Comparison of Transvestism in 
   Australia and America 
   
   Neil Buhrich, M.B.B.S.; D.P.M.; M.R.C. Psych.; M.D.1 and Trina Beaumont,B.Sc.2 

   
   Information concerning gender identity, sexual orientation, crossdressing 
behavior, fetishism, and bondage was obtained from a questionnaire which was 
posted to members of two transvestite clubs, one in the United States and one 
in Australia.  This study reports the responses of 136 American and 86 
Australian self-designated transvestites who reported a period of fetishism to 
women's clothes at some stage of development.  Characteristics of transvestism 
of subjects in both countries were remarkably similar: all were male, almost 
half the subjects first crossdressed in prepuberty, and in the large majority 
crossdressing was well established by late adolescence; intense fetishism was 
usually experienced during adolescence but waned in later years; in almost a 
quarter of subjects fetishism ceased, although the desire to crossdress 
continued; in many subjects transvestism was associated with fantasies of 
bondage, usually of the subjects bound while crossdressed; sexual orientation 
was predominantly or exclusively heterosexual in more than three-quarters of 
the subjects.  Subjects were categorized into two groups.  One group, termed 
nuclear transvestites, were satisfied with crossdressing.  The second group, 
termed marginal transvestites, desired feminization by hormone ingestion or by 
surgical intervention.  Marginal compared to nuclear transvestites reported 
significantly stronger feminine gender identity and tended to report a 
stronger interest in the homosexual direction.  The differences appeared to be 
present from childhood.  No significant differences were found between the 
nuclear and marginal transvestites with regard to characteristics of 
fetishism, bondage, and crossdressing except that in the American group 
marginal transvestites currently crossdressed more frequently than did nuclear 
transvestites. 
   
   KEY WORDS: transvestism; gender identity; sexual orientation; fetishism; 
bondage; transcultural 
   
   1Associate Professor, Psychiatric Department, St. Vincent's Hospital, 
Darlinghurst, Sydney 2010, Australia. 
   2Secretary, Seahorse Club of Australia, Box 341, Royal Exchange, Sydney, 
Australia. 
   
