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

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

Contents

History

Although the word "transvestism" was coined as late as 1910s, the phenomenon is not new. This phenomenon was referred to in the Bible and was traced back to Ethiopia and the origin of man. [1]. The term transvestism has undergone several changes of meaning since it was first coined. It is still used in a variety of senses. Therefore it is important to find out, whenever the word is encountered, in which particular sense it is used. However, to understand the different meanings of transvestism it is necessary to explain the development of the term.

Origin of the term

Magnus Hirschfeld coined the term 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. 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 transsexual spectrum.

Hirschfeld also noticed that sexual arousal was often associated with transvestite behavior; he 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.

Cross-dressers

After all the changes which 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. Self-identified cross-dressers generally do not have fetishistic intentions, 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 transsexual people, 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.

However, when this group of people achieved public attention, 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".

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.

See also

References

  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. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B8CY1-4TRHCD9-1&_user=5081486&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_acct=C000047720&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=5081486&md5=ccfb8545a50236e6819a0666ba569db2. 
  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.







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