A cross-dresser (sometimes called a transvestite) is any person who wears the clothing of the opposite gender, for any reason. Specific groups within the group of cross-dressers are (among others) drag queens, drag kings, transvestic fetishists. Cross-dressing is one type of transgender behaviour.

While some cross-dressers may have no desire or intention of adopting other behaviors or practices common to the gender indicated by their choice of clothes, many cross-dressers endeavor to project a complete illusion of belonging to the opposite sex, down to mannerisms, speech patterns, and emulation of sexual characteristics - this is known as passing.

Others use a more "mixed" approach, as for instance a man who may wear both a dress and a beard - this is sometimes known as genderfuck.

Table of contents
1 Analyses of the behavior
2 Main types of cross-dressing
3 Other cross-dressing
4 Fiction

Analyses of the behavior

Sexual preferences among cross-dressers vary as much as they do in the general population, though, contrary to popular belief, most male-bodied cross-dressers are heterosexual. It is known that some lesbian women do cross-dress to some extent, but this is not always the case.

The actual determination of cross-dressing is somewhat socially constructed. For example, pants used to be a generally male item of clothing, but has been adopted for wear by women -- this is generally not regarded as cross-dressing, and some women wear some male items of clothing (such as a shirt or a jacket) for fashion, without fear of stigma from others. However the converse for men is generally not true. For example, in Western societies, a man who wears a typically female item of clothing such as a skirt will not be able to do so for the sake of fashion as a woman may.

Some students of differentiated reception of cross dressers have suggested as a reason for this aforementioned behavior, is that for a woman to take on a male role in a patriarchal society thus may raise her social status, whereas for a man to take on a female role in that same society is to lower his social status. Thus the woman may be unsympathetically viewed as some kind of social climber, but the man will most likely be unsympathetically viewed as a self-confessed failure in the male quest for dominance, culled by himself from the breeding stock, etc. However this is only one view, and relies on the view that a woman adopting male characteristics in society will be "rewarded" for doing so, which she may not be.

Classic psychoanalytic views of crossdressing emphasized the role of taboo in the behavior. Only items that were proscribed to a gender would be appropriated, and therefore it is not the general association of an item with one sex or the other, but the prohibitions against the item that give satisfaction to those with a fetish (as opposed to political or sexually expressive) attachment to cross-dressing. As articles become acceptable for occasional wear (a man's necktie on a woman, for example, which passed from taboo to fashion in the 1970's), they cease to be sought by crossdressers.

Main types of cross-dressing

Other cross-dressing

Some people use the term cross-dresser to refer exclusively to people who wear clothes of the opposite gender who are not transvestic fetishists or doing drag.

Male goths may wear visible make-up, long hair and lace blouses, and even dresses. Within the goth subculture this is not viewed as cross-dressing.

Some sketch shows, such as League of Gentlemen and Kids in the Hall routinely feature cross-dressing for comic effect.

Some stories have an element of forced feminisation in them, were a man is forced to wear female clothing, or pretend to be a female, often as part of some humiliation.

Female masking is a special form of crossdressing where female clothing and behaviour are combined with female head/face masks, typically made from Latex.


Historically, and still in some parts of the world or in specific situations, cross-dressing occurs for reasons not (or not necessarily) related to the ones mentioned above: