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Transvestite: Definition & Explanation

Instructor: 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.

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.'

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