Cross-dressing is the wearing of clothing and other accoutrement commonly associated with a gender
Gender role
Gender roles refer to the set of social and behavioral norms that are considered to be socially appropriate for individuals of a specific sex in the context of a specific culture, which differ widely between cultures and over time...

 within a particular society
A society, or a human society, is a group of people related to each other through persistent relations, or a large social grouping sharing the same geographical or virtual territory, subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations...

 that is seen as different than the one usually presented by the dresser. Cross-dressing has been used for disguise
A disguise can be anything which conceals or changes a person's physical appearance, including a wig, glasses, makeup, costume or other ways. Camouflage is one type of disguise for people, animals and objects...

, performance art
Performance art
In art, performance art is a performance presented to an audience, traditionally interdisciplinary. Performance may be either scripted or unscripted, random or carefully orchestrated; spontaneous or otherwise carefully planned with or without audience participation. The performance can be live or...

 and as a literary trope in modern times and throughout history.

Nearly every human society throughout history has made distinctions between male and female gender by the style, color, or type of clothing they are expected to wear, and likewise most societies have had a set of norms, views, guidelines, or even laws
Social aspects of clothing
Dress codes are written and, more often, unwritten rules with regards to clothing. Clothing like other aspects of human physical appearance has a social significance, with different rules and expectations being valid depending on circumstance and occasion...

 defining what type of clothing is appropriate for each gender. Cross-dressing runs significantly counter to those norms and, therefore, can be seen as a type of transgender
Transgender is a general term applied to a variety of individuals, behaviors, and groups involving tendencies to vary from culturally conventional gender roles....

Behavior or behaviour refers to the actions and mannerisms made by organisms, systems, or artificial entities in conjunction with its environment, which includes the other systems or organisms around as well as the physical environment...

. It does not, however, necessarily indicate transgender identity
Gender identity
A gender identity is the way in which an individual self-identifies with a gender category, for example, as being either a man or a woman, or in some cases being neither, which can be distinct from biological sex. Basic gender identity is usually formed by age three and is extremely difficult to...

; a person who cross-dresses does not always identify as being of a gender other than their assigned gender.

The term cross-dressing denotes an action or a behavior without attributing or proposing causes for that behavior. Some people automatically connect cross-dressing behavior to transgender identity or sexual
Human sexuality
Human sexuality is the awareness of gender differences, and the capacity to have erotic experiences and responses. Human sexuality can also be described as the way someone is sexually attracted to another person whether it is to opposite sexes , to the same sex , to either sexes , or not being...

, fetishist
Sexual fetishism
Sexual fetishism, or erotic fetishism, is the sexual arousal a person receives from a physical object, or from a specific situation. The object or situation of interest is called the fetish, the person a fetishist who has a fetish for that object/situation. Sexual fetishism may be regarded, e.g...

, and homosexual
Homosexuality is romantic or sexual attraction or behavior between members of the same sex or gender. As a sexual orientation, homosexuality refers to "an enduring pattern of or disposition to experience sexual, affectional, or romantic attractions" primarily or exclusively to people of the same...

 behavior, but the term cross-dressing itself does not imply any motives.

History of crossdressing

Crossdressing has existed throughout much of recorded history. There are many examples in Greek
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

, Norse
Norse mythology
Norse mythology, a subset of Germanic mythology, is the overall term for the myths, legends and beliefs about supernatural beings of Norse pagans. It flourished prior to the Christianization of Scandinavia, during the Early Middle Ages, and passed into Nordic folklore, with some aspects surviving...

, and Hindu
Hindu mythology
Hindu religious literature is the large body of traditional narratives related to Hinduism, notably as contained in Sanskrit literature, such as the Sanskrit epics and the Puranas. As such, it is a subset of Nepali and Indian culture...

 mythology. A reasonable number of historical figures are known to have crossdressed to varying degrees and for a variety of reasons. There is a rich history of crossdressing found in folklore, literature, theater, and music.

