Through the looking glass

  • Annie Woodhouse
Part of the Women in Society book series


Despite the fact that cross-dressing has been found to exist throughout history, the term ‘transvestism’ was not coined until the early part of this century. It was not clearly differentiated from transsexualism as a clinical category until the 1960s.1 Consequently there has been, and still is, a confusing muddle of terminology which links transvestism with transsexualism, homosexuality, fetishism, masochism and gender dysphoria — discomfort with one’s appropriate gender identity. Such confusion does not provide any sort of accurate reflection of the ways in which the transvestite defines himself and his world. Rather it stands as an indicator of the different paths taken by ideas about sexuality, and particularly so-called deviant sexuality. These ideas moved from the behaviour modification models of the early and mid-1960s, into notions of social delinquency with its associations of inadequate parenting/environment/childhood development, and on to the moral relativism which characterised the 1970s and is now under attack from the ‘moral right’.2


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Notes and references

  1. 5.
    C. S. Ford and F. A. Beach, Patterns of Sexual Behaviour (Harper, New York, 1951).Google Scholar

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© Annie Woodhouse 1989

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  • Annie Woodhouse

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