The Five Steps

Taylor Buckner’s paper The Transvestic Career Path makes for an interesting read, even if one doesn’t agree with some - or even any - of his conclusions. The salient points follow.

First, as the result of an admittedly unrepresentative sample of 262 people, Buckner makes the following generalisations about transvestites (all American spelling corrected):-

    “The ordinary transvestite is a man. He is probably married (about two-thirds are); if he is married he probably has children (about two thirds do). Almost all of these transvestites said they were exclusively heterosexual - in fact, the rate of '`homosexuality" was less than the average for the entire male population. The transvestic behaviour generally consists of privately dressing in the clothes of a woman, at home, in secret. However, some transvestites go out in public dressed as women, many more would like to do this, and a few live exclusively as women. (Possibly these people are more transsexual than transvestic.) The transvestite generally does not run into trouble with the law. His cross dressing causes difficulties for very few people besides himself and his wife. He tends to be fairly passive and secretive about his behaviour.”

He then defines what he means by transvestism:-

     “Pure transvestism...consists only of the desire to wear feminine clothing and of sexual gratification, by conventional definition, from wearing this clothing...I will argue further that in addition to sexual gratification there is also a social gratification coming from the internalisation and the internal enacting of a role relationship which is customarily enacted between two people.”

Astute readers will note that Buckner’s definition differs from that of of Blanchard who, when it suits him (see here, for example) uses the word transvestite as a synonym for what the DSM-IV calls transvestic fetishism even though it is not.

As a result of his intensive interviews with seven transvestites (see Footnote 1), Buckner concludes that there are five steps which must be taken before a person can become a transvestite. These may be preceded by biological conditions which lead to passivity, low libido and the lack of a strong aggressive drive, or, more likely, a socially conditioned passivity and lack of social drive. There is no evidence for a biologic aetiology. In either event, the biological or socially induced passivity is not a necessary precursor to transvestism but is often found in conjunction with it.

Buckner’s five steps are as follows:-

    1. “In most cases, although not absolutely all, the first step in becoming a transvestite comes between the ages of about five and fourteen from the association of some item of feminine wearing apparel with sexual gratification, usually through masturbation.”

    2. The second step in becoming a transvestite comes when the youth perceives some heterosexual difficulties...”

    3. “The third step in becoming a transvestite is the blockage of the homosexual outlet. ”

    4. “The fourth step in becoming a transvestite involves this elaboration of masturbation fantasies into the development of a feminine self. ”

    5. “The fifth step in becoming a transvestite involves fixing the gratification pattern in the identity of the transvestite. Until this fifth step occurs one cannot speak of a person as being a true transvestite; he may have branched off into some other form of deviant sexual behaviour, or he may be functioning in a normal heterosexual pattern.”

Buckner concludes that this pattern of gratification usually becomes fixed in the transvestite's identity by the age of 18 to 20, though in some instances it becomes stabilised later in life. He concludes his paper with this summary:-

    “...the apparent career path of the transvestite, a pattern of masturbation with articles of feminine clothing is sometimes re-established (or it may never have stopped) when there is a perceived difficulty in establishing successful masculine and heterosexual identity, combined with a blockage of the possibility of achieving a homosexual identity. When a male adopts this pattern and elaborates it into an entire feminine identity, he finds it gratifying in both sexual and social ways. When it becomes fixed in his identity, he begins to relate toward himself in some particulars as if he were his own wife, and he receives many of the social and sexual rewards of the marital relationship by doing this. He thus mimics his goal of a heterosexual relationship without the threatening presence of a person of the opposite sex. His internal relationship may then be so strong that he will maintain it even after having established a real heterosexual relationship, and it will continue as his pattern of gratification, and his pattern of social relationship, for the rest of his life.”

So there you have it, folks. According to Buckner, cross-dressers are simply sexual deviants who can neither make it through life as real heterosexuals nor real homosexuals. But if you think that is his most extraordinary claim, read this amazing and completely unverified - or even unverifiable - statement by him:-

    “The culture in which one lives provides predominating patterns to which most people are easily socialised and goals which most people accept.(my emphasis)

Were Buckner able to substantiate his claim that most people are “easily socialised” on anything other than a superficial level, then he would have produced ineluctable evidence that most psychological and psychoanalytical pronouncements are simply self-serving fabrications that have little underpinnings in credible science.

 Buckner then contradicts himself, for he continues:-

    “But the culture does not always provide the means whereby everyone can follow these patterns and reach these goals. Certain common blockages produce certain conventional forms of deviant behaviour.”

However, if these “forms of deviant behaviour” are as “conventional” as he claims then, by definition, large numbers of people, perhaps even the majority, have not been “easily socialised”. Furthermore, he subsequently admits in his paper that society is “coercive” but, by definition, that word means “to force or compel by using threats. If coercion is so necessary that it becomes a defining characteristic of a culture, then it is a complete distortion of language  to claim that “...most people are easily socialised and [cultural] goals [are those] which most people accept”.

Incidentlly, Buckner’s prognosis for cross-dressers does not make cheery reading either:-

    When a transvestite seeks "therapy" it is pointless to tell him that transvestism comes from latent homosexuality, or that it is a sexual deviation. A possible therapeutic approach for the transvestite, based upon the theory presented here, would be to explore with him the social functions of his transvestism. If he can come to recognise the social gratifications it supplies, which he may not have thought of, as well as the sexual gratifications of which he is well aware, he may be able to find other means for providing similar gratifications, and his internal wife may become less necessary. Given a supportive sociosexual milieu, such as a willing and unthreatening partner, he may find transvestism less compelling...though it is probably a mistake to think that a simple, habitual, direct means of sociosexual gratification will be completely replaced without a considerable alteration in life style.”

So there you have it folks, for what it’s worth.

How many of the “five stages” matched your profile, if any?

For me, the answer is none, so it would seem that I am not real cross-dresser at all - better not let my wife know that, or she’ll stop buying me things for my wardrobe. 


1. The seven subjects were comprised of a medical doctor engaged in research, a professor, a Ph.D. in research, an architect with two professional degrees, a university student, an executive, and a minister, but nowhere does Buckner acknowledge that this sample is both unrepresentative per se and too small to be sufficiently significant for him to draw the conclusions he does and claim that his “five steps” represent a definitive transvestic career path.

2. It is also interesting to compare Buckner’s definition of a “true transvestite with that of Harry Benjamin, which can be found on my CD Types page.

3. Similarly, it is interesting to compare Buckner’s model for the development of cross-dressing identity with that suggested by Cass for the development of homosexual identity formation - see here.