Crossdressing and Tranvestism Essay

Crossdressing and Tranvestism Essay.

This critique is based on the video “Hide and Seek” by Group 29. It is about cross dressing. Cross-dressing represents the act of wearing clothing commonly associated with the opposite sex, including various forms: (1) underwear only, (2) clothes but no makeup or wig, (3) clothes, makeup and wigs, and (4) trying to “pass” as a woman. There are different terms to address the people who cross-dress, such as cross dresser (CD), transvestite (TV), Drag Queens (normally gay and exaggerated) and female impersonators (actors who play women).

However, it is important to note that cross dressing is not identical or relevant to transgender, gender identity and willingness to become the opposite sex. The transvestites only want to dress like the other gender for some time. Statistics have revealed that about 3% to 5% of the populations are transvestites, while the majority of them are heterosexual. According to medical research, the underlying factors of becoming a transvestite are due to family background, the surrounding environment and social learning. Most of the cross-dressers face difficulties such as fears to be discovered by family, friends and partners.

However, this is because the society is generally against cross dressers and often described them as insane or having mental problems. For example, in Hong Kong, the society is unfriendly towards cross dressing and the general public does discriminate against the transvestites. Analysis The content of this video is analyzed in four aspects as follows:- Title Titled as “Hide and Seek”, the video portrays the fear of a male cross dresser to be discovered by his girlfriend. The authors would like “to show the cross dressers are hiding themselves away but at the same time seeking the identification. ”

From the video, the message that the cross dressers hope to hide their habit is clearly shown. When the Katherine returns home and opens the door, Joe is very frightened that his cross dressing behaviour is revealed by Katherine. However, the second statement “at the same time seeking the identification” cannot be directly or passively interpreted from the video, since Joe only exclaims his love towards Katherine when his cross dressing is about to reveal from the sub-title “There is another girl. But he still loves you. ” This statement does not prove that he is seeking for identification, approval or tolerance from Katherine.

There is also a lack of any scene to show that Joe, being a transvestite, is searching for identification and recognition from other people. Moreover, if the tile “Hide and Seek” was not stated and explained by the authors, the audience would not identify the specified meaning of the title. It otherwise gives the impression to audience that the title relates to the hide and seeks between Joe and Katherine when Joe is cross dressing and Katherine is returning home. Plot In the video, the first part shows the actions of a man, Joe and his girlfriend, Katherine at the same time.

Joe is dressing on as a woman in the washroom. First, he puts on make-up: Applying mascara and putting on red lip gross. Second, he wears on a shocking pink flower dress, black leggings and bra. Then he caresses his breast in front of the mirror. At the same time, Katherine is going back home, entering the entrance, getting into the lift and opening the doors with keys. When Joe realizes Katherine is coming back with the sounds of keys, he quickly washes his face to remove the make-up, takes off his bra and leggings, and finally uses a cotton pad with make-up remover to remove his eye shadow, eye line and mascara.

At the same instant, Katherine is searching for him. Then, Joe walks to Katherine. Katherine is suspicious that “Why there is smell of fragrance? ” and “Was there another girl? ” Joe’s eyes are enlarged to show his fear and speechlessness. “There is another girl. ” “But he still loves you. ” Here, it would like to bring out that Joe does not have any extramarital relations. The “another girl” means Joe himself. Even though he has the cross dressing behaviour, he still loves Katherine. Character There are two characters in this video: Joe and Katherine. First of all, Joe is a transvestite.

I think that his acting is realistic to justify the role of his character. He has acquired mastery of wearing on all the female attire and make-up. After dressing up as a female, his smile and stroke of hands on the breast in front of the mirror can effectively bring the message that he really feels satisfied with it and enjoys transvestism. Moreover, when Katherine is puzzled with the fragrance form Joe, the facial expressions from Joe is vivid to show his fear to reveal he is actually having transvestism at home. Regrettably, there is one shot which looks rather strange.

After wearing on the black stockings, he twists his legs and moves his toes. Though the authors describe that scene as “cross dresser looked at his leg” and they describe it as using the cross dresser’s point of view, and “it can make the audience understand the mindset of the cross dresser: happy and pleased with his feminine look”, that shot gives an impression to me that Joe was having leg fatigue at that moment so that he moves his legs and toes to relieve the pain. Also, the shot is not basically taken in the cross dresser’s point of view. It is a shot from vertical direction.

So, that show does not make me understand the mindset of Joe. To better improve the above scene, the video camera should be put at the angle from Joe’s eyes. And his facial expressions when he is happy and pleased with the feminine look should be filmed. Furthermore, the facial expression of Katherine is not quite realistic and cannot make the audience to understand what she feels. In the shot Katherine has got back home, she searches for Joe elsewhere. Finally when she finds out Joe, she should be feeling suspicious and puzzled why there is a scent of fragrance, according to the wordings “Why there is smell of fragrance?