Varieties of cross-dressing

There are many different kinds of cross-dressing and many different reasons why an individual might engage in cross-dressing behaviour. Some people cross-dress as a matter of comfort or style. They may prefer clothing associated with the opposite sex. In this case, a person's cross-dressing may or may not be apparent to other people. Some people cross-dress to shock others or challenge social norms
Norm (sociology)
Social norms are the accepted behaviors within a society or group. This sociological and social psychological term has been defined as "the rules that a group uses for appropriate and inappropriate values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. These rules may be explicit or implicit...


Both men and women may cross-dress to disguise their physical sex. Historically, some women have cross-dressed to take up male-dominated or male-exclusive professions, such as military service. Conversely, some men have cross-dressed to escape from mandatory military service or as a disguise to assist in political or social protest, as men did in the Rebecca Riots
Rebecca Riots
The Rebecca Riots took place between 1839 and 1843 in South and Mid Wales. They were a series of protests undertaken by local farmers and agricultural workers in response to perceived unfair taxation. The rioters, often men dressed as women, took their actions against toll-gates, as they were...


Single-sex theatrical troupes often have some performers cross-dress to play roles written for members of the opposite sex. Cross-dressing, particularly the depiction of males wearing dress
A dress is a garment consisting of a skirt with an attached bodice or with a matching bodice giving the effect of a one-piece garment.Dress may also refer to:*Clothing in general*Costume, fancy dress...

es, is often used for comic effect onstage and onscreen.

Drag (clothing)
Drag is used for any clothing carrying symbolic significance but usually referring to the clothing associated with one gender role when worn by a person of another gender. The origin of the term "drag" is unknown, but it may have originated in Polari, a gay street argot in England in the early...

 is a special form of performance art based on cross-dressing. A drag queen
Drag queen
A drag queen is a man who dresses, and usually acts, like a caricature woman often for the purpose of entertaining. There are many kinds of drag artists and they vary greatly, from professionals who have starred in films to people who just try it once. Drag queens also vary by class and culture and...

 is usually a male-bodied person who performs as an exaggeratedly feminine character, in heightened costuming sometimes consisting of a showy dress, high-heeled shoes, obvious makeup, and wig. A drag queen may imitate famous female film or pop-music stars. A faux queen is a female-bodied person employing the same techniques.

A drag king
Drag king
Drag kings are mostly female performance artists who dress in masculine drag and personify male gender stereotypes as part of their performance. A typical drag king routine may incorporate dancing and singing, live as in the Momma's Boyz of San Francisco's performances or lip-synching...

 is a counterpart of the drag queen but usually for much different audiences. A female-bodied person who adopt a masculine persona in performance or imitates a male film or pop-music star. Some female-bodied people undergoing gender reassignment therapy also self-identify as drag kings although this use of "drag king" would generally be considered inaccurate.

Transgender people who are undergoing or have undergone gender reassignment therapy are usually not regarded as cross-dressing. Namely, a transsexual who has completed gender reassignment surgery is certainly not considered cross-dressing, unless they were to wear clothes of the gender opposite of what they have transitioned to. Pre-operative transsexuals may be considered similarly.

A transvestic fetishist
Transvestic fetishism
Transvestic fetishism is having a sexual or erotic interest in cross-dressing. It differs from cross-dressing for entertainment or other purposes that do not involve sexual arousal and is categorized as a paraphilia in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association...

 is a person (typically a heterosexual male) who cross-dresses as part of a sexual fetish.

The term underdressing is used by male cross-dressers to describe wearing female undergarments under their male clothes. The famous low-budget filmmaker Edward D. Wood, Jr. said he often wore women's underwear under his military uniform during World War II.

Some people who cross-dress may endeavor to project a complete impression of belonging to another gender, down to mannerisms, speech patterns, and emulation of sexual characteristics
Sex-determination system
A sex-determination system is a biological system that determines the development of sexual characteristics in an organism. Most sexual organisms have two sexes. In many cases, sex determination is genetic: males and females have different alleles or even different genes that specify their sexual...

