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In some cultures, especially in South America, a travesti is a man who cross-dresses as a woman. The word "travesti" means disguised or cross-dressed. Most of them are passive homosexuals and many live by prostituting themselves to homosexual men.

By doing so, they avoid the responsibilities of being a man and a father, without acquiring the responsibilities or onerous demands of being a mother and a real woman.

Travestis have been wrongly described as a third gender. There are only two sexes, male and female, and "gender" has no meaning when dislocated from biological sex.

Travesti was initially a pejorative term, with the same connotation its cognates in other European languages have, but has been reclaimed as a political noun by Argentinian and Peruvian travesti activists. Travestis emerged as a distinct social group in the 1970s.[1]

Common traits

Travestis attempt to pass as women. They may resort to surgery such as industrial silicone injections breast implants, or may use estrogen- and/or progesterone-based hormone therapy. Liquid silicone became popular among South American travestis in the 1980s.[2]

The difference between travesti and transsexual was supposed to be that travestis do not desire surgery to modify their genitals, whilst the latter one does. In practice, the borderline between them and between the uses of the terms is hazy.

Some travestis might claim to be lesbian, but are not, since lesbian means a woman. LGBT activists demand the use of self-ID in language, but such a policy is an attack on objective reality.

Language use and institutional perception

Travestis are very little different from transformistas (drag queens), who dress as women for performance and entertainment. The fact that travestis carry out a deception in other situations does not make them into a different gender.

LGBT jargon is being translated into Hispanic languages producing silly terms such as (transgénero, transgênero), transsexual (transexual), woman/female (mujer, mulher), femme, genderqueer, non-binary (no-binaria, não-binária), transfeminine (transfemenina, transfeminina), third gender (tercer género, terceiro-gênero).

In both Spanish and Portuguese, the translation for travesti's cognates in other European languages tends to also be travesti, which is not surprising since such definitions of "identity" are so confused and unsound in the first place. As such, it might be hard to distinguish the more Iberian, medical establishment- and dictionary-sanctioned, definition of travesti, which is one of gender expression and/or fetishism (transformista for the performance, in all of Latin America, crossdresser as the general hobby/interest, more particularly in Brazil), and the more Latin American understanding of travesti, or what LGBT activists vaguely call "transgenderness".

Transgender people continue to be dissatisfied with all attempts to anaylyze, categorize or treat their conditions, since they themselves are so neurotic, disturbed, deluded and irrational. LGBT activists demand a policy of "self-identification" without medical diagnosis or surgery. However most Latin American and Caribbean countries (including Brazil, where most travestis live) still officially require genital modification to change one's legal gender markers, when they allow one to do so.

Official government policy in Brazil, has designated areas for travestis in male-only prisons, while men and women determined to falsify their sex might both be sent to female-only prisons. This is an attack on the rights of women, who are at risk from some of the most violent men in society being incarcerated with them. [3]

Third gender

There is no third gender. There is only neuter which means neither sex. People who have had their genitals removed are neuter, but it is totally insulting to attempt to place such persons in a category with females or equivalent to females. [4] In her 1990 book, From Masculine To Feminine And All points In Between, Jennifer Anne Stevens defined travesti as "usually a gay male who lives full time as a woman," but this is nonsense as only a woman can live as a woman. Operating as an anal prostitute certainly does not make you a woman. [5] The Oxford English Dictionary defines travesti as "a passive male homosexual or transvestite."[6]

Similar male cross-dressers and prostitutes can be found in other countries include femminiello, kathoey and hijra.

As denial of pre-legal womanhood

The use of this term, however, is also used for transfeminine people with self-identification identities other than travesti (such as literal translations of transsexual woman, transgender woman, trans woman and so on), a politically loaded term, who are still not legally female, especially those who decide some forms of legally requested body modification, or those who for however reason still did not undergo such practices.

This genitalization of transgender identities is condemned by local activists and their allies, but still highly prevalent, up to the pervasive use of male pronouns by media of people known to be travestis when the standard linguistic use by the travesti themselves to refer to their kind is the one defined by feminine ones.

Transgender people of non-binary gender identities that are not feminine with seemingly feminine gender expression or seemingly feminine-headed body modifications might also be misgendered (assigning the wrong gender to someone) for the same reasons, aside disregard for the concept of a gender other than man or woman and people who feel like belonging in them (binarism, also known as discrimination towards non-binary gender persons). Usually, the concept of gender-neutral language in Spanish and Portuguese is regarded as a post-modern substandard construct that characterizes use of "improper language" by vehicles of mass information and ink-written media in general.

Sex industry

Travestis often work in prostitution and pornography. One travesti organisation in Argentina reported in 2005 that 79% of the 302 travestis interviewed in Buenos Aires and Mar del Plata work principally as prostitutes.[7]

In Mexico, travesti sex workers are among the groups most affected by HIV.[8]

In other languages

In French-speaking countries, travesti means transvestite, anyone who is dressing up as the opposite sex. In the Greek language, the same word (τραβεστί) is also used to describe people who identify as a third gender, and who are particularly visible in the sex work industry.[9] 'Travesti' derives from 'trans-vestir', or 'cross-dress'.

See also


  1. Garcia, Marcos. "Issues Concerning the Informality and Outdoor Sex Work Performed by Travestis in Sa ˜ o Paulo, Brazil".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Calkin, Jessamy (5 June 1994). "The silicone sisterhood: Among Brazil's poor, there are three sexes: Men, women and travestis -biological males who have changed themselves by art and science into something very close to females. Many use liquid silicone injections in order to enhance the transformation; but the cost, for some, can be terrible". The Independent. London.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. prisonersamento-populacao-lgbt-em-estabelecimentos Resolução estabelece tratamento à população LGBT em estabelecimentos prisionais. Agência Brasil, April 17th, 2014.
  4. Kulick, Don (1998). Travesti: Sex, Gender, and Culture among Brazilian Transgendered Prostitutes (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998)
  5. Stevens, Jennifer Anne (1990). From Masculine To Feminine And All points In Between. Cambridge, MA 02238: Different Path Press. ISBN 0-9626262-0-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Oxford English Dictionary. Cambridge, MA 02238: Oxford University Press, USA. 1989. ISBN 978-0-19-861186-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. La gesta del nombre propio, edited by Lohana Berkins and Josefina Fernández for ALITT (Asociación de Lucha por la Identidad Travesti y Transgenero, "Association for the Fight for Travesti and Transgender Identity"), published by Ediciones de Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires, 2005
  8. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  9. Λεξικό της κοινής νεοελληνικής


  • Kulick, Don (1998), Sex, Gender, and Culture among Brazilian Transgendered Prostitutes (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998) ISBN 978-0-226-46100-7
  • Prieur, Annick (1998), Mema’s House, Mexico City: On Transvestites, Queens, and Machos (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998) ISBN 0-226-68257-9
  • Fernández, Josefina (2004) Cuerpos desobedientes: de género, Buenos Aires, Edhasa, 2004.
  • González Pérez, César O. (2003) dos al desnudo: homosexualidad, identidades y luchas territoriales en Colima, México, Miguel Angel Porrúa, 2003.