An individual who cross-dresses; e.g. a man who wears clothes traditionally associated and worn by women.
In traditional psychological context, a transvestite is usually defined as a person – typically a heterosexual, cisgender male – who dresses in female clothing for sexual pleasure or gratification.
The word can be potentially problematic when transvestitism is conflated and confused with being transgender, or when the traditional psychological context is applied to all people who cross-dress. As such, it’s recommended to use the term with caution. Certainly do not refer to transgender or nonbinary individuals as transvestites, but also do not assume people who do call themselves transvestites are transgender or nonbinary – typically, they identify as cisgender.
People engage in cross-dressing for a variety of reasons, such as for fun or relaxation, for theatrical reasons, or as a form of gender exploration. This may or may not take the form of drag.
trans ("other side of, across, over, beyond, outside of") + vestite (from vestiō - “I clothe, I dress”)
Due to the conflation of transvestitism with being transgender, it is advised to use the word with caution, and certainly not to refer to nonbinary or transgender people as 'transvestites'.
Originally published: 16th July, 2020
Last modified: 16th January, 2022