. This is referred to as passing
Passing (gender)
Passing refers to a person's ability to be regarded as a member of the sex or gender with which they physically present. Typically, passing involves a mixture of physical gender cues as well as certain behavioral attributes that tend to be culturally associated with a particular gender...

 or "trying to pass" depending how successful the person is. An observer who sees through the cross-dresser's attempt to pass is said to have read or clocked them. There are videos, books, and magazines on how a man may look more like a woman.

Sometimes either person of a heterosexual couple will wear it to arouse the other. For example, the male would wear skirts or lingerie and/or the female will wear boxers or other male clothing. (See also forced feminization)

Others may choose to take a mixed approach, adopting some feminine traits and some masculine traits in their appearance. For instance, a man might wear both a dress
A dress is a garment consisting of a skirt with an attached bodice or with a matching bodice giving the effect of a one-piece garment.Dress may also refer to:*Clothing in general*Costume, fancy dress...

 and a beard
A beard is the collection of hair that grows on the chin, cheeks and neck of human beings. Usually, only pubescent or adult males are able to grow beards. However, women with hirsutism may develop a beard...

. This is sometimes known as genderfuck
Genderfuck refers to the conscious effort to mock or "fuck with" traditional notions of gender identity, gender roles, and gender presentation. It falls under the umbrella of the transgender spectrum.-Genderfucking:...


Utilitarian purposes also bring about forms of crossdressing, such as support hose for men with bad circulation in their legs, or the wearing of bras for men with gynecomastia
Gynecomastia or Gynaecomastia, , is the abnormal development of large mammary glands in males resulting in breast enlargement. The term comes from the Greek γυνή gyné meaning "woman" and μαστός mastós meaning "breast"...

 (male breasts).


The actual determination of cross-dressing is largely socially constructed. For example, in Western society, trousers have been adopted for wear by women, and is not regarded as cross-dressing. In cultures where men have traditionally worn skirt-like garments such as the kilt
The kilt is a knee-length garment with pleats at the rear, originating in the traditional dress of men and boys in the Scottish Highlands of the 16th century. Since the 19th century it has become associated with the wider culture of Scotland in general, or with Celtic heritage even more broadly...

 or sarong
A sarong or sarung is a large tube or length of fabric, often wrapped around the waist and worn as a kilt by men and as a skirt by women throughout much of South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, the Horn of Africa, and on many Pacific islands. The fabric most often has woven plaid or...

 these are not seen as female clothing, and wearing them is not seen as cross-dressing for men. As societies are becoming more global in nature, both men and women are adopting styles of dress associated with other cultures.

It was once taboo
A taboo is a strong social prohibition relating to any area of human activity or social custom that is sacred and or forbidden based on moral judgment, religious beliefs and or scientific consensus. Breaking the taboo is usually considered objectionable or abhorrent by society...

 in Western society for women to wear clothes traditionally associated with men, excepting certain circumstances, such as for necessity (as per St. Thomas Aquinas's guidelines in Summa Theologiae II)

While this prohibition remained in force in general throughout the middle and early modern ages, this is no longer the case and Western women are often seen wearing trousers, ties, and men's hats. Nevertheless, many cultures around the world still prohibit women from wearing trousers or other traditionally male clothing.

Cosplaying may also involve cross-dressing, for some females may wish to dress as a male, and vice versa (see Crossplay
Crossplay, a portmanteau of crossdressing and cosplay, is cosplay in which the person dresses up as a character of a different gender. Crossplay's origins lie in the anime convention circuit, though, like cosplay, it has not remained exclusive to the genre.-Female-to-male crossplay:In most...

). Breast binding (for females) is not uncommon and is most likely needed to cosplay a male character.

In most parts of the world it remains socially frowned upon for men to wear clothes traditionally associated with women. Attempts are occasionally made, e.g. by fashion designers, to promote the acceptance of skirts as everyday wear for men. Cross-dressers have complained that society permits women to wear pants or jeans and other masculine clothing, while condemning any man who wants to wear clothing sold for women.

