English

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Etymology

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From Latin trans + vestite, form of vestiō (I clothe, I dress) (as in English vestment, vest). Literally, a "cross-dresser". From transvestitism, from German Transvestitismus, coined in 1910 by Magnus Hirschfeld (the practice itself is much older).

Pronunciation

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Noun

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transvestite (plural transvestites)

  1. A person who sometimes wears clothes traditionally worn by and associated with the opposite sex; typically a male who cross-dresses occasionally by habit or personal choice.
    Even though Steven used to dress up in his sister's clothes, it still came as a surprise he ended up as a transvestite.
  2. (clinical psychology, psychiatry, pathology) A person, typically a heterosexual male, who compulsively seeks and derives paraphilic sexual arousal from cross-dressing, especially if the urges and behavior cause the patient distress or social impairment.
  3. (zoology, dated) An animal that engages in sexual mimicry.
    • 1979 August 18, “Get A Grip On The Food”, in Gay Community News, volume 7, number 5, page 2:
      "Proper" scorpion fly behavior entails the catching of an edible insect by the male, who then offers it to the female [] If she likes the gift, she mates with the male. Thornhill, however, has observed males approaching other males, assuming the female role until they get a grip on the food. Once they have it, they try to run away with it. The "transvestite" males, according to Thornhill, have an advantage over the other males because they have others do the hunting for them, leaving the "transvestites" more time to reproduce. In additon [sic], the "transvestite" scorpion flies would avoid such hazards of the hunt as spider webs.

Usage notes

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  • This term is relatively formal (Latinate); cross-dresser is more casual, but whereas the verb cross-dress is common, the verb transvest is quite rare.
  • Transvestite should not be confused with transgender (see that term for more); transvestites are often happy with their gender and have no desire to change their sex, but simply enjoy being able to cross-dress from time to time. When speaking of to or about an individual who identifies as transgender, the term transvestite is typically seen as derogatory.
  • The term should also not be confused with drag queen (person who performs femininity) or drag king (person who performs masculinity); those terms are specifically for performers.
  • The clinical definition is far more restrictive than the colloquial usage of the term, drawing a sharp distinction between a transvestite versus those who engage in other types of cross-dressing not associated with sexual arousal—such as a drag queen who cross-dresses to perform a role for entertainment purposes.

Synonyms

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Derived terms

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Translations

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See also

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References

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  • Oliven, John F., M.D. (1974) Clinical Sexuality: A Manual for the Physician and the Professions, Third edition, Philadelphia, PA: J.B. Lippincott Company, →ISBN
  • American Psychiatric Association (1980) Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-III), Third edition, Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc., →ISBN
  • American Psychiatric Association (1987) Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-III-R), Third Revised edition, Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc., →ISBN
  • World Health Organization (1992) The ICD-10 Classification of Mental and Behavioural Disorders: Clinical Descriptions and Diagnostic Guidelines, Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization, →ISBN
  • American Psychiatric Association (1994) Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-IV), Fourth edition, Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc., →ISBN
  • American Psychiatric Association (2000) Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-IV-TR), Fourth Text Revision edition, Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc., →ISBN
  • American Psychiatric Association (2013) Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-5), Fifth edition, Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc., →ISBN