   INTRODUCTION 
   Scientific literature concerned with transvestism is conflicting.  Some 
authors consider it related to homosexuality (Segel, 1962; Allen, 1969; Sim, 
1964), others to fetishism (Stoller, 1968; Baker, 1969).  Another area of 
contention, namely, whether transvestism is a discrete syndrome from 
transsexualism (Pauly, 1965; Barker, 1966; Stoller, 1973), is important since 
the advent of irreversible sex-change operations.  The present study aims to 
clarify the characteristics of transvestism by investigating a large sample of 
Australian and American subjects who were members of clubs established for 
transvestites. 
   METHODOLOGY 
   For the purpose of this study, all subjects who crossdressed and reported a 
period of fetishism to women's clothes at some stage of development were 
regarded as being transvestites.  The present study therefore included as 
transvestites subjects who had shown fetishism even if they desired a sex-
change operation.  All subjects who had not experienced fetishism were 
excluded from the study.  It has been reported previously that significantly 
more transvestites than transsexuals have shown a period of fetishism (Buhrich 
and McConaghy, 1977a).  In a previous study, Buhrich and McConaghy (1977b) 
reported that transvestite subjects who had shown a period of fetishism could 
be categorized into two clinically discrete groups.  Subjects who were 
satisfied with crossdressing showed less intense feminine gender identity and 
a stronger interest in the heterosexual direction in comparison with those 
who, in addition to crossdressing, desired at least partial feminization by 
hormones or by surgery.  In that study, Buhrich and McConaghy termed the 
former group of subjects nuclear transvestites and the latter group marginal 
transvestites.  Those two categories were retained for the present study. 
   A 132-item questionnaire was constructed by one of the authors (N.B.) with 
the aim of obtaining information concerning biographical data, gender 
identity, sexual orientation, characteristics of fetishism, and patterns of 
crossdressing behavior.  The questionnaire was sent to 130 members of the 
Seahorse Club of Australia and 225 members of the Society for the Second Self 
in the United States with a stamped and return-addressed envelope; it was 
requested that the questionnaires be completed and returned to the Secretaries 
of the respective clubs.  The questionnaires were to be answered anonymously. 
   Responses were received from 139 (62%) American subjects and 97 (75%) 
Australian subjects.  All were male.  Some subjects (13 Americans and 11 
Australians) reported that they had not experienced fetishism to women's 
clothes and were excluded from the study.  The remaining 86 Australians and 
126 Americans had shown fetishistic arousal to women's clothes at some stage 
of development. 
   On the basis of their responses the subjects were categorized into two 
groups.  Those satisfied with crossdressing (31 of the Australians [36%] and 
50 of the Americans [40%]) were termed nuclear transvestites.  The remaining 
subjects (55 Australians [69%] and 75 Americans [60%]) desired at least 
partial feminization by hormone ingestion or surgical intervention; they were 
termed marginal transvestites.  Of the marginal transvestites, 10 of the 55 
Australians and 12 of the 75 Americans currently ingested feminizing hormones.  
A further 31 Australians and 46 Americans desired female hormones.  In 
response to the question "Ignoring your situation and responsibility, would 
you like to have any change of sex operation at present," 21 Australians and 
47 Americans desired only breast and/or nose surgery.  A further 34 
Australians and 28 Americans also desired genital surgery.  Eight Australians 
and 11 Americans had sought medical help with the aim of undergoing surgical 
feminization.  Of these one had received rhinoplasty. 
   The responses of nuclear and marginal transvestites for the American and 
Australian groups will be recorded separately and together.  Discrepancies 
between the total number of subjects in each group and the number of responses 
on each item are due to the fact that some subjects failed to respond to some 
questions. 
   RESULTS 
   Biographical Data 
   With regard to the 86 Australians, the mean age of the nuclear 
transvestites was 38 years (range 21-68) and of the marginal transvestites, 39 
(range 23-72).  Twenty-four (77%) nuclear transvestites were married and four 
(13%) had never married.  Thirty-nine (71%) marginal transvestites were 
married and 11 (20%) never married.  The remaining subjects were divorced or 
widowed. 
   With regard to the 126 Americans, the mean age of the nuclear transvestites 
was 49 years (range, 29-71) and of the marginal transvestites, 44 (range, 26-
75).  Thirty-seven (73%) of the nuclear transvestites were married and 7 (14%) 
had never married.  Fifty (67%) of the marginal transvestites were married and 
11 (20%) had never married.  The remaining subjects were divorced or widowed. 
   Characteristics of Feminine Gender Identity 
   Characteristics of feminine gender identity since childhood for subjects 
are recorded in Table I. 
   Subjects were recorded as having been called "sissy" if they recalled 
having been called "sissy" on more than two occasions between the ages of 6 
and 12 years.  Playmate preference and preference for girls' games such as 
"dolls, cooking, or sewing" were also recorded for the ages of 6 to 12 years.  
With regard to the item "wish to have been born a girl," the subject's 
response was recorded as "often" if he was aware of the wish at least once a 
week.  With regard to the item "feel like a woman," subject's response was 
recorded as "often" if he felt like a woman more than half the time. 
   Australian compared to American subjects significantly more frequently 
preferred girls as playmates (x2 < 0.05, corrected) and wished to have been 
born girls between the ages of 6 and 12 years (x2 < 0.05, corrected) and 
between the ages of 13 and 18 years (x2 < 0.01, corrected). 
   In both groups, the tendency for marginal transvestites as compared to 
nuclear transvestites to report more items characteristic of a feminine gender 
identity reached significance (p < 0.05, Sign Test).  Significant differences 
on the individual items pertaining to gender identity for nuclear as compared 
to marginal transvestite groups are indicated by the footnotes in Table I. 
   Characteristics of Crossdressing 
   Characteristics of crossdressing behavior for subjects are given in Table 
II.  Fully crossdressed was defined as "wearing dress, underwear, shoes, 
makeup, and a wig or to dress in such a way so as to be able to pass in 
public." 
   There was no significant difference between the American and Australian 
groups with regard to crossdressing behavior.  Within the American group, 
marginal transvestites significantly more frequently crossdressed compared to 
nuclear transvestites.  There are no significant differences between the 
nuclear and marginal transvestite groups on the remaining items in Table II. 
   
   Table I.  Characteristics of Feminine Gender Identity (Percentages) 
   
                           Americans                  Australians 
                           Nu-     Mar-               Nu-     Mar-    
                           clear   ginal   Total      clear   ginal   Total 
                          (N=51)  (N=75)  (N=126)    (N=31)  (N=55)  (N=86) 
   
 Called "sissy"            18      29      25         16      29      24       
 Preferred girls 
    as playmates           14      12      13         26      31      29 
 Preferred girls' games     2       7       5          6      20      15 
 Wished to have been 
   born a girl often: 
 Between 6 and 12 years     8      35b     24         26      51      42 
 Between 13 and 18 years   20      37      30         32      68b     56 
 After 19 years            14      48c     35         26      65b     51 
 Feel like a woman when: 
 Dressed as male            6      26a     18         13      25      21 
 Nude                       6      20      14         16      33      27 
 Crossdressed              67      92b     82         71      87      81 
   ax2 < 0.05, corrected.  bx2 < 0.01, corrected.  cx2 < 0.001, corrected.   
   
