February 5, 2010

A survey of crossdressers

Image: Jude Law as crossdresser in Rage.

The term autogynephilia was introduced by the psychologist Ray Blanchard. He defined it as "a man's paraphilic tendency to be sexually aroused by the thought or image of himself as a female".

[Update: I no longer use the stigmatizing term "autogynephila" to describe transgender people. See note below!.]

There is an overlap between this group and the crossdressers. Not all autogynephiliacs crossdreamers are crossdressers. But a lot of crossdressers get erotically turned by dressing up as a woman.

Knowing more about the crossdressers will help us get a better insight into autogynephilia crossdreaming.

My online friend Colin has set up some tables based on an interesting survey of cross-dressers in 1992 compared to a similar sample from 1972. Some of the questions relate to gender identity. Colin suspects a lot of crossdressers fantasize about having a woman's body.


Demographic, Childhood, and Family Variables: 1992 and 1972 data

Note the large number of married crossdressers, and the fact that most of them believe their fathers provided a good masculine image. They were not raised as crossdressers, if anyone suspects that.

TABLE I(%)(%)
Education past BA19921972
Marital Status19921972
Married now6064
Separated, Divorced, widowed2314
Never married1722
Ever been married8378
Fathered children6974
Raised by both parents7682
Father provided good masculine image7672
Raised just as a boy8683

Sexual and Cross-dressing variables: 1992 and 1972 Data

The fact that most identify as heterosexual, should not come as a surprise. That as many as 29 percent some kind of homosexual experiences probably points to a desire to have sex as a woman.

72 percent report that crossdressing brings sexual excitement and orgasm occasionally to nearly always. It is fair to say that these probably are autogynephiliacs.

66 percent began cross-dressing before the age of 10. If most of these crossdressers truly are autogynephiliacs crossdreamers, this means that autogynephilia crossdreaming appears before puberty and is not the result of increased testosterone production in puberty.

A large majority of them believe that they express a different part of themselves when crossdressing, i.e. they believe they have an innate feminine side.

71 percent have crossdressed in public, although they do not necessarily do this often. Note that most of the respondents are members of crossdresser clubs. This may influence their tendency towards going out dressed as women.

Their wives are normally aware of their habit. Only a minority was told about it before marriage though, even if the number of crossdressers revealing their condition at an early stage is increasing. Their wives have mixed views about their men's crossdressing.

The authors draw attention to the "purges" of crossdressers:

"There appears to be pervasive guilt associated with transvestism, for we found three quarters of our subjects reported a purge of their feminine attire at some time in their history (75 vs. 69%). This is invariably described as a product of intense feelings of wrongdoing and shame."

TABLE II(%)(%)
Sexual Orientation19921972
Some homosexual experiences2928
Sexual Interest in women19921972
Above average1724
Below average2614
Age began cross-dressing19921972
Before age 106654
Between 10 and 202937
After age 2058
View of self when cross-dressed19921972
Express different part of myself8078
Just myself with different clothes2022
Cross-dressing brings sexual excitement and orgasm19921972
Nearly always21
Enjoy feminine clothes when orgasm is not feasible19921972
Prefer complete cross-dressing9385
Frequency of public cross-dressing19921972
Have appeared cross-dressed in public71
Activities while cross-dressed19921972
Ride on bus, train, etc.10
Eat in restaurants28
Plays, lectures church18
Tried on feminine clothes in stores22
Used ladies' room26
Seen by acquaintances who knew me17
Experienced a "purge" of cross-dressing7569
Wife is aware of cross-dressing8380
Wife's acceptance or antagonism19921972
Completely accepting2823
Mixed view4757
Completely antagonistic1920
Wife knew of your cross-dressing before marriage3227

Cross-gender Identity, Hormones, and Sexual Reassignment

Colin points to the fact that 60% of current cross-dressers prefer their masculine and feminine selves equally. This means that their gender identity is male and female.

