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Transvestic fetishism

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Transvestic fetishism is a sexual fetish for the clothing of the opposite gender. It is one of a number of cross-dressing behaviours. It is primarilly a psychiatric term.


A transvestite can refer to someone who has a transvestic fetish, and it is in this sense that this article will use the word. Note however, transvestite has many (often conflicting) meanings, as explained in transvestitism.

Some people consider transvestic fetishism to be a type of transgender behaviour, but this is a matter of definition.

Common themes

Most transvestites are heterosexual males. Typically, they are not transsexual, so they do not desire to actually live as women full-time, but derive sexual pleasure from wearing female clothing.

Transvestism can be a simple fetish for wearing women's clothing. It can also be a symbol of submission or subservience in BDSM play, such as the wearing of a maid's outfit.

Not everyone who cross-dresses during sexual intercourse is a transvestite.

When is it a psychiatric condition?

There are two key criteria before a psychiatric diagnosis of "transvestic fetishism" is made:

  1. recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, urges, or behaviour, involving cross-dressing
  2. This causes clinically significant distress or impairment, whether socially, at work, or elsewhere

Thus, transvestism is not considered a mental illness unless it causes significant problems for the transvestite concerned.

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