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Related: androgyny - homosexuality - drag - clothing

Related films: Glen or Glenda? (1953) - Pink Flamingos (1972) - Outrageous (1977)


The term transvestism has undergone several changes of meaning since it was coined in the 1910s; and, unfortunately, it is still used in all of these meanings except the very first one. Therefore it is important to find out, whenever the word is encountered, in which particular sense it is used.

To understand the different meanings of transvestism it is necessary to explain the development of the term and the reasons behind the changes of meaning.

Magnus Hirschfeld coined the term transvestism around 1915 in Berlin (from Latin trans- across, over and vestere to dress or to wear). He used it to describe a group of people who habitually and voluntarily wore clothes of the opposite sex. (The distinction between sex and gender had not been made at this time.) Hirschfeld's group of transvestites consisted of both male and female bodied persons with (physically) heterosexual, (physically) homosexual, bisexual and asexual preferences.

Hirschfeld himself was not particularly happy with the term, since he realised that clothes were only an outward sign of a variety of reasons to wear them. In fact, Hirschfeld helped people to achieve the very first name changes and to get the very first sexual reassignment surgery. Hirschfeld's transvestites therefore were, in today's terms, not only transvestites, but people from all over the transgender spectrum.

Hirschfeld operated very much in a three-gender framework, namely male, female and other or third gender. Included into this third gender were all people who, in today's terms, violated heteronormative rules. Again in today's terms, this is very much equivalent with the queer community, i.e. lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people. Therefore, there was no pressing reason to find different terms for the different shades of Hirschfeld's transvestism.

Hirschfeld also noticed that sexual arousal was often, but by no means always associated with transvestite behaviour, and he also clearly distinguished between transvestism as an expression of a person's "contra-sexual" (transgender) feelings and fetishist behaviour, even if the later involved wearing clothes of the opposite sex.

Today Hirschfeld's use of transvestism is extinct. Today's meaning of transgender is very much equivalent. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transvestism [Dec 2004]

Transvestic fetishism

Transvestic fetishism is a sexual fetish for the clothing of the opposite gender. It is one of a number of cross-dressing behaviours. It is primarily a psychiatric term.

Transvestic fetishism, fetishistic transvestism and sometimes transvestism are also often used to describe any sexual behaviour or arousal which is in any way connected to clothes of the other gender. Especially the latter is problematic, because transvestism and cross-dressing are neither a sexual fetish, nor do they necessarily have anything to do with sexual behaviour or arousal.

Also, not every sexual behaviour where clothes of the other gender are involved are transvestic fetishism, they are also often used in sexual roleplay without being a fetish. Also, many transgendered people, mostly transwomen, also cross-dress before coming out in sexual contexts, to relieve their cross-gender feelings. This is also not transvestic fetishism.

Some transvestic fetishists collect women's clothing, e.g. nightgowns, slips and other types of nightwear and lingerie. They may dress in these feminine garments and take photographs of themselves to live out their secret fantasies. Many men love the feeling of wearing silk or nylon and adore the silky fabric of women's nightwear and lingerie.

Most transvestic fetishists are said to be heterosexual men. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transvestic_fetishism [Dec 2004]

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