” However, the facial expression of Katherine gives an impression to me that she is drowsy or just wakes up. Her countenance makes the audience confused about what is going on in the video. With the following wordings “Was there another girl? ” the audience can eventually get the message that Katherine is suspicious with Joe to have another partner. Props In the video clip, plenty of female props are employed to show the symbols of cross dressing. For example, mascara, red lip gross, face powder, cosmetic brushes, black stockings, bra are used. These are the representative symbols of a female. Generally male would not use these things.

And the myriads of cosmetic kits in the washroom are adequate to show that Joe wants to dress up to be an attractive and pretty woman. In fact, I feel that the props used in the video are strongly relevant to the theme. They are constructive to bring out the message that Joe is cross dressing and the elements of cross dressing are clearly identified. After watching this video, one can understand what transvestism is and how the transvestite dress in the opposite. In my opinion, to further elaborate the image of a transvestite, except the clothing and make-up, Joe can also wear wigs and high heels to make him more feminine.

Music Concerning the music part, there is merits and demerits in the video clip. To begin with, when Joe is putting on mascara and lip gross, the music is quite relaxing and cheerful. However, the music becomes wary and suspicious when he is putting on other cosmetics in the washroom. It is a bit inconsistent that the background music for similar instance of make up is so contrasting. In my opinion, the wary music should start when the camera shot moves to the lobby of the building, which implies that Katherine is coming back. In this way, it can let the audience knows that some dangerous instance is about to begin.

On the other hand, the speed of the music in the later part is effective to show that sequence of the video. The music becomes increasingly faster when the climax is reached. The speed is useful to show that Joe is so fear to be discovered by his partner of cross dressing because to many people, cross dressing is something abnormal and should be corrected. Interpretation According to the description from the authors, the aims of video are to let “people who are too busy and have no time to figure out what cross-dressing is could immediately understand the feeling of cross-dresser and understand they are not monster or insane.

Their acts are only pleasure-seeking. ” And they believe that the video is “the most effective way to bring a sense of reality to the readers: how the cross -dresser feel when he is cross-dressing; his deep fear of being discovered and the confrontation faced by the couple. ” I think that the video clip is effective to bring out the aforementioned aim of the presentation. In particular, the background music and the facial expression from Joe are realistic and let the audience understand the feelings of the cross dressers.

However, normal audience without knowledge to transvestism could not understand the nature of it and disregard the transvestites as insane, since there is only one statement “But he still loves you. ” to show that transvestites would not change their love towards lovers. Meanwhile, there lacks any information or implication to prove that the transvestites are indeed normal as ordinary people. So, this video is not useful to educate to eradicate biases towards the transvestites once communicated to the public.

It only broadens the knowledge of acts by cross dressers and their inner feelings to audience. In my view, the video should include information to educate the public to accept the transvestites and feel comfortable and easy to live with them. For instance, we can portray a scene that a cross dressers is having cross dressing and his wife lives with him happily and does not mind it. I think that there should be other scenes to portray the daily life of transvestites, and thus the audience can get an implication that the cross dressers are normal as well.

Transvestism is only their habit and it would not harm other parties. This is because I feel that the society is full of discrimination towards the transvestites. They are usually related to abnormal or insane behaviour, mental problems or crimes like rape, indecorum. There should be strong and forceful publications to assure the general public that the transvestites are not insane as they may prescribe. In a nutshell, the message from the video can be partially communicated, and it can only be communicated to audience who already has basic knowledge of transvestism.

Otherwise, the audience may still think the cross dressers are insane after getting known to their act. The choice of taking videos to show the implied message of the authors is quite suitable. The way and steps of cross dressing can be clearly identified and shown to audience. It makes the audience understand what the meaning of cross dressing is. Also, audience can understand the feelings of cross dresser after reading this video that they usually perform it secretly and do not want their family, partner and friends to know it.

With the help of the additional wordings, the audience can further consolidate the idea of this video. So I think that the aims of authors to use video: “A good video could be eye-catching and effectively delivered a thought-provoking idea in the readers’ mind. ” is justified. A man cross dressing to act as a female is quite an innovative idea and the wordings shown at the end of the video can help the audience to understand the transvestites still love their partners even though they have this habit.

Conclusion The video produced by Group 29 “Hide and Seek” can effectively communicate to the audience how the transvestites do in cross dressing and their fear to be revealed by partners. However, this video is not sufficient to educate the readers to accept transvestism such that transvestites are ordinary people like everyone. Reference Chow, L. S. Hide and Seek by Lai Shan Chow. Retrieved December 13th, 2008, from CITE Mahara: http://mahara-broadening. cite. hku. hk/view/view. php? id=76

Crossdressing and Tranvestism Essay

Crossdressing Essay

Crossdressing Essay.

