"Magnus Hirschfeld, the early twentieth-century German sex researcher and homosexual rights advocate, coined the term transvestite—as well as the term transsexual—in his book Die Transvestiten (The Transvestites), published in 1910. As its Latin roots suggest, a transvestite is a cross-dresser, or someone who wears the clothes of the other gender. Transvestism is mainly associated with men who dress as women, in large part because clothing standards for women have become so relaxed as to make male attire on women hardly worth a second glance. Women from previous eras who dressed as men and were taken for men are usually termed passing women rather than transvestites.
Confusion about the sexual categories transvestite, transsexual, and homosexual in the popular media began in the late nineteenth century and continued through the late twentieth century. Even in the twenty-first century, few people realize that many transvestites are heterosexual men with no sexual interest in other men and no desire to become women. Differences between sex, gender, and sexuality must be clear and unambiguous in order to make distinctions between categories such as homosexuality, which is understood as choosing a person of the same biological sex for one's sexual partners; transsexuality, also known as transgender identification, which has nothing to do with object choice but is understood rather as the desire to transform one's own body into that of the other sex; and transvestism, which has nothing to do with either object choice or body modification but only concerns cross-dressing."Continued:
"Though sumptuary laws prohibited cross-dressing on the street, transvestism was a theatrical convention in Europe during the Renaissance because many laws prohibited women on the stage through the seventeenth century. Shakespeare's Juliet was played by a boy actor, as were Desdemona and Ophelia. In church music, women's vocal ranges were traditionally appropriated by boys and castrati (castrated male singers), constituting a kind of auditory—and sometimes visible—theatrical transvestism. Castrati such as Farinelli (1705–1782) became superstars in their day, with their extraordinary soprano voices in demand throughout Europe. The baroque castrati and the Victorian operatic "trouser role," where women played male characters ranging from Mozart's baroque Cherubino to Strauss's modern Octavian, carried the long-established theatrical tradition of en travesti into the twentieth century, and this tradition helps explain why theatrical drag, or transvestism staged as theater, is generally more tolerated than public street transvestism.
Eighteenth and nineteenth century insurgents in Scotland, Ireland, and England featured men dressed as women. In the United States, women dressed as men fought in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, some as decorated officers. Two nightclubs in Chicago, the Roselle Club and the Twelve-thirty Club, were closed down by police in the 1930s because they contained too many women in men's clothes. Famous twentieth-century passing women include Billy Tipton, a well-known jazz pianist and saxophonist who began passing as a man in 1933 and was only revealed to be biologically female at his death in 1989."
Hovey, Jaime. "Transvestism." Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender. Ed. Fedwa Malti-Douglas. Vol. 4. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007. 1482-1485. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 7 Dec. 2012.
Gale Document Number: GALE|CX2896200652
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