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Transvestic Disorder comes about in early childhood and manifests itself in sexually deviant actions. Men suffering from TD who aren’t homosexual, more likely than not, show attraction to themselves dressed in women’s clothing. The signs of TD are noticed at an early age when the individual begins to cross dress. TD is also correlated highly with numerous sexually deviant actions. Fluoxetine and serotonin reuptake blockers may be able to lessen TD since it is an impulsive disorder. With TD being co-morbid with OCD, by treating OCD we can better treat TD itself and give a better quality of life to the patient suffering from the disease. Since autogynephilia and transgenderism are related, measures taken to alleviate TD and autogynephilia could be taken to alleviate symptoms of gender dysphoria, since autogynephilia leads to transgenderism.
Transvestic Disorder and Gender Dysphoria Identification and Prevention
Transvestic disorder is a paraphilic disorder, classified by the American Psychological Association (2013), in which males dress up as women to gain sexual gratification. The individual suffering from TD suffers from compulsions to want to dress as a woman, which causes distress due to the individual not wanting their secret to come out. This then leads to the quality of life of the individual to decrease due to constantly being worried about his secret coming out. TD is diagnosed when a male has sexual feelings and gets sexual arousal from dressing in women’s clothing. It is only diagnosed when these activities are ongoing for at least six months. TD is also similar to another paraphilic disorder called ‘autogynephilia’ (Lawrence, 2011), in which the subject is aroused at the thought of himself being a female, so he, therefore, then begins to dress as a woman to fulfill his sexual desires. Blanchard (1989) proposed that most gender-dysphoric males who do not show sexual arousal to men, instead show sexual arousal to themselves dressed in the opposite sex’s clothing. He concludes that the hypothesis is supported that major types of those men who cross-dress are nonhomosexual, and do so because they become aroused at the thought of dressing as a woman. The DSM V says that autogynephilia is a specifier to transvestic disorder. This is because they are characterized by the same things (American Psychological Association, 2013).
The signs of TD are noticed at very early ages. Most notable are when children begin to cross-dress at or before puberty. This then continues into their adult lives where it begins to be a problem and cause dysfunction due to needing to keep their secret. Dr. Mark Griffiths (2012) states that all though children may engage in transvestic behavior, what differentiates it between an adult suffering from TD is that the child who cross-dresses does so for excitement and pleasure, not for sexual pleasure. Though some researchers say that the disorder is brought on through childhood trauma, i.e., accidental exposure to women’s clothing or exposure to a woman who is undressing. Numerous studies have also concluded that many men who suffer from TD have had to deal with parental separation during childhood.
The American Psychological Association (2013), reports that fewer than 3 percent of males are characterized as having transvestic disorder. TD is most always seen in males, though Moser (2009) noted that in his study using the Autogynephilia Scale for Women (ASW), that out of the 29 respondents that sent back questionnaires, 90 percent would be classified as having autogynephilia. Though, by using a more meticulous definition, only 28 percent were seen to be autogynephilic (Moser, 2009).
Langstrom and Zucker (2005) observed in a sample of 2,450 18 to 60-year-olds in Sweden that transvestic disorder was correlated significantly with being separated from their parents, homosexual relations, higher masturbatory frequency, being easily aroused sexually and pornography use. Also noticed, was a positive attitude in regards to sexual arousal from pain, exposing oneself to a stranger and voyeurism were all positively correlated with TD. Langstrom and Zucker observed how TD is co-morbid with many other paraphilic disorders as well as other deviant behavior. By attempting to treat what TD is correlated with, symptoms of TD can be lessened.
Men suffering from TD and autogynephilia are told that women are the standard of beauty. They then look at themselves in the mirror and see a male and not the standard of beauty they were told of growing up. They then turn to cross-dressing to finally see their “beauty standard” in the mirror but keep it a secret. This strong want to keep their disorder a secret then leads to dysfunction. Men suffering from TD will go to any lengths to hide their secret. This then causes extreme dysfunction in their lives, which leads to a lessened quality of life.
Less than three percent of males suffer from TD in the American population, as such, it is classified as a deviant lifestyle as it deviates from the norm of the population. It causes distress due to them not wanting their secret to be discovered. This, in turn, leads to dysfunction where the individual cannot live their daily lives to the fullest due to their abnormal disorder. It finally leads to danger due to their secret beginning to consume their lives so that they’re not discovered.
There are ways to treat TD. Usmani et al (2012) follow a case study in which a 17-year-old Indian male who had occurring desires to wear his mother’s clothes. He then would masturbate in his mother’s clothes to alleviate himself. This continued on for two years so he could pleasure himself. He was caught by his parents wearing his mother’s clothes and was beaten by them for it. He then said that it is a compulsive behavior and cannot be helped. This case also shows the obsessive compulsive side to TD. They have an urge so strong they cannot help but to do it compulsively to alleviate their sexual desires. He also said that the occurring thoughts then affected his schoolwork as he was so preoccupied with the thought of wearing women’s clothes. All of his brain scans were found to be normal, so what brought on this case in the individual in the case study? He was then diagnosed with TD and prescribed fluoxetine, an antidepressant SSRI. The dose was started at 20 mg and increased by 40 mg once a day for two weeks. In his six-month follow-up, he reported lessened desire to masturbate with women’s clothes (Usmani et al, 2012).