While most male cross-dressers utilize clothing associated with modern women, there are some who are involved in subcultures that involve dressing as little girls or in vintage clothing
Vintage clothing
Vintage clothing is a generic term for new or second hand garments originating from a previous era. The phrase is also used in connection with a retail outlet, e.g...

. Some such men have written that they enjoy dressing as feminine as possible, so they will wear frilly dresses with lace and ribbons, as well as multiple petticoat
A petticoat or underskirt is an article of clothing for women; specifically an undergarment to be worn under a skirt or a dress. The petticoat is a separate garment hanging from the waist ....

s, corset
A corset is a garment worn to hold and shape the torso into a desired shape for aesthetic or medical purposes...

s, girdle
A girdle is a garment that encircles the lower torso, perhaps extending below the hips, and worn often for support. The word girdle originally meant a belt. In modern English, the term girdle is most commonly used for a form of women's foundation wear that replaced the corset in popularity...

s and/or garter belts with nylon stockings.

Social issues

Cross-dressers may begin wearing their opposite sex's clothing as children, using the clothes of a sibling, parent, or friend. Some parents have said they allowed their children to cross-dress and, in many cases, the child stopped when they became older. The same pattern often continues into adulthood, where there may be confrontations with a spouse. Married cross-dressers experience considerable anxiety and guilt if their spouse objects to their behaviour. Some cross-dressers have periodically disposed of all their clothing, a practice called "purging", only to start another collection later.


The historical associations of maleness with power and femaleness with submission and frivolity mean that in the present time a woman dressing in men's clothing and a man dressing in women's clothing evoke very different responses. A woman dressing in men's clothing is a marginally more acceptable activity.
Feminist advocacy for social change has done much to relax the constrictions of gender roles on men and women, but they are still heavily policed.
The reason it is so hard to have statistics for female-bodied crossdressers is that the line where non-crossdressing stops and crossdressing begins has become blurred, whereas the same line for men is just as defined. This is one of the many issues being addressed by third wave feminism as well as the modern-day masculist
Masculism may refer to political, cultural, and economic movements aimed at establishing and defending political, economic, and social rights and participation in society for men and boys. These rights include legal issues, such as those of conscription, child custody, alimony, and equal pay for...


Some psychoanalysts today do not regard cross-dressing by itself a psychological problem, unless it interferes with the functioning of a person's life. "For instance," said Dr. Joseph Merlino, Senior Editor of the book Freud at 150: 21st Century Essays on a Man of Genius, "[suppose that]...I'm a cross-dresser and I don't want to keep it confined to my circle of friends, or my party circle, and I want to take that to my wife and I don't understand why she doesn't accept it, or I take it to my office and I don't understand why they don't accept it, then it's become a problem because it's interfering with my relationships and environment."

See also

  • Autogynephilia
  • Breeches role
    Breeches role
    A breeches role is a role in which an actress appears in male clothing .In opera it also refers to any male character that is sung and acted by a female singer...

  • Breeching (boys) – Young boys in the Western world wore gowns or dresses until an age that varied between two and eight.
  • Cogender
    Cogender is a term customarily applied by anthropologists to Native South Americans shamanism in the same sense that the term two-spirit is applied to Native North American shamanism -- in both cases it refers to usually crossdressing Cogender (also spelled "co-gender", with adjectival form...

  • Cross-dressing in film and television
    Cross-dressing in film and television
    Cross-dressing in motion pictures began in the early days of the silent films. Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel brought the tradition of female impersonation in the English music halls when they came to America with Fred Karno's comedy troupe in 1910. Both Chaplin and Laurel occasionally dressed as...

  • En femme
    En femme
    The term en femme is an anglicized adaption of a French phrase. It is used in the transgender and crossdressing community to describe the act of wearing feminine clothing and/or expressing a stereotypically feminine personality...

  • Female masking
  • Feminization
    Feminization can refer to:*Feminization the hormonally induced development of female sexual characteristics*Feminization a sexual or lifestyle practice where a person assumes a female role...