Society plays a role in prescribe appropriate and inappropriate behavior. How a man and a woman are supposed to dress are unwritten codes of behavior that most people tend to follow. Cross-dressers represent a group that is defiant of established norms as they opt to dress in ways contrary to their gender assignment. Further controversy surrounds the issue of cross-dressing particularly because there is little consensus on its definition. There is also debate on the distinction, if any, that exists between transvestism and other similar behaviors performed by men.

There are similarities in some of the behaviors performed by these separate groups and there are also similarities. Research has yet to determine the causes of cross-dressing linking it to home, parental, behavioral and genetic factors, none of which has been established. Similarly the heterosexual non-cross-dressing male attitude, reflective of society’s overall attitude, towards cross-dressers is not positive. Introduction In societies throughout the world there are certain unwritten codes of behavior that individuals within the society adhere to and often unconsciously so.

Ingrained in these behaviors are certain unquestioned principles that just seem to make sense. One of the most potently engrained societal norms that pervades in almost all societies worldwide is the concept of dress and its intimate connection with sex, gender and sexual orientation. It is taken as a given in society that women, not men wear dresses. Dress comes to represent one’s sex which in turn connotes ones gender and that in turn denotes one’s sexual orientation.

This automatic connection that is made between sex and dress does not develop as a result of investigative scholarship but rather it is a socially constructed, unwritten principle. From within the wombs this societal principle is already being transferred to the child. In preparation for the arrival of the baby specified colors of clothing and other baby related paraphernalia are purchased that have a distinct orientation towards a particular sex. The ‘pink for girls and blue for boys’ phenomenon is familiar to most.

As the child is birthed this societal principle is emphasized in the choice and style of clothing – frilly dresses for girls, sober designs for boys. It is therefore no wonder that as a child develops he unconsciously associates styles and types of dress with particular genders, maintaining these beliefs into adulthood. Cross-dressing has arisen as a phenomenon that is causing some people to question these principles. However the dress equals sex principle is a socially constructed phenomenon and therefore says very little about an individual’s sexual orientation or gender association.

Cross-dressing as a phenomenon, though it goes against prescribed societal norms, is simply a person’s way of expressing individuality without all the schisms of gender and sexual orientation that are attached so intimately with what and how someone dresses. Definitions Providing a comprehensive definition of cross-dressers proves problematic given the varying views on exactly what characteristics are featured among cross-dressers and how far these characteristics differ from similar, often confused behaviors.

First some authors use the terms cross-dressing and transvestism interchangeably (See Docter & Prince, 1997; Bullough & Bullough, 1997), while others see the terms as encompassing distinctly different behaviors (See Blanchard, 2004; Arcelus & Bouman, 2000). Doctor and Fleming (2001) go far as to suggest that definitions of transvestism are oversimplified. Of course based on which perspective is taken different definitions will be given for cross-dressing and different ideas will be highlighted on how it is manifested.

The American Psychological Association (APA), in the fourth edition of their popular Manual of Mental Disorders, commonly referred to as the DSM-IV, use the term transvestic fetishism to connote a behavior present among heterosexual males that lasts for a minimum of six months, and which is associated with “sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving cross-dressing. ” Furthermore fantasies, urges and behaviors may be associated with dysphoria if the individual feels uncomfortable in his assigned gender role (pp.

530-531). This definition by the APA reveals a number of contentions. First of all, the DSM-IV is characterized as a source describing Mental Disorders therefore the fact that transvestite fetishism is listed in the manual suggests that it is a mental disorder. Despite the warning including in the manual that inclusion does not indicate that the condition qualifies as a mental disorder, disease or disability its presence in the Manual still represents some amount of discomfort for those who participate in cross-dressing.

That said there is still the impression being given that transvestitism and cross-dressing are illnesses and matters of personal choice. Similar to the position taken by the APA, Abdo, Hounie, Scanavino & Miguel (2001) function under the assumption of transvestite fetishism as a mental disorder in their examination of a research that attempted to determine if certain behavioral disorders, particularly obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) were determinants of an individual becoming a transvestite.

One of the premises under which the researchers operated was that OCD could be a symptom of cross-dressing or more aptly that they both shared a symbiotic relationship since sexual obsessions are an important element of OCD and given that transvestic behavior has compulsive qualities (p. 472). Barring this relationship the researchers alternatively postulate that OCD and transvestitism belong to the same spectrum of mental disorders. This research however had a few limitations the first of which is the sample size that was investigated.

Only two cases are examined and in both cases there was a large amount of time between the initial onset of either OCD or cross-dressing. Furthermore both conditions did not onset simultaneously or in the same order for both patients. This suggests that it is not definitive if one actually causes the other and therefore it is difficult to determine if both conditions are related. Furthermore an association between the two phenomena does not mean that both influence each other or that they belong to a similar category of disorders.

