The 11 most common questions about transvestites and transvestism

The remarkable thing about us transvestites is not that we dress in the clothes of the other sex - what is remarkable is that we are breaking a norm

1. What is a transvestite?

- It is a human being.
A person who at times or more regularly, for the sake of well-being, adopts the appearance of the other sex in full or partly.
This may be unusual, but it is certainly not abnormal. Transvestism exists in all cultures around the globe and is also well known from history. It is independent of sex, profession and level of education, although it is more noticed among men than among women.

2. Why do you do it?

- In order to feel well!
 A lot of investigations have been carried out as to why some people break the ordinary norms for how a man or a woman is supposed to look, dress and behave. As yet, no definite answer has been found.
Common to all transvestites is that none of us has chosen to be one. It is simply part of our personality. We have chosen to accept ourselves and our feelings.
 If a transvestite is not allowed to express this side of his/her personality, this will lead to a feeling of deprivation which may result in a deep depression.

3. How does it start?

- Often at a very young age.
Already as a child many have a feeling of being both male and female inside. This is later on reinforced by puberty and the awakening of sexuality. The discovery is often accompanied by a feeling of being totally different from others as well as by feelings of guilt and shame. As a rule, transvestism is life-long.

4. How do you live?

- Doubly !
We are quite ordinary men and women living and functioning exactly like most other people. A man who is a transvestite is as a rule as much a man as other men. What differs is that at times we want to dress as the other sex and sometimes also identify ourselves with it. We generally have two wardrobes and frequently also both a traditional man’s and woman’s name.

5. Do you want a sex change?
- No.
Transvestites are as a rule comfortable with their biological sex and have no intention to change it. Some of us, though, make use of permanent hair epilation a.s.o. in order to partly harmonize body and mind.

6. Are transvestites homosexual?

- Most often not.
Transvestism has got to do with gender expression and not with sexual preference. We probably don’t differ from the rest of the population in this respect. Most of us are heterosexual, others are bisexual or homosexual.

7. What do partners think?

- Love can cope with many things.
Most partners are understanding and helpful, others refuse to cooperate. Some cannot accept at all and disallow completely which can lead to a break-up.
There is often an exaggerated fear that the transvestite wants a sex-change. It can also be trying, even for an understanding
partner, if you have to keep it a secret and always have to conceal everything from family, friends and neighbours. To have children can complicate matters further.

8. Can women be transvestites?

- Of course.
But we are less visible in society. A woman can wear men’s
clothes and have a man’s haircut without being regarded as anything else than a woman or as a “dressed-up” girl. On the one hand this gives the female transvestite a certain protection – she can express her male self without attracting attention. On the other hand the invisibility can be a drawback – it can take longer to realize that you actually are a transvestite and that you are not the only one.

9. How do you want to be treated?

- As people.
A kind treatment and a friendly question will always be welcome. Like everybody else we want to be respected for what we are.
Although in Sweden transvestites do not rouse as much attention as only a few years ago, it still takes a great deal of courage to be open. Many people are ignorant or misinformed.
We do what we do for our own sake and not in order to rouse attention, to give offence or to be provocative.

10. How common is it?

- No one knows, but it is probably more common than you think.
There are no absolutely reliable investigations to draw on. Figures vary between 1% and 10% of the population of a country, depending on the definition of “transvestism” used. But all the same, it is highly probable that you know one or more transvestites without being aware of it. It might be worth reflecting why they don’t dare to tell you.   

11. How do I notice that an acquaintance of mine is a transvestite?

- You will probably not notice it.
Due to ignorance and prejudice on the part of those around us and to our own fears, most of us haven’t got the courage to be open. It is true that transvestites can be seen more and more in media and in the street, but in spite of this it is common for most of us not to reveal anything outside the nearest family.

You will probably have to wait till the person in question has decided to let you know. And don’t forget that this person has in all probability been a transvestite all the time. Was this person nice before, this will of course continue to be so. Nothing has changed except that you now know, or have got to know, a courageous person who has begun to lead a life of his/her own choice instead of the life chosen for him/her by other people.

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