I found an interesting resource, an Armenian medical network encyclopedia section on transvestism. The section is called – Transvestism and Gender Identity Disorder in Adults. Prepare yourself for a lot of reading! Notice that the link I gave is only page 1 of 22 pages on this subject. Let me paste and comment on a few interesting findings from this resource:
Greenson (1968) discussed the difficulty boys experience in attempting to “dis-identify” with their mother and counteridentify with their father to establish healthy masculinity. He emphasized the gender aspects of transvestism by summarizing as follows: The fact that transvestism is almost exclusively a male disease and more widespread than commonly believed, is a more impressive testimonial for man’s dissatisfaction with maleness and his wish to be a female. (Greenson 1968, p. 371).
This definitely seems to be true based on my experience. I have only come across one woman who crossdressers for sexual pleasure. There are plenty of blogs by women who are transitioning to live as men, but this seems to be more about perceived identity and personality than anything sexual.
Although sexual arousal associated with cross-dressing is universal in adolescent and young adult transvestites (Croughan et al. 1981; Docter 1988; Docter and Prince 1997), the linkage of sexual excitement and cross-dressing is diminished or lost altogether in 25% to 65% of older transvestites (Docter 1988). In a recent survey of 851 cross-dressers with a median age of 45 years, 86% expressed an increased “need to express my opposite sex gender role” with their advancing years, whereas only 14% reported that women’s clothing itself was the key element in their arousal (Brooks and Brown 1994). Brierley (1979) described these observations as constituting two stages of cross-dressing: an early fetishistic stage and a later identity stage.
From another place in the article – Although not displaying persistent gender dysphoria for the requisite 2 years (J. K. Meyer 1974; Wise 1982), transvestites’ psychosocial histories may be similar to those of transsexuals. The degree to which gender-dysphoric patients display symptoms may shift during their life span from fetishistic sexual behavior with cross-dressing to a predominant focus on gender dysphoria (i.e., a primary diagnosis of transvestism evolving to one of “secondary transsexualism”) (Docter 1988; Person and Ovesey 1974). Some researchers have reported that nearly all transsexualism is preceded by cross-dressing or accompanied by cross-gender fetishistic behavior (Hoenig and Kenna 1974).
This fits with what I’ve written about elsewhere, and seems to fit well with many of Blanchard and Bailey’s theories about autogynephilia. See this other post – Book Recommendation – The Man Who Would Be Queen. There is often what appears to be an evolution in crossdressing over a person’s life. It may begin sexual but evolve into something that is more about identity and expressing femininity. This unfortunately seems to lead some crossdressers to eventually see themselves as transgender and they start trying to live as women. What starts as a seemingly harmless sexual confusion – a boy who likes girls but figures out he can have pleasure from seeing a pretty girl by dressing himself as one – eventually becomes much more. The boy becomes a man who continues to crossdress for sexual pleasure and soon feels like he can’t go without it. The man spends so much of his life dressed as a woman that he eventually feels like that woman is part of who he is. Eventually, the man might enjoy the false woman part of himself more than his real self, and wish to live as a woman. I guess people have freedom to do what they want, as sad as it makes me to see men do this. But what is often the case, and extremely tragic, is looking at the wife and children who are forced to lose a husband and father in the process. See this post for more on this idea – Crossdressing without sexual component?
Buhrich (1978) and Docter (1988) recorded these men’s conscious motivations for cross-dressing based on interview data. Reported motivations included a feeling of comfort or ease; relief of tension; escape from pressures of the masculine role; feeling sensuous, elegant, or beautiful; sexual arousal or enhancement; and expression of traditionally feminine aspects of their personalities. Clinicians working with self-referred transvestite patients have emphasized obsessive-compulsive motivations (Lukianowicz 1959a; Stekel 1930) and narcissistic gratifications (Benjamin 1966; Buhrich 1978; Wise and Meyer 1980b).
Transvestite entertainment literature frequently includes themes of sadomasochism, female domination, and bondage in conjunction with cross-dressing activities (Buhrich and McConaghy 1976; Stoller 1975). However, only 5% of 504 transvestites surveyed by Prince and Bentler (1972) reported participating in cross-dressing while being dominated by a woman. Buhrich and McConaghy (1976) noted, nonetheless, that a fantasy interest in these activities was found to be much more likely than actual participation. Multiple paraphilias are common in those who present for treatment in tertiary referral centers, suggesting that these conditions co-occur in highly selected clinical populations (Abel 1989; Kafka 1991).
I have no idea why this would be, but from all my years spent reading crossdressing fiction online, I can attest that it is true. Does one thing to lead to another? Are those of us who struggle with crossdressing more messed up and confused than the average person and so we have other problems as well? Or is it just simply that crossdressing and things like female domination have many interconnections and similarities so that they naturally go together? I’ve talked about these connections in a deeper way in the post – My Addiction to Crossdressing Fiction.
Marital partners of transvestites are more likely than their husbands to seek treatment from a psychiatrist (G. R. Brown 1994). In Prince and Bentler’s (1972) survey of 504 subscribers to a transvestite journal, most of whom were themselves middle-aged transvestites, only about 24% had ever sought psychiatric treatment, whereas 38% of 106 women in committed relationships with cross-dressers had received mental health treatment sometime in their lives (G. R. Brown 1994). Early studies of wives of transvestites focused on small clinical samples. In them, wives were categorized as having low self-esteem and “moral masochism” (Stoller 1967). These women have also been described as having character styles rich in dependency and, therefore, as “settling” for a cross-dressing mate as an alternative preferable to the pain of loss and loneliness (Wise et al. 1981).
This is just sad all around. I hurt for the women dealing with unrepentant crossdressers in their marriages.