A further issue with the definition as rendered by the APA is that it clearly specifies that cross-dressing is exclusively a male, heterosexual phenomenon. Arcelus and Bouman (2000) also function on a similar premise describing a fetishistic transvestite as a man who chooses to dress in what society determines as female attire. However, while it is true that this behavior is mostly prevalent among heterosexual men, research has shown that other males participate in cross-dressing. In a survey of 372 male cross-dressers Bullough and Bullough (1997) noted that 67. 4% were heterosexual but a significant 10.

6% were bisexuals and a further 2. 4% were homosexuals. Still others said they had no particular orientation. In a similar study Langstrom and Zucker (2005) also noted that only 87% of cross-dressing male respondents are heterosexual with the others being homosexuals (13%) being otherwise. These data reveal that cross-dressing is not exclusive to heterosexuals but a significant number of homosexuals and bisexuals are also involved in this behavior. Furthermore among the respondents to the questionnaires geared at cross-dressers in the Bullough and Bullough study there was one female respondent and five in the Langstrom and Zucker study.

Given this reality Bullough and Bullough (1997) suggest that the definition, as rendered by the APA in the DSM-IV, should be adjusted and reconstructed since individuals of various sexual orientations participate in this activity. As pertains a distinction between cross-dressing and transvestism, the history of the development of definitions to explain the phenomenon of individuals adopting alternate gender behaviors reveals that the term transvestism was the originally designated term to encapsulate all such tendencies. The term is noted to have been coined in 1910 by a German physician named Magnus Hirschfeld.

In his research he noted a distinction between homosexual practices and other cross-gender behaviors that were not homosexually related. The term has two components – trans, which means across, and vestitus, which means clothed (as cited in Blanchard, p. 441). This signifies that a transvestite in its simplest definition is someone who dresses in apparel not destined for his or her gender. Arcelus & Bouman (2000) introduce the element of fetishism to transvestism when they define the wearing of female clothing to be due to a fetish obsession with the opposite sex.

They add that men obtain a certain amount of pleasure leading to sexual arousal as a result of this act. Cross-dressing is therefore viewed as a sexual act in such instances. A search of a website (<http://www. tri-ess. org/cd01. html>) designated to the interest of transvestites further points to the debate over definitions. There is a clear distinction made between all the various manifestations of cross-dressing. The site indicates that: “Drag queens are usually gay or bisexual males who don women’s clothes either to mock femininity and society’s stereotypes of gays, or to find sex partners. Female impersonators dress to entertain.

Transsexuals believe they are entrapped in the body of the opposite sex, and seek sexual reassignment surgery. ” Cross-dressing, in its simplest definition connotes the act of dressing in clothing socially assigned to the opposite gender. Ceglian and Lyons (2004) observe that this is the term that men who dress like women prefer to use in reference to their activities (Ceglian & Lyons, 2004, p. 539). Types of cross-dressing What is evident from these various standpoints is that the distinction is made between cross-dressing and transvestism in so far as the reasons for participating in these activities are concerned.

There is therefore the suggestion that cross-dressing in its pure sense is representative of men who wear female clothing without the corresponding sexual arousal and masturbating associated with transvestism. In this case it would be understandable why cross-dressing is not often referred to or equated with transvestism. Docter and Prince (1997) attempted to classify cross-dressing behaviors into two groups. The first demonstrate high levels of sexual arousal, are more heterosexually oriented and prefer to remain as a man.

In the second group cross-dressers are less easily aroused by simply dressing in female apparel and have the tendency to seek out relationships with males as well as have propensity towards gender reassignment. These two groups he further identifies as periodic and marginal cross-dressers respectively (Docter & Prince, 1997, 590-591). Bullough and Bullough (1997) offers a useful distinction when they identify homosexuals who wear feminine clothing for seduction as drag queens while cross-dressers are heterosexuals who do so because of the joy of dressing like women (Bullough & Bullough, 1997, p.

3). Cross-dressing therefore, according to Blanchard (2005) is the most obvious external manifestation of other psychological, internalized issues (p. 441). What this debate also highlights is the presence of similar behavior characteristics between heterosexual men who engage in cross-dressing and those men who are involved in other homosexual behaviors. Doctor and Fleming (2001) conducted a research among a sample of 455 transvestites and compared them to 61 male-to-female transsexuals.

The authors observe that even though transvestites and transsexuals have very contrary lifestyles, there are certain similarities in their motives and tendencies. Data reveal a small number of transsexuals who are aroused by expressions of femininity and equally some transvestites feel a sexual preference towards a male partner (6%). Additionally individuals in both groups (30%) indicate that they participate in masturbation. For transvestites (69%) had a preference for a female partner and a similarly large percentage of transsexuals (47%) also said the same.