  • Sissy (transgender)
    Sissy (transgender)
    A sissy is a man who crossdresses, adopts hyper-feminine behaviors, and engages in stereotypical "feminine" activities , often within the context of BDSM. Particularly within the BDSM community, a "sissy" will typically assume the submissive role to a dominant female and/or male partner...

  • Hijra (South Asia)
    Hijra (South Asia)
    In the culture of South Asia, hijras or chakka in Kannada, khusra in Punjabi and kojja in Telugu are physiological males who have feminine gender identity, women's clothing and other feminine gender roles. Hijras have a long recorded history in the Indian subcontinent, from the antiquity, as...

  • Kathoey
    Kathoey or katoey is a male-to-female transgender person or an effeminate gay male in Thailand. Related phrases include sao praphet song , or phet thi sam . The word kathoey is thought to be of Khmer origin...

  • List of transgender-related topics
  • List of wartime crossdressers
  • Passing (gender)
    Passing (gender)
    Passing refers to a person's ability to be regarded as a member of the sex or gender with which they physically present. Typically, passing involves a mixture of physical gender cues as well as certain behavioral attributes that tend to be culturally associated with a particular gender...

  • Sexual Orientation Hypothesis
    Sexual orientation hypothesis
    The sexual orientation hypothesis is an hypothesis proposed by Donald McCreary in 1994 that describes male and female sexual orientation and their societal acceptance....

  • Transvestism
    Transvestism is the practice of cross-dressing, which is wearing clothing traditionally associated with the opposite sex. Transvestite refers to a person who cross-dresses; however, the word often has additional connotations. -History:Although the word transvestism was coined as late as the 1910s,...

  • Tri-Ess
    Tri-Ess is an international educational, social and support group for heterosexual crossdressers, their partners, the spouses of married crossdressers and their families....

  • Two-spirit
    Two-Spirit People , is an English term that emerged in 1990 out of the third annual inter-tribal Native American/First Nations gay/lesbian American conference in Winnipeg. It describes Indigenous North Americans who fulfill one of many mixed gender roles found traditionally among many Native...

Further reading

  • Helen Boyd
    Helen Boyd
    Helen Boyd is the pen name of Gail Kramer, the American author of two books about her relationship with her transgender partner. Her partner is referred to in both books as "Betty Crow", though this is also a pseudonym.-Biography:...

    , My Husband Betty, Thunder's Mouth Press, 2003
  • Lucy Chesser, Parting With my Sex: Cross-dressing, Inversion and Sexuality in Australian Cultural Life, Sydney University Press, Sydney, 2008. ISBN 978-1-920898-31-1.
  • Rudolf M. Dekker, Lotte C. Van De Pol, Lotte C. Van De Pol, The Tradition of Female Transvestism in Early Modern Europe, 1989, ISBN 0-312-17334-2.
  • Peggy J. Rudd, Crossdressing With Dignity: The Case For Transcending Gender Lines, PM Publishers, Inc., 1999. ISBN 0-9626762-6-8.
  • Charles Anders, The Lazy Crossdresser, Greenery Press
    Greenery Press
    Greenery Press is a publishing house based in Emeryville, California specializing in books on BDSM, polyamory and sexuality, with over 50 titles in print. Most titles are non-fiction, but a smaller number of fiction titles and memoirs are published under the Grass Stain Press name...

    , 2002. ISBN 1-890159-37-9.
  • Lacey Leigh, Out & About: The Emancipated Crossdresser, Double Star Press, 2002. ISBN 0-9716680-0-0.
  • Roscoe, Will, The Zuni Man-Woman, University of New Mexico Press, 1991. ISBN 0-8263-1253-5.
  • Richard J. Novic, Alice in genderland: a crossdresser comes of age, iUniverse
    iUniverse, founded in October 1999, is a self-publishing company, co-located with AuthorHouse in Bloomington, Indiana. Publishers Weekly notes iUniverse has partnerships with The Writers' Club and the Writer's Digest .-History:iUniverse initially focused on business-to-consumer print-on-demand...

    , 2005, ISBN 0595315623
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.