Transvestism: A Review of Current Literature

Transvestism, also known as cross-dressing, is a behavior in which an individual wears clothing and accessories typically associated with the opposite gender. It is important to note that transvestism does not necessarily involve any sexual or gender-related motivations; while some individuals who identify as transvestites may also identify as transgender, many individuals who engage in transvestism do not identify as transgender or otherwise gender variant (Carrigan & Kulick, 2003). This review of current literature discusses the history of transvestism, its prevalence, and its psychological and social implications.

History of Transvestism

The term “transvestism” was first used in 1910 by Magnus Hirschfeld, a German physician and sexologist who was a major advocate for LGBTQ rights (Hirschfeld, 1910). Since then, transvestism has been studied by a variety of researchers. In the 1950s, Alfred Kinsey identified transvestism as a distinct form of sexual behavior (Kinsey, Pomeroy, & Martin, 1953). In the 1960s, John Money began to use the term “gender identity disorder” to describe individuals with a persistent desire to dress in clothes associated with the opposite sex (Money, 1965).

Prevalence of Transvestism

The prevalence of transvestism is difficult to estimate, as many individuals may engage in transvestism without disclosing it. A study by Carrigan and Kulick (2003) found that approximately 3% of men and 0.3% of women in the United States reported engaging in transvestism. Other studies have suggested that the prevalence may be higher, with some estimates ranging from 8% to 10% (Rothblum & Brehony, 1993).

Psychological and Social Implications of Transvestism

Although there is limited research on the psychological and social implications of transvestism, some research has suggested that transvestites may experience feelings of shame and guilt due to societal stigma, and may be more likely to suffer from mental health issues such as depression and anxiety (Carrigan & Kulick, 2003; Rothblum & Brehony, 1993). Additionally, gender-nonconforming individuals may face discrimination and harassment from peers and strangers, which can result in feelings of isolation and distress (Garofalo, Deleon, Osmer, Doll, & Harper, 2006).


Transvestism is a behavior in which an individual wears clothing and accessories typically associated with the opposite gender. Although its prevalence is difficult to estimate, some research suggests that it may be more common than previously thought. Additionally, there is evidence that transvestites may face social stigma and discrimination, which can lead to mental health issues. Further research is needed to understand the psychological and social implications of transvestism.


Carrigan, M., & Kulick, D. (2003). Transvestism and the embodied self: An ethnography of transvestites in urban Mexico. Ethnology, 42(3), 277–298.

Garofalo, R., Deleon, J., Osmer, E., Doll, M., & Harper, G. W. (2006). Overlooked, misunderstood, and at-risk: Exploring the lives and HIV risk of ethnic minority male-to-female transgender youth. Journal of Adolescent Health, 38(3), 230–236.

Hirschfeld, M. (1910). Die transvestiten. Berlin: Verlag von Magnus Hirschfeld.

Kinsey, A. C., Pomeroy, W. B., & Martin, C. E. (1953). Sexual behavior in the human female. Philadelphia, PA: W. B. Saunders.

Money, J. (1965). Transvestism: A classification and psychodynamic exploration. Archives of General Psychiatry, 12(2), 166–175.

Rothblum, E. D., & Brehony, K. A. (1993). Transvestites and transsexuals: Toward a theory of cross-gender behavior. New York, NY: Harrington Park Press.

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