Prevalence and Cause Arcelus and Bouman (2000) believe that cross-dressing is not as rare as some may believe. It is, however, not known how prevalent cross-dressing is since there are not adequate procedures available to assess the phenomenon and, moreover, many individuals cross-dress in secret. In one research Langstrom and Zucker (2005) report that 2450 individuals were surveyed in Sweden to determine the prevalence of the behavior. Data reveal that 2. 8% of the 1279 male respondents report having been sexually aroused from participating in cross-dressing behavior.

This percentage might seem insignificant but it says a lot about the practice of cross-dressing. Given than the majority of individuals cross-dress in secret and are unwilling to discuss it openly a 2. 8% representing the proportion that are willing to speak about it is a considerable amount. Studies so far have failed to predict a cause or causes of cross-dressing tendencies. Some researchers suggest that cross-dressing activity could be associated with genetics. In a case study of a thirteen year old boy diagnosed as having gender identity disorder, it was discovered that two of his maternal uncles were secret cross-dressers.

The researchers therefore questioned if the occurrence of the gender identity disorder could have arisen as a result of abnormal genes related to gender identity and transvestitism being passed on through the maternal lineage (Arcelus & Bouman, 2000). However, even if this is a possibility there is no current scientific research that has examined potential genetic correlates with cross-dressing behavior. It must also be noted that the study focused on a single individual and thus any associations found is descriptive and not prescriptive.

Some research has established certain characteristics in the development of cross-dressing behavior, the most furtive of which is that cross-dressing tendencies usually develop prior to puberty, gradually intensifying throughout adolescence (Langstrom & Zucker, 2005, p. 88; Abdo et al, 2001). Arcelus and Bouman (2000), while supporting the veracity of this claim, argue that childhood involvement in cross-dressing does not predict or predispose individuals to participate in the behavior when they get older (p. 410).

Admittedly many of the individuals who cross-dress report having done so during their childhood. However research has failed to establish that there is a direct link between the childhood and the adult phenomenon. Arcelus and Bouman (2000) suggest alternative perspectives of the development of cross-dressing. They propose that cross-dressing is a learned behavior. Alternative they posit that a close mother-son relationship along with the absence of a father could make certain individuals more prone to be involved in cross-dressing.

This position is in congruence with psychological theories which intimate that gender identity and other related disorders or behaviors often develop in circumstances where a male child is very close to his mother and where the father is either absent or distant from the home. In their study of transsexuals and transvestites Langstrom and Zucker (2005) note several variables that seem to be significantly correlated with cross-dressing. Of the nine variables discovered separation from parents during childhood was noted to be one of the most significant correlates (p.

92). However, because significant research has not been conducted to specifically explore this relationship the data is, at best, simply informative and begs for future research in the area. One area that requires serious consideration is the attitude of persons towards transvestites and this refers particularly to the way men view cross-dressers. Moulton & Adams-Price (1997) note that the social roles that have been traditionally assigned to men are factors which constrain the way view each other and themselves (p. 442).

Comparing the attitudes of homosexual and heterosexual men towards transvestites it was revealed that homosexuals have a more positive and tolerant attitude. Conclusion Evidently cross-dressing is an increasingly popular phenomenon and, though its prevalence is still focused on heterosexual males, males of other sexual orientation as well as women are participating in cross-dressing behaviors. The debate over the exact definition of cross-dressing and how it differs from other sexually deviant behavior is reflective of the different perspectives on what exactly constitutes cross-dressing.

What is clear is that there are distinct similarities between cross-dressing individuals and males who carry out related behaviors such as transsexuals. The attitude of society towards individuals who do not measure up to pre-established societal norms and standards, does not seem to be changing in the short run. Nevertheless what is clear is that cross-dressing is a matter of individual choice whether or not society is accepts or tolerates it. References Abdo, C. H. , Hounie, A, Scanavino, M de T, Miguel E. C. (2001). OCD and transvestism: Is there a relationship? Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 103, 471–473.

American Psychiatric Association (1994). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed. , APA, Washington, DC, pp. 530-531. Arcelus, J. & Bouman, W. P. (2000). Gender identity disorder in a child with a family history of cross-dressing. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 15(4), 407-411. Blanchard, R. (2005, Aug). Early History of the Concept of Autogynephilia. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 34(4), 439-446. Bullough, B. & Bullough, V. (1997, Feb). Are transvestites necessarily heterosexual? Archives of Sexual Behavior, 26(1), 1-12. Ceglian, C. M. & Lyons, N. N. (2004, Apr). Gender type and comfort with cross-dressers.

