Travesti is the Spanish term for transvestite.
In some cultures, especially in South America, a travesti is a person who is biologically male who has a feminine, transfeminine or femme gender identity and is connected to a local socio-political identity.
Travestis have been described as a third gender, but not all see themselves this way. By the mid-2010s, a majority of South American trans social movements and activism tend to acknowledge travesti as both a possible gender identity, and a possible socio-political identifier adopted by those who identify as women but have been designated male at birth. Those who know of and acknowledge non-binary genders also tend to see travesti as a possible all-encompassing label for all femme people designated male at birth whose gender identity is not male-dominant, including those whose actual gender identities might be bigender, genderfluid, agender, pangender, trigender, and others, and also as a gender to which one can fluctuate toward in one's genderfluidity.
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. Such move also had decolonization undertones, as it was already recognized by some at that point that in pre-Columbian American societies and in pre-slavery Africa, diverse non-cisgender identities existed (e.g. Muxe, Two-Spirits, Cogender), until they were supplanted by the dominant Western colonizer's discourse of sex-gender as a binary dichotomy and opposition, with dissident individuals repressed in several forms, from shaming (in which both alternative gender expressions and those adopting them were then classified as deviant) to the death penalty.
Travestis emerged as a distinct social group in the 1970s.