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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.

Sexual preferences among cross-dressers vary as much as they do in the general population. However, most male-bodied cross-dressers prefer female partners. So do most female-bodied.

Table of contents

Main types of cross-dressing

  • A drag queen is a male-bodied person who performs in female drag: a costume of extremely gaudy dresses and shoes, large wigs, etc., or that imitates famous female film or pop-music stars. See Drag queen.

  • Drag King can be the counter-part of Drag Queen, female-bodied persons performing a male or pseudo-male role. It can, however, also denote the complete cross-dressing spectrum of female-bodied persons, including persons undergoing hormone replacement therapy and sometimes gender reassignemnt surgery; although typically not persons who have undergone genital reassignment surgery.

  • A transvestic fetishist is a person, typically a heterosexual male, who cross-dresses as part of a sexual fetish. It is often difficult to distinguish between fetishism that happens to have female clothing as an object and transgender behaviour that includes sexual play. See Transvestic fetishism.

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:

  • Female-bodied persons who want to take up exclusively male or male dominated positions or professions. Famous examples are pirates Mary Read and Anne Bonny (http://arthur-ransome.org/ar/literary/pyrates.htm), Joan of Arc and Pope Joan.

  • Females wanting to escape capture and rape in wartime.



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