   Sexual Orientation 
   Sexual orientation, based on subjects' reported fantasies and activities, 
is given in Table III.  Subjects' sexual orientations when in men's clothes 
and when in women's clothes are tabulated separately.  Subjects were 
categorized as being exclusively heterosexual if they reported a sexual 
preference for women, if they had never experienced homosexual contact to 
orgasm, and if they never fantasized sexual contact with a male.  Seven 
subjects reported no sexual interest in either sex.   
   
   Table II.  Characteristics of Crossdressing (Percentages) 
   
                                     Americans               Australians 
                                     Nu-     Mar-            Nu-     Mar-    
                                     clear   ginal   Total   clear   ginal   Total 
                                     (N=51)  (N=75)  (N=126) (N=31)  (N=55)  (N=86) 
   Age in years when 
   first crossdressed 
     Under 11                         44      35      50      59      50      45 
     11-19                            44      37      40      55      45      49 
     Over 19                          15      8       12      6       5       6 
   Partially crossdressed 
   at first crossdressing             69      85      79      87      89      87 
   Wear female items 
   when dressed as male               54      76      59      65      73      70 
   Longest continuous 
   period fully crossdressed 
     Hours                            57      28      40      48      47      48 
     Days                             29      55      52      32      36      35 
    More than a week                  12      15      13      10      13      17 
   Has appeared fully 
   crossdressed in public             67      79      74      55      62      59 
   Frequency of crossdressing 
       when tense 
     Diminished                        6       5       6      13      13      13 
     Same                             24      21      22      23      20      21 
     Increased                        38      25      30      42      40      41 
     Varies                           34      48      42      32      27      26 
   Currently crossdresses 
   more often than weekly             16      49a     36      42      33      36 
   ax2 < 0.01, corrected. 
   
   Table III.  Sexual Orientation (Percentages) 
   
                        When dressed as male                 When crossdressed 
                Americans          Australians         Americans          Australians 
                Nu-   Mar-   Total Nu-    Mar-  Total  Nu-   Mar-  Total  Nu-    Mar-   Total
                clear ginal        clear  ginal        clear ginal        clear  ginal         
               (N=51)(N=126)(N=55)(N =51)(N=126)(N=55)(N=75)(N=31)(N=86) (N=75) (N=31) (N=86) 
   
Exclusively 
heterosexual    92    83     87    87     64     72    67    43    52     65     51     56 
Predominantly 
heterosexual     8    11     10    13     25     21    26    31    29     19     27     24 
Equally 
homo-hetero-
sexual  -        3     2      -     2      1      4    12     9     3      9      7 
Predominantly 
homosexual       -     -      -     7      5      -     4     2     -      5      3 
Exclusively 
homosexual       -     1      1     -      -      -     -     4     2      3      5      5 
   
   When in men's clothes, significantly more Australians reported interest in 
the homosexual direction compared to the Americans (x2 < 0.05, Yates 
corrected, cutting point nearest the mean).  There was no significant 
difference between the groups with regard to sexual orientation when in 
women's clothes (cutting point nearest the mean). 
   There was a trend, which reached significance for the American nuclear 
transvestites when crossdressed (x2 < 0.05, uncorrected), for nuclear compared 
to marginal transvestites to report a stronger heterosexual interest when 
dressed as male and when crossdressed. 
   Characteristics of Fetishism and Bondage 
   Characteristics of fetishism for women's clothes and of bondage reported by 
subjects in both groups is given in Table IV.  Spontaneous ejaculation is 
defined as ejaculation without manual stimulation while putting on or wearing 
women's clothes.  With regard to bondage, subjects were asked whether they 
ever had fantasies of being tied up or of tying somebody else up.  Four 
American and three Australian subjects first experienced fetishism after age 
40 years. 
   
   Table IV.  Characteristics of Fetishism and Bondage (Percentages) 
   
                                   Americans                 Australians             
                            Nuclear  Total   Marginal   Nuclear Total    Marginal            
                            (N=51)  (N=126) (N=55)      (N=75)  (N=31)   (N=86) 
Age in years at first 
experience of fetishism 
Under 17                     11      16      16          16      13       18      
11 to 19                     62      68      66          61      60       64 
Over 19                      22      16      18          26      13       18 
Spontaneous ejaculation 
at some stage of 
development                  48      42      44          29      34       33 
Has been sexually 
aroused by reflection 
of self crossdressed         60      66      62          77      74       76 
Current intensity of 
fetishism compared 
to earlier years 
none                         22      26      25            3      27a     19 
diminished                   34      45      40           42      43      43 
same                         32      18      24           39      15      24 
increased                    10      12      11           16      13      14 
Fantasies of bondage 
(usually of self bound 
while crossdressed)          26      30      28           32      45      41 
   ax2 < 0.05, corrected 
   
   There was no significant difference between the Australian and American 
groups on the five items recorded in Table IV.  Within the Australian group, 
significantly more marginal transvestites compared to nuclear transvestites 
denied current fetishism.  There was no significant difference between the 
nuclear and marginal transvestites in the American group. 
   DISCUSSION 
   Comparison of Australian and American Transvestites 
   There was a remarkable similarity in the characteristics reported by 
members of the Australian and the American transvestite clubs.  No significant 
difference between the two groups was found with regard to marital status, the 
proportion who desired physical feminization on six of the seven items 
concerned with crossdressing, and on all five items concerned with bondage and 
fetishism. 
   
