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Fenichel, O. (1930). The Psychology of Transvestism. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 11:211-226.

(1930). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 11:211-226

The Psychology of Transvestism

Otto Fenichel


All authors who have dealt with the subject of transvestism are agreed that the mysterious behaviour of the victims of this perversion has points of contact with various other perverse practices. It was not until 1910 that this manifestation of psychopathia sexualis was, rightly, described by Hirschfeld as a specific form of perversion. Earlier authors had classified cases of the sort on the basis of their points of contact with other perversions. This affinity leads us to hope that the psycho-analytical elucidation of transvestism may contribute something of importance to the explanation of the psychology of perversions in general. Again, in so far as the allied perversions have already been exhaustively studied by analytical methods, the fact that it is akin to them will enable us to understand the phenomenon of transvestism.

The behaviour of many transvestists gives an entirely masochistic impression: we call to mind, for instance, the figure which is the ideal of many such perverts—Hercules clothed in woman's garments and serving his mistress, Omphale. We know, too, that many who practise this perversion obtain gratification only when they are seen in the clothes of the opposite sex, i.e. strictly speaking, they are exhibitionists. But there are other, far more obvious, points in which transvestism is related to fetichism and homosexuality, and these points have already been the subject of scientific controversy. I refer to the over-estimation of clothing and body-linen, and to many purely fetichistic traits in cases of the sort, e.g. a particular preference for shoes or ear-rings. These characteristics have led writers on the subject to conceive of transvestism as a specific type of fetichism.

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