Sex Roles, 50(7/8), 539-546. Docter, R. F. & Fleming, J. S. (2001, Jun). Measures of transgender behavior. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 30(3), 255-271. Docter, R. F. & Prince, V. (1997, Dec). Transvestism: A survey of 1032 cross-dressers. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 26(6), 589-605. Langstrom, N. & Zucker, K. J. (2005). Transvestic fetishism in the general population: Prevalence and correlates. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 31, 87-95. Moulton, J. L. III and Adams-Price, C. E. (1997, Sept). Homosexuality, heterosexuality, and cross-dressing: Perceptions of gender discordant behavior. Sex Roles, 37(5/6), 441-450.

Introduction

In societies throughout the world there are certain unwritten codes of behavior that individuals within the society adhere to and often unconsciously so. Ingrained in these behaviors are certain unquestioned principles that just seem to make sense. One of the most potently engrained societal norms that pervades in almost all societies worldwide is the concept of dress and its intimate connection with sex, gender and sexual orientation. It is taken as a given in society that women, not men wear dresses. Dress comes to represent one’s sex which in turn connotes ones gender and that in turn denotes one’s sexual orientation.

This automatic connection that is made between sex and dress does not develop as a result of investigative scholarship but rather it is a socially constructed, unwritten principle. From within the wombs this societal principle is already being transferred to the child. In preparation for the arrival of the baby specified colors of clothing and other baby related paraphernalia are purchased that have a distinct orientation towards a particular sex. The ‘pink for girls and blue for boys’ phenomenon is familiar to most. As the child is birthed this societal principle is emphasized in the choice and style of clothing – frilly dresses for girls, sober designs for boys. It is therefore no wonder that as a child develops he unconsciously associates styles and types of dress with particular genders, maintaining these beliefs into adulthood. Cross-dressing has arisen as a phenomenon that is causing some people to question these principles.

However the dress equals sex principle is a socially constructed phenomenon and therefore says very little about an individual’s sexual orientation or gender association. Cross-dressing as a phenomenon, though it goes against prescribed societal norms, is simply a person’s way of expressing individuality without all the schisms of gender and sexual orientation that are attached so intimately with what and how someone dresses.

Definitions

Providing a comprehensive definition of cross-dressers proves problematic given the varying views on exactly what characteristics are featured among cross-dressers and how far these characteristics differ from similar, often confused behaviors. First some authors use the terms cross-dressing and transvestism interchangeably (See Docter & Prince, 1997; Bullough & Bullough, 1997), while others see the terms as encompassing distinctly different behaviors (See Blanchard, 2004; Arcelus & Bouman, 2000). Doctor and Fleming (2001) go far as to suggest that definitions of transvestism are oversimplified. Of course based on which perspective is taken different definitions will be given for cross-dressing and different ideas will be highlighted on how it is manifested.

The American Psychological Association (APA), in the fourth edition of their popular Manual of Mental Disorders, commonly referred to as the DSM-IV, use the term transvestic fetishism to connote a behavior present among heterosexual males that lasts for a minimum of six months, and which is associated with “sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving cross-dressing.” Furthermore fantasies, urges and behaviors may be associated with dysphoria if the individual feels uncomfortable in his assigned gender role (pp. 530-531).

This definition by the APA reveals a number of contentions. First of all, the DSM-IV is characterized as a source describing Mental Disorders therefore the fact that transvestite fetishism is listed in the manual suggests that it is a mental disorder. Despite the warning including in the manual that inclusion does not indicate that the condition qualifies as a mental disorder, disease or disability its presence in the Manual still represents some amount of discomfort for those who participate in cross-dressing. That said there is still the impression being given that transvestitism and cross-dressing are illnesses and matters of personal choice.

Similar to the position taken by the APA, Abdo, Hounie, Scanavino & Miguel (2001) function under the assumption of transvestite fetishism as a mental disorder in their examination of a research that attempted to determine if certain behavioral disorders, particularly obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) were determinants of an individual becoming a transvestite. One of the premises under which the researchers operated was that OCD could be a symptom of cross-dressing or more aptly that they both shared a symbiotic relationship since sexual obsessions are an important element of OCD and given that transvestic behavior has compulsive qualities (p. 472). Barring this relationship the researchers alternatively postulate that OCD and transvestitism belong to the same spectrum of mental disorders.

This research however had a few limitations the first of which is the sample size that was investigated. Only two cases are examined and in both cases there was a large amount of time between the initial onset of either OCD or cross-dressing. Furthermore both conditions did not onset simultaneously or in the same order for both patients. This suggests that it is not definitive if one actually causes the other and therefore it is difficult to determine if both conditions are related. Furthermore an association between the two phenomena does not mean that both influence each other or that they belong to a similar category of disorders.

A further issue with the definition as rendered by the APA is that it clearly specifies that cross-dressing is exclusively a male, heterosexual phenomenon. Arcelus and Bouman (2000) also function on a similar premise describing a fetishistic transvestite as a man who chooses to dress in what society determines as female attire. However, while it is true that this behavior is mostly prevalent among heterosexual men, research has shown that other males participate in cross-dressing.

In a survey of 372 male cross-dressers Bullough and Bullough (1997) noted that 67.4% were heterosexual but a significant 10.6% were bisexuals and a further 2.4% were homosexuals. Still others said they had no particular orientation. In a similar study Langström and Zucker (2005) also noted that only 87% of cross-dressing male respondents are heterosexual with the others being homosexuals (13%) being otherwise. These data reveal that cross-dressing is not exclusive to heterosexuals but a significant number of homosexuals and bisexuals are also involved in this behavior.

Furthermore among the respondents to the questionnaires geared at cross-dressers in the Bullough and Bullough study there was one female respondent and five in the Langström and Zucker study. Given this reality Bullough and Bullough (1997) suggest that the definition, as rendered by the APA in the DSM-IV, should be adjusted and reconstructed since individuals of various sexual orientations participate in this activity.

As pertains a distinction between cross-dressing and transvestism, the history of the development of definitions to explain the phenomenon of individuals adopting alternate gender behaviors reveals that the term transvestism was the originally designated term to encapsulate all such tendencies. The term is noted to have been coined in 1910 by a German physician named Magnus Hirschfeld. In his research he noted a distinction between homosexual practices and other cross-gender behaviors that were not homosexually related. The term has two components – trans, which means across, and vestitus, which means clothed (as cited in Blanchard, p. 441). This signifies that a transvestite in its simplest definition is someone who dresses in apparel not destined for his or her gender.

Arcelus & Bouman (2000) introduce the element of fetishism to transvestism when they define the wearing of female clothing to be due to a fetish obsession with the opposite sex. They add that men obtain a certain amount of pleasure leading to sexual arousal as a result of this act. Cross-dressing is therefore viewed as a sexual act in such instances.

A search of a website (<http://www.tri-ess.org/cd01.html>) designated to the interest of transvestites further points to the debate over definitions. There is a clear distinction made between all the various manifestations of cross-dressing. The site indicates that:

 “Drag queens are usually gay or bisexual males who don women’s clothes either to mock femininity and society’s stereotypes of gays, or to find sex partners.  Female impersonators dress to entertain.  Transsexuals believe they are entrapped in the body of the opposite sex, and seek sexual reassignment surgery.”

Cross-dressing, in its simplest definition connotes the act of dressing in clothing socially assigned to the opposite gender. Ceglian and Lyons (2004) observe that this is the term that men who dress like women prefer to use in reference to their activities (Ceglian & Lyons, 2004, p. 539).

Types of cross-dressing

What is evident from these various standpoints is that the distinction is made between cross-dressing and transvestism in so far as the reasons for participating in these activities are concerned. There is therefore the suggestion that cross-dressing in its pure sense is representative of men who wear female clothing without the corresponding sexual arousal and masturbating associated with transvestism. In this case it would be understandable why cross-dressing is not often referred to or equated with transvestism.

Docter and Prince (1997) attempted to classify cross-dressing behaviors into two groups. The first demonstrate high levels of sexual arousal, are more heterosexually oriented and prefer to remain as a man. In the second group cross-dressers are less easily aroused by simply dressing in female apparel and have the tendency to seek out relationships with males as well as have propensity towards gender reassignment. These two groups he further identifies as periodic and marginal cross-dressers respectively (Docter & Prince, 1997, 590-591).

Bullough and Bullough (1997) offers a useful distinction when they identify homosexuals who wear feminine clothing for seduction as drag queens while cross-dressers are heterosexuals who do so because of the joy of dressing like women (Bullough & Bullough, 1997, p. 3). Cross-dressing therefore, according to Blanchard (2005) is the most obvious external manifestation of other psychological, internalized issues (p. 441).

What this debate also highlights is the presence of similar behavior characteristics between heterosexual men who engage in cross-dressing and those men who are involved in other homosexual behaviors. Doctor and Fleming (2001) conducted a research among a sample of 455 transvestites and compared them to 61 male-to-female transsexuals. The authors observe that even though transvestites and transsexuals have very contrary lifestyles, there are certain similarities in their motives and tendencies. Data reveal a small number of transsexuals who are aroused by expressions of femininity and equally some transvestites feel a sexual preference towards a male partner (6%). Additionally individuals in both groups (30%) indicate that they participate in masturbation. For transvestites (69%) had a preference for a female partner and a similarly large percentage of transsexuals (47%) also said the same.

Prevalence and Cause

Arcelus and Bouman (2000) believe that cross-dressing is not as rare as some may believe. It is, however, not known how prevalent cross-dressing is since there are not adequate procedures available to assess the phenomenon and, moreover, many individuals cross-dress in secret. In one research Langström and Zucker (2005) report that 2450 individuals were surveyed in Sweden to determine the prevalence of the behavior. Data reveal that 2.8% of the 1279 male respondents report having been sexually aroused from participating in cross-dressing behavior. This percentage might seem insignificant but it says a lot about the practice of cross-dressing. Given than the majority of individuals cross-dress in secret and are unwilling to discuss it openly a 2.8% representing the proportion that are willing to speak about it is a considerable amount.