   Concerning sexual orientation, Benjamin's (1967) observation that 
transvestites while crossdressed report a significant shift of interest in the 
homosexual direction was supported by this study.  The significantly less 
heterosexual interest while dressed in men's clothes reported by the 
Australians compared to the Americans may be a chance finding, particularly 
since subjects in both groups, when crossdressed, reported similar intensity 
of interest in the homosexual direction.  It should be noted that, even when 
crossdressed, well over three-quarters of the subjects maintain an orientation 
which is predominantly or exclusively heterosexual. 
   Australian subjects reported a significantly stronger feminine gender 
identity during their formative years compared to American subjects.  The 
differences between the two groups were not significant when subjects reported 
on items indicating feminine gender identity in adulthood. 
   The older mean age of Americans compared to Australians does not appear to 
influence the characteristics recorded.  This may be due to the fact that the 
large majority of subjects had begun crossdressing by later adolescence and, 
consequently, their pattern of transvestite behavior was well established by 
the time the questionnaire was completed. 
   Transvestism, as defined in this article, is invariably associated at some 
stage of development with fetishism.  However, the conclusion cannot be made 
that fetishism is always the primary motivating factor for transvestites to 
crossdress, as some authors have suggested (Randell, 1959; Stoller, 1968; 
Bancroft, 1972).  In this study, almost 50% of subjects reported that they 
crossdressed prior to their first fetishistic experience and over 20% 
continued to crossdress despite the fact that fetishism has ceased.  With 
regard to fetishism, little emphasis is evident in the literature written for 
transvestite consumption (Buhrich and McConaghy, 1976) or that written by 
transvestites (Prince, 1962; Personal Paper, 1971).  The finding by Prince and 
Bentler (1972) that only 12% of 504 transvestite subjects "looked upon 
themselves" as fetishists is probably due to the fact that most transvestites 
preferred not to emphasize and may gain little pleasure from this aspect of 
behavior (Buhrich, 1978). 
   The association of bondage and transvestism has been reported previously 
(Kinsey et al. 1953; Benjamin, 1966; Taylor-Buckner, 1970).  Over a third of 
subjects in this study recorded fantasies of bondage, usually of themselves 
bound while crossdressed.  Playboy (1976) reported that 3% of 3,700 male 
college students had practiced and enjoyed bondage.  Presumably the incidence 
would have been higher if the authors had included fantasies of bondage.  
Nevertheless, the association of fantasies of bondage with crossdressing seems 
likely to be more frequent than would be expected in the general population, 
as suggested by the college sample. 
   Comparison of Nuclear and Marginal Transvestism 
   With regard to the differences between nuclear and marginal transvestite 
subjects of both groups, it was found that marginal transvestites compared to 
nuclear transvestites reported a significantly stronger feminine gender 
identity and a trend, which reached significance for the American subjects 
while crossdressed, to show more interest in the homosexual direction. 
   There was no significant difference between the nuclear and marginal 
transvestites with regard to crossdressing characteristics, apart from the 
finding that, in the American group, marginal transvestites currently 
crossdressed more frequently than nuclear transvestites.  There was also very 
little difference between the nuclear and marginal transvestites with regard 
to the characteristics of fetishism and of bondage.  The one significant 
difference - namely, that Australian marginal compared to nuclear 
transvestites reported less current fetishism - cannot be attributed to the 
ingestion of female hormones (thereby inhibiting sexual arousal) since a 
similar proportion of Australian and American subjects were currently taking 
the hormones.  The difference between nuclear and marginal transvestites 
appears to be present from childhood, since marginal transvestites compared to 
nuclear transvestites in both the American and Australian groups report a 
stronger feminine gender identity on all items in Table I recording such 
characteristics during these years (p < 0.05, Sign Test). 
   There was no difference between the nuclear and marginal transvestites in 
the frequency with which bondage was reported, despite the fact that the two 
groups differed in gender identity and sexual orientation.  It would therefore 
seem that there is an association between fetishism and bondage rather than 
sexual orientation or gender identity. 
   ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 
   We gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of members of the Seahorse Club 
of Australia, members of the Society for the Second Self,and the assistance of 
Ms. C. Beecroft, Co-leader of the Society for the Second Self. 
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