This week’s article is about cross-dressing. This is a topic that society doesn’t tend to discuss about very often. This article is a response to a request from one of my readers. And since the aim of this website is education and discovery, why not discover cross-dressing and what it is.
So, what is cross-dressing exactly? Does it mean a person is trans* if they cross-dress? Does it change your sexual orientation? Is it a fetish? Is it a disorder? So many questions!
If you haven’t read my articles about sexual orientation and gender identity, I suggest you do so before reading this article. The articles will allow you to get a better understanding of these terms before learning about cross-dressing.
Cross-dressing is the act of wearing items of clothing that are not associated with the person’s gender. There is a history of cross-dressing; it was used as a disguise, for self-expression, comfort, etc. Back in the day, women authors would dress up as men so they could get their book published. Some women used to dress up as men just so that they could get an education. Cross-dressing exists in Greek, Norse and Hindu mythology. It is found in lots of literature and art. Ways that people choose to express gender may change over time, so some may notice that what they find in cross-dressing now may not apply to them in x months or years.
Playing devil’s advocate here… I want you to think about something for a second. Society made the rules and created norms for each gender, what a “woman” is supposed to wear, what a “man” is suppose to wear. Yes, now fashion says it is sexy and in style for woman to wear an oversized jacket and heels or “boyfriend jeans”. But if a “man” decides to wear something feminine then it’s “not okay” or he is trans* and so on.
Cross-dressers may experience social backlash as they are resisting social norms and expectations.
Cross-dressing is more common in men than in woman. It is not a synonym of transgender. Most cross-dressers are heterosexual and no, cross-dressing does not change your sexual orientation. A person who cross-dresses can 100% identify with the sex and gender they are from birth but they have a want to dress-up with the opposite sex’s clothes because they like how it feels, how the fabric feels, how they look, etc. Cross-dressing often begins in childhood or adolescence.
There are many different kinds of cross-dressing and different reasons why someone wants to cross-dress. Some cross-dress full time, some occasionally and some only cross-dress in private.
Cross-dressing itself is NOT a disorder. To be diagnosed with transvestic disorder, according to the DSM-5, a person must experience persistent and intense sexual arousal from fantasising about, or acting on, urges to wear one or more pieces of clothing normally worn by the opposite gender. The fantasies and behaviours must have been present for at least 6 months and cause severe distress to the individual or dysfunction in social, professional or other significant areas of day-to-day life. The feelings of distress over cross-dressing that characterise transvestic disorder are separate and distinct from gender dysphoria.
Since cross-dressing itself is not a disorder it does not generally require treatment. Cross-dressers may be brought to therapy by a third party (parent, partner, etc.). Some individuals who cross-dress seek therapy for themselves because of other issues that may come to the surface such as substance abuse, depression and distress. It is the distress and urges that impair day-to-day life that can be an issue for the individual not the act of cross-dressing.
I hope this article has helped you to better understand cross-dressing.
If you have any questions or would like to book a counselling session please contact me.
Be kind to one another.
Julia, Sexologist Blog
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