Studies so far have failed to predict a cause or causes of cross-dressing tendencies. Some researchers suggest that cross-dressing activity could be associated with genetics. In a case study of a thirteen year old boy diagnosed as having gender identity disorder, it was discovered that two of his maternal uncles were secret cross-dressers. The researchers therefore questioned if the occurrence of the gender identity disorder could have arisen as a result of abnormal genes related to gender identity and transvestitism being passed on through the maternal lineage (Arcelus & Bouman, 2000). However, even if this is a possibility there is no current scientific research that has examined potential genetic correlates with cross-dressing behavior. It must also be noted that the study focused on a single individual and thus any associations found is descriptive and not prescriptive.

Some research has established certain characteristics in the development of cross-dressing behavior, the most furtive of which is that cross-dressing tendencies usually develop prior to puberty, gradually intensifying throughout adolescence (Langström & Zucker, 2005, p. 88; Abdo et al, 2001). Arcelus and Bouman (2000), while supporting the veracity of this claim, argue that childhood involvement in cross-dressing does not predict or predispose individuals to participate in the behavior when they get older (p. 410). Admittedly many of the individuals who cross-dress report having done so during their childhood. However research has failed to establish that there is a direct link between the childhood and the adult phenomenon.

Arcelus and Bouman (2000) suggest alternative perspectives of the development of cross-dressing. They propose that cross-dressing is a learned behavior. Alternative they posit that a close mother-son relationship along with the absence of a father could make certain individuals more prone to be involved in cross-dressing. This position is in congruence with psychological theories which intimate that gender identity and other related disorders or behaviors often develop in circumstances where a male child is very close to his mother and where the father is either absent or distant from the home.

In their study of transsexuals and transvestites Langström and Zucker (2005) note several variables that seem to be significantly correlated with cross-dressing. Of the nine variables discovered separation from parents during childhood was noted to be one of the most significant correlates (p. 92). However, because significant research has not been conducted to specifically explore this relationship the data is, at best, simply informative and begs for future research in the area.

One area that requires serious consideration is the attitude of persons towards transvestites and this refers particularly to the way men view cross-dressers. Moulton & Adams-Price (1997) note that the social roles that have been traditionally assigned to men are factors which constrain the way view each other and themselves (p. 442). Comparing the attitudes of homosexual and heterosexual men towards transvestites it was revealed that homosexuals have a more positive and tolerant attitude.

Conclusion

Evidently cross-dressing is an increasingly popular phenomenon and, though its prevalence is still focused on heterosexual males, males of other sexual orientation as well as women are participating in cross-dressing behaviors. The debate over the exact definition of cross-dressing and how it differs from other sexually deviant behavior is reflective of the different perspectives on what exactly constitutes cross-dressing. What is clear is that there are distinct similarities between cross-dressing individuals and males who carry out related behaviors such as transsexuals. The attitude of society towards individuals who do not measure up to pre-established societal norms and standards, does not seem to be changing in the short run. Nevertheless what is clear is that cross-dressing is a matter of individual choice whether or not society is accepts or tolerates it.

References

Abdo, C. H., Hounie, A, Scanavino, M de T, Miguel E. C. (2001). OCD and transvestism: Is there a relationship? Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 103, 471–473.

American Psychiatric Association (1994). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed., APA, Washington, DC, pp. 530-531.

Arcelus, J. & Bouman, W. P. (2000). Gender identity disorder in a child with a family history of cross-dressing. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 15(4),  407-411.

Blanchard, R. (2005, Aug). Early History of the Concept of Autogynephilia. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 34(4), 439-446.

Bullough, B. & Bullough, V. (1997, Feb). Are transvestites necessarily heterosexual? Archives of Sexual Behavior, 26(1), 1-12.

Ceglian, C. M. & Lyons, N. N. (2004, Apr). Gender type and comfort with cross-dressers. Sex Roles, 50(7/8), 539-546.

Docter, R. F. & Fleming, J. S. (2001, Jun). Measures of transgender behavior. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 30(3), 255-271.

 Docter, R. F. & Prince, V. (1997, Dec). Transvestism: A survey of 1032 cross-dressers. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 26(6), 589-605.

Langström, N. & Zucker, K. J. (2005). Transvestic fetishism in the general population: Prevalence and correlates. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 31, 87-95.

Moulton, J. L. III and Adams-Price, C. E.  (1997, Sept). Homosexuality, heterosexuality, and cross-dressing: Perceptions of gender discordant behavior. Sex Roles, 37(5/6), 441-450.

Crossdressing Essay