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Transvestic fetishism is a psychiatric diagnosis applied to those who are thought to have an excessive sexual or erotic interest in cross-dressing; this interest is often expressed in autoerotic behavior. 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. (Sexual arousal in response to donning sex-typical clothing is homeovestism.)
Transvestic fetishism, fetishistic transvestism and sometimes transvestism are also often used to describe any sexual behaviour or arousal that is in any way connected to clothes of the other gender. Especially the latter is problematic, because transvestism and cross-dressing are neither a sexual fetish, nor do they necessarily have anything to do with sexual behaviour or arousal.
Also, not every sexual behaviour where clothes of the other gender are involved are transvestic fetishism, they are also often used in sexual roleplay without being a fetish. Also, many transgendered people, mostly transwomen, also cross-dress before coming out in sexual contexts, to relieve their cross-gender feelings. This behavior is likewise not considered transvestic fetishism.
Some male transvestic fetishists collect women's clothing, e.g. nightgowns, slips and other types of nightwear and lingerie. They may dress in these feminine garments and take photographs of themselves to live out their secret fantasies. Many men love the feeling of wearing silk or nylon and adore the silky fabric of women's nightwear and lingerie.
Most transvestic fetishists are said to be heterosexual men, although there are no studies that accurately represent either their sexual orientation or gender, and most information on this is based on anecdotal evidence or informal surveys.
When is it a psychiatric condition?
There are two key criteria before a psychiatric diagnosis of "transvestic fetishism" is made:
- Recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, urges, or behaviour, involving cross-dressing.
- This causes clinically significant distress or impairment, whether socially, at work, or elsewhere.
- Or is experienced as ego-dystonic to a significant degree.
Thus, transvestic fetishism is not considered a mental illness unless it causes significant problems for the person concerned.
- American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth, Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
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