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Transvestism (from Latin trans "over", and vestire "to dress") describes the conscious wearing of clothes and accessories that are generally considered to be stereotypical for the gender role of the opposite sex within the binary gender order man / woman (as opposed to disguise ). The need for transvestism is independent of a person's sexual orientation , so it occurs among heterosexuals as well as bisexuals and homosexuals . The need must be differentiated from transvestite fetishism .

Concept history

Transvestism is a term coined by Magnus Hirschfeld in 1910. He used it to describe “all people who, for whatever reason, voluntarily wear clothes that are usually not worn by the sex to which they are physically assigned; both men and women. "

Hirschfeld himself made the first distinction between transvestism and psychological transsexualism in 1923 in the last edition of his yearbook for sexual intermediate stages , in order to describe the desire of some transvestites for physical adaptation to the opposite sex. In 1953 Harry Benjamin took up this distinction in his article Transvestism and Transsexualism ( Intl. Journal of Sexology ) and established it in sex medicine in 1966 with his publication The Transsexual Phenomenon . These two categories are still the best known from the transgender spectrum today.

It was also Hirschfeld who, in cooperation with the Berlin criminal police, made it possible for these people to have an identification document for the first time, so that they could wear opposite-sex clothing in public largely without official or police prosecution: the colloquial so-called transvestite certificate , which was first issued in 1909.

Differentiation from other terms

The following terms are included in the transgender spectrum; the distinction to transvestism is blurred due to the lack of a clear scientific definition, and some of the terms are used synonymously or overlap:

  • Cross-dressing : wearing clothes of the opposite sex in public or in private, usually not in an exaggerated manner as in drag; earlier the term transvestism was also used for cross-dressing.
  • Women's underwear carrier (DWT): in principle to cross-dressing, but regularly limited to those items of clothing that cannot be seen under “normal” clothing. This can be a form of transvestite fetishism; but it can also be a concession to conformity to society, since this form usually remains invisible to third parties.
  • Drag, drag queen , drag king : Drag queens are anatomical men who portray women in an extremely exaggerated manner. The term dragkings, on the other hand, is often used for all people with a female body who represent masculinity in some form. This includes the full spectrum of transvestism and a large part of the transgender spectrum.
  • Travesty : an art form of transvestism; Representation of a (stage) role of one sex by people of the opposite sex. Usually there is no desire for a complete change of gender role in all of these forms.

The transitions to this, as well as the transitions between the above-mentioned shapes, are fluid. In particular, it is not uncommon that the desire for a complete change of gender role can be compensated for by intensive cross-dressing for a long time before it breaks through and can no longer be compensated, and a complete change of gender role is sought.

There is also the transvestment, which, however, has a cultic background.


Classification according to ICD-10
F64 Gender identity disorders
F64.1 Transvestism while maintaining both gender roles
ICD-10 online (WHO version 2019)

According to ICD-10, transvestism is a psychological disorder and is listed there under the code F64.1 ( transvestism while maintaining both gender roles ). However, transvestism is only diagnosed as a mental disorder if those affected suffer from it in clinically meaningful ways. Three main criteria are used to diagnose this disorder:

  • Wearing opposite sex clothing to have the temporary experience of belonging to the opposite sex.
  • The change of clothes is not accompanied by sexual arousal.
  • There is no desire for gender reassignment measures or surgical correction.

Another diagnosis to be distinguished is “ transvestite fetishism ”. It is also considered a mental disorder and is assigned to the paraphilias (F65.1).

The classification as a disorder is controversial, however, since most of those affected who have one of the two diagnoses are hardly restricted in their lifestyle. Most transvestites lead normal lives, are married, have a job and only dress up privately.

Dissemination and exploration

Although there are estimates (not scientifically proven) that between 1 and 10% of the population should have such inclinations, there is little research and relevant literature. There are numerous websites and suitable offers for the existing demand on the Internet; however, reliable quantification is not possible due to the lack of data. Since the turn of the millennium, there are some student papers at universities that are looking for people with a tendency to transvestism, but the results are often not published.

See also


  • JJ Allen: The Man in the Red Velvet Dress: Inside the World of Cross-Dressing. Carob Publishing, New York 1996, ISBN 1-55972-338-6 (English).
  • Karim El Souessi: Dissertation on the question of the delimitation of transvestism and transsexuality in men. Munich 1991 ( DNB 920867278 ; doctoral thesis TU Munich 1991).
  • Gerals C. Davison, John M. Neale, Martin Hautzinger (Eds.): Clinical Psychology. Belz, Weinheim 2002, ISBN 3-621-27458-8 (original: Abnormal psychology , translated by Maria Baur).
  • Magnus Hirschfeld, Max Tilke: The transvestites: About the erotic disguise instinct. Alfred Pulvermacher, Berlin 1912 ( OCLC 251010689 ).
  • Rainer Herrn: Patterns of Gender: Transvestism and Transsexuality in Early Sexology. Psychosocial, Giessen 2005, ISBN 3-89806-463-8 .
  • Peter R. Ackroyd: Dressing Up: Transvestism and Drag: History of an Obsession. Thames & Hudson, 1979, ISBN 978-0-671-25091-1 (English).
  • David O. Cauldwell: Transvestism: Men in Female Dress. Sexology Corporation 1961 (English).
  • Vernon Coleman: Men in dresses: a study of transvestism / crossdressing. In: European Medical Journal. Volume 23, No. 2, 1996, ISBN 978-1-898947-99-8 (German version: PDF: 282 kB, 40 pages on ( memento of December 7, 2019 in the Internet Archive )).

Web links

Commons : Transvestites  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Gisela Bleibtreu-Ehrenberg : The woman man. Cultic gender change in shamanism. A study on transvestment and transsexuality among indigenous peoples. Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt am Main. ISBN 3-596-27348-X .
  2. Gerald C. Davison, John M. Neale, Martin Hautzinger (2016): Clinical Psychology. Beltz Verlag , ISBN 978-3-621-28441-7 . P. 6f. ( Reading sample)
  4. ^ Robert J. Stoller : Perversion. The erotic form of hatred (=  library of psychoanalysis ). Psychosozial-Verlag, Giessen 1998, ISBN 3-932133-51-X , p. 105 : "They are almost always outwardly heterosexual, have wives and children and can easily behave as men."
  5. ^ Vernon Coleman: Men in Dresses: a study of transvestism / crossdressing. European Medical Journal Special Monograph, Chilton Designs Publishers, 1996, ISBN 1-898947-99-6 (English; online at; German private translation: PDF: 282 kB, 40 pages at
  6. Susanne Regener : Men in skirts: fashion, cross-dressing, trans *. ( Memento from June 6, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) In: 2015, accessed on June 5, 2020 (seminar announcement for bachelor students).
  7. Constanze Pohl: From either-or to neither-nor. Bachelor thesis 2008 ( download page ).