The Meanings of Cross-Dressing

  • Ron Langevin
Part of the Perspectives in Sexuality book series (PISE)


In order to better understand the many sexual anomalies that involve the wearing of or at least the use of women’s attire by men, it is instructive to examine what clothes mean to the average person. Anthropologists long have recognized that throughout history almost all societies have a division of labor that is based on age and on sex. In many cultures the distinction between male and female is readily evident in the costuming that is worn. The clothes of men and women serve as insignia or as signals of the gender of the individual wearing them, and they indicate that the expected sex role behavior should be forthcoming from that person. The outward form of the costume chosen is often taken at face value to represent social station, roles, wealth, and the like as well as sex roles. Thus, the social climber, by dressing like an upper class lady, hopes to be accepted as one. Dorner (1974) noted that clothes serve many purposes related to climate, technological advances, sexual display, political, social and economic structures, historical precedent, and the influence of the mass media. The latter create images of masculine and feminine idealized types that can have widespread influence. Yalom and Yalom (1971), for example, discussed the influence that Ernest Hemingway had on 20th century ideals of the male role.


Gender Identity Sexual Arousal Gender Dysphoria Erotic Preference Temporal Lobe Abnormality 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ron Langevin
    • 1
  1. 1.Clarke Institute of PsychiatryTorontoCanada

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