as those who are considered homosexual. Cross dressing is independent from sexual orientation.

Adult gender centers, clinical psychologists, and other types of mental health workers can help with the confusion and social isolation that can accompany all of the topics covered in this lesson. These are not topics that should be handled alone.

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