The authors add:

"A marked change from 1972 data was seen when our subjects were asked whether they preferred their masculine selves, feminine selves, or both selves equally. Sixty percent of our sample preferred 'both selves equally,' compared to only 12% in 1972. This unusually great change may be a reflection of a theme strongly advocated in transvestite magazines and newsletters--that it is healthy and desirable to have an integration of the masculine and feminine components of one's personality. Personality integration, of course, is also a major objective in many forms of counseling and psychotherapy."

Only a minority consider themselves "women trapped in a man's body", although this percentage increased from 1972 to 1992. It is interesting to note that as many as 43 percent would like to use female hormones, although only 9 percent had done so.

Colin adds: "Also interesting is that 17% want a sex-change if money and partner were not a factor."

As many as 45 percent of the 1992 sample had sought counselling.

I feel myself to be a19921972
Woman trapped in a man's body1712
Man with feminine side7469
Fetishist, favor women's clothing912
Preferred gender identity19921972
Masculine self1129
Feminine self2856
Female Hormones19921972
Not interested in using4841
Would like to use4350
Using hormones now45
Used hormones in the past54
If I were single and financially able at the present time, I would have a sex change operation even now1714
Consulted psychologist or psychiatrist4524
Helped by counseling6747

An important research objective of the project was to identify variables discriminating between so-called "Nuclear" (stable, periodic cross-dressers) and "Marginal transvestites" (more transgendered or transsexually inclined).

The authors say:

"We divided the present sample into two groups using the following question: "I feel myself to be: (a) awoman trapped in a man's body (b) a man who has a feminine side that seeks expression occasionally (c) a man with a sexual fetish for feminine clothing."

"Group 1 was defined as the 747 cross-dressers who selected item (b); Group 2 was defined as the 172 cross-dressers who selected item (a). (...)

"No difference between Groups 1 and 2 were seen for the following variables: married now, ever married, fathered children, parents divorced, separated, or deceased, parents overprotective, parents discouraged rough-and-tumble play, hugged and stroked as child, sexually aroused by specific items of women's clothing, enjoy cross-dressing even when sexual release is not feasible, age of first cross-dressing, prefer complete cross-dressing, experienced a "purge" of cross-dressing, consulted psychologist concerning cross-dressing, and belong to cross-dressing, organization."

10 strongly discriminating parameters were found. The most important were, according to the authors: cross-gender identity, commitment to live entirely as a woman, taking steps toward body feminization, low sexual arousal to cross-dressing.

"Neither age nor experience as a cross-dresser were found to be correlates of cross-gender identity. Although the present generation of transvestites describe themselves much as did similar subjects 20 years ago, the percentage migrating toward full-time living as a woman is greater."

If you do crossdess, please feel free to add a comment on where you stand on this map, and the challenges you are facing!

Richard F. Docter , Virginia Prince: "Transvestism: a survey of 1032 cross-dressers."

The authors says this about the sample:

"Our subjects were 1032 self-defined periodic cross-dressers, all of whom were biological males, ranging in age from 20 to 80. This volunteer nonrandom sample was acquired from throughout the United States by announcements at transvestite club meetings, conventions of cross-dressers, and in magazines and newsletters for cross-dressers. Nearly all subjects received the self-responsive survey form at one of these events; a small percentage were mailed to individuals who volunteered to participate. An unknown number of survey forms were reproduced by support groups and distributed to interested members. Our best estimate of the overall response rate is that roughly 30 to 35% were completed and returned. The data were collected over a 2-year span ending in 1992. All participation was anonymous. ... Eighty percent said they were affiliated with either a cross-dressers' club or national organization."


Since this blog post was written I have stopped using the terms "autogynephilia" and "autoandrophilia" to describe people. The reason for this is that the terms implicitly communicates an explanation for why some people get aroused by imagining themselves as the opposite sex . This explanation, that this is some kind of autoerotic paraphilia,  is both wrong and stigmatizing. Instead I use the neutral term "crossdreamers".

Click here for a discussion of the dark side of the autogynephilia theory.

See also our own Crossdreamer Gender Variance Survey of 2014!

Discuss crossdreamer and transgender issues!