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Magazine article

By: Anonymous

Date: March 18, 1929

Source: Time magazine, XIII, no. 11 (March 18, 1929).

About the Author: The author is a staff writer for Time magazine.


Wearing the garb of the opposite sex has a long history. Records dating from the fifth century B.C. describe male cross-dressing. From the Native Amer-ican berdache (a male who adopted the clothing and work of women) to the hijra community of India (a groups of eunuchs, transsexuals, and transvestites), some traditional cultures have invested cross-dressers with spiritual power. In other countries, however, cross-dressers have been condemned by the state, religious authorities, and medical professions. Transvestism became the term for cross-dressing in 1910, when pioneering sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld published his book Transvestites.

Cross-dressing became a concern in the nineteenth century as middle-class men in the U.S. and Europe began to suffer a growing anxiety about the meaning of masculinity. As they increasingly entered the professions, lived in urban environments, and sensed a loss of control with the rise of industrialization, men sought ways to bolster their masculine iden-tities. The result was a new ideal of manliness that sharply distinguished men from women. Physical exertion, aggression, and martial discipline were celebrated. In this context, the 1929 discovery of an aggressive and athletic woman challenged core beliefs about the differences between men and women.


[This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions]

[This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions]


To many people in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, transvestism was a sexual perversion. The German neuropsychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing first categorized it as a pathological behavior in 1886. By 1952, the American Psychiatric Association listed male, but not female, transvestism as an illness in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.

Only in the late twentieth century did this label come under attack. As part of the sexual revolution of the 1960s, transvestites began to organize. In 1961, Virginia Price, also known as Charles Price, founded Hose and Heels, the first support group for male cross-dressers; women cross-dressers tended to find support within the butch-femme lesbian community. In contrast, the vast majority of male transvestites are heterosexual. Hose and Heels (known after 1962 as Full Personality Expression) merged with Mamselle in 1976 to form the Society for the Second Self, the largest heterosexual transvestite organization to date. Studies of male transvestites have revealed that many dress in male clothing by day and wear women's clothing for the purpose of sexual arousal.

New definitions of masculinity that incorporate transvestism have not been widely accepted. For women, the situation is dramatically different. The general relaxation in clothing standards in the late twentieth century has made it acceptable for women to dress in many types of male attire. Additionally, the increasing opportunities available to women in employment and everyday life make it unnecessary for a woman to attempt to pass as a male to enjoy privileges once reserved only for men.



Allen, J. J. The Man in the Red Velvet Dress: Inside the World of Cross-Dressing. New York: Carol Publishing Group, 1996.

Bullough, Vern L., and Bonnie Bullough. Cross Dressing, Sex, and Gender. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993.

Garber, Marjorie. Vested Interests: Cross-Dressing and Cultural Anxiety. New York: Harper Perennial, 1993.