Knowledge of transvestism is derived from four sources:
1. Psychoanalytic case studies of small numbers of patients treated over long periods of time (e.g., see Stoller 1966, 1971, 1985)
2. Patients evaluated in sex therapy or gender clinics (e.g., see Wise and Meyer 1980a, 1980b)
3. Interviews of members of social clubs for cross-dressing men who have engaged in some degree of public cross-dressing (e.g., see Buhrich 1976; Buhrich and Beaumont 1981; Docter 1988)
4. Mail-in surveys from cross-dressing men, including those who have never publicly cross-dressed (e.g., see Brooks and Brown 1994; G. R. Brown et al. 1996; Bruce 1967; Docter and Prince 1997; Prince and Bentler 1972)
Hirschfeld (1910) obtained information on the lives of transvestites in late-19th-century Germany by evaluating patients in his outpatient sexology clinic and by befriending cross-dressers and having them as house guests, thereby observing facets of cross-dressing behavior not apparent in clinical settings. Other researchers - most notably Buhrich (1976, 1978), Docter (1988), and Brown (e.g., G. R. Brown 1994; G. R. Brown and Collier 1989) - have attempted to learn more about transgendered behaviors by meeting with transvestites and their spouses in nonclinical settings. Stoller maintained a long-term, nonclinical (but audiotaped) relationship with Virginia “Charles” Prince, a well-known, pioneering transvestite who conducted research and founded organizations and periodicals for the American transvestite community beginning in the 1950s. This relationship spanned many years and contributed to Stoller’s understanding of the phenomenon.
The majority of transvestites who have been treated or who have volunteered for research studies are Caucasian, well-educated, currently or previously married, and in their 40s and began cross-dressing before age 12 years (Brooks and Brown 1994; Croughan et al. 1981; Docter 1988; Prince and Bentler 1972). True epidemiological studies of transvestism have not been conducted. Although sources of bias exist, results from anonymous mail-in surveys (e.g., Docter and Prince 1997; Prince and Bentler 1972) are likely to be the most representative of transvestites’ demographics, largely because these studies include responses from men who have neither come to clinical attention nor cross-dressed publicly; such men are believed to make up the majority of transvestites (Bruce 1967; Docter 1988).
Revision date: July 4, 2011
Last revised: by Janet A. Staessen, MD, PhD