Paraphilias and other related disorders have been thought of as sexual addictions. Though it has been argued that they are not sexual addictions, but are sexual compulsions (Stein et al, S 1992). The researchers reviewed 13 patients who showed signs of TD and were administered serotonin reuptake blockers. The symptoms of those individuals were then divided into paraphilias, non-paraphilic sexual addictions, and sexual addictions. Stein et al discovered that paraphilias had the least improvement with the reuptake blockers whereas sexual compulsions showed the best improvement. They end up concluding that paraphilias and other related disorders are on the impulsive end of the spectrum compared to the compulsive end. These impulsions, then, have those men suffering from TD have the urge to dress in women’s clothes to fulfill their sexual impulsion.
TD is co-morbid with obsessive compulsive disorder (Abdo, Hounie, de Tubino Scanavino, and Miguel, 2001). They used longitudinal case studies in which they assessed two individuals who had OCD as well as TD. They conclude that some cases of TD may be OCD related and not always be caused by gender dysphoria. Since OCD and TD are co-morbid, by treating symptoms of OCD, the want to cross-dress will lessen, which will then lessen the symptoms of TD. Treatments could include SSRI and fluoxetine, as previously stated in the paper. Other treatment for TD should be looked at, such as treatment for OCD due to the co-morbidity between the two. By doing so, feelings of wanting to cross-dress may lessen due to one of the underlying causes (OCD) of TD being treated.
Autogynephlia could also explain transgenderism.Transvestism can be called both a paraphila and a sexual orientation. Lawrence (2004) says that it can explain mid-life MtF transitions, progression from transvestism to transgenderism, the prevalence of other paraphilias among MtF transsexuals and the late development of male intrest in MtF transsexuals. However, when Lawrence says that “Hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery can be effective treatments in autogynephilic transsexualism”, that is incorrect. The prevalence of suicide attempts among transgenders is 41 percent according to the Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law, in comparison to 4.6 percent for the average population. That’s almost ten times higher than the national average. Clearly, surgery doesn’t do anything to alleviate the feelings of gender dysphoria, and as shown in this paper, therapy and drugs like Prozac can better help to alleviate feelings of gender dysphora in transsexuals due to them being extremely similar to eachother. These two disorders greatly mirror each other. Since Lawrence (2004) observed that there is a progression from transvestism to transgenderism, using similar techniques that work on those with TD may also work on those with gender dysphoria.
TD can be helped with the correct therapy as well as right medication. With those, impulsions to wear women’s clothes, as well as impulsions to commit abnormal acts will be greatly lessened and quality of life will be restored to a somewhat normal level. Due to co-morbidity between TD and OCD, treating OCD will, in turn, better help the patient suffering from TD. When more studies are carried out on those suffering from TD, we can see whether or not SSRI drugs and fluoxetine will have the desired effect in alleviation of the symptoms of TD. The individual in the Usmani study reported lessened symptoms and impulsions of cross-dressing, so by identifying which parts of the brain are and were activated during the fluoxetine therapy, we can then better give better care and treatment to those suffering from TD. We can also use some data from TD cases for transgenders, as TD and transgenders have a lot of things in common. With therapy as well as, maybe even fluoxetine (which is just Prozac), and high doses of testosterone/estrogen, this could possibly help to alleviate ‘gender dysphoria’. It could also lower the suicide rate as it’s completely possible that these interventions could fix them mentally.
There is little current literature in treating TD, due to it being a shameful disorder and many men not speaking about what they suffer from. One major way in which to help those with TD is to administer SSRI drugs, in which compulsion to cross-dress, and other attitudes associated with TD lessened. Blanchard (1989) proposed the autogynephilia theory for those transgenders who are not attracted to men. With the obseration by Lawrence (2004) on how autogynephilia and transgenderism are related, this can better help those with transgenderism, as they can get correct help and the right hormones they need, instead of the opposite hormones. SSRI therapy is a good candidate in treating TD, as drastic changes in deviant behavior are seen while the patient is taking the SSRI drug. Seeing as most cases of TD begin in childhood before puberty, by better identifying warning signs of these disorder, we can better treat those children who are at risk of developing these disorders before they become a big problem later in life. As more men come out and say that they suffer from these disorders, more studies can be carried out that corroborate the findings in the studies laid out here. It is extremely promising that these disorders can be treated with common drugs already on the market. In those individuals suffering from TD as well as OCD, by treating the OCD first (which may be an underlying cause) the symptoms of TD may be lessened and the individual may eventually have the ability to lead a life without TD. In using these measures on those with transgenderism, this could possibly alleviate suicide rates and other negative variables associated with these paraphilic disorders and sexual orientations.
Abdo, C.H.N., Hounie, A., de Tubino Scanavino, M., & Miguel, E.C. (2001). OCD and transvestism: Is there a relationship?. ACTA Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 103(6
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
Blanchard, R. (1989). The Concept of Autogynephilia and the Typology of Male Gender Dysphoria. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 177(10), 616-623. doi:10.1097/00005053-198910000-00004
Griffiths, M. (2012, February 28) Dressed to thrill? A brief overview of transvestic fetishism. Retrieved from https://drmarkgriffiths.wordpress.com/2012/02/28/dressed-to-thrill-a-brief-overview-of-transvestic-fetishism/
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Moser, C. (2009). Autogynephilia in Women. Journal of Homosexuality, 56(5), 539-547. doi:10.1080/00918360903005212
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Usmani et al, (2012) Treatment of Transvestic Fetishism With Fluoxetine: A Case Report. Iran J Psychiatry Behav Sci. 2012 Autumn-Winter; 6(2): 100–101