September 21, 2015

12 Essential Books on Transgender

Here's another look at my transgender bookshelf. This time I present books on transgender and queer topics in general.
Illustration by Olyzel

Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity, by Julia Serano.

Serano has become our leading trans philosophers. This book is of special interest to MTF crossdreamers, as she is one of the trans activists that openly discuss crossdreaming in a non-stigmatizing way.

A fascinating discussion of the the transgender history of ideas, not only in the US, but also in Europe. Most of the models of transgender we find among activists and researchers these days were there 100 years ago.

The transgender phenomenon, by Richard Ekins, Dave King.
    Magnus Hirschfeld
A sociological approach to transgender. Includes a discussion of the autogynephilia theory.

Transvestites: The Erotic Drive To Cross Dress (New Concepts in Human Sexuality), by Magnus Hirschfeld.

This book was originally published in Germany in 1910. It remains one of the best books on crossdressing and transsexuality, written with empathy and a deep respect for the life journeys of the transgender persons he presents. Please note that for Hirschfeld the term "transvestite" is an umbrella term for all shades of transgender.

September 13, 2015

The Two Traditions of Thinking about Transgender

There are two major strands in modern sexology, both going back to the late 19th century. One is binary, gender conservative and interprets gender variation as mental illness; the other is liberal, trans-positive and understands sex and gender as complex continuums.

I have read a lot of transgender history. Too much, probably. This also applies to the science of transgender and the philosophy of transgender.
In her book Sex and Temperament from 1935, Margaret
Mead presented an amazing variation in gender roles
and expressions in different cultures, debunking one
and for all the idea that all masculine and feminine
behavior is inborn.
(Cover of 1950 Mentor paperback edition).

There is one important lesson I have learned from all of this: Every single original idea  had been presented before 1915.

The binary, pathologizing, tradition

100 years ago you would find it all:

The binary theory of two completely separate sexes, male and female, was already there. So was the idea that gender variations are perversions threatening society's "evolutionary fitness".

As now, many researchers argued that transgender conditions was caused by variations in the presence of hormones in the womb. This applied to sexual orientation too; many researchers had some difficulty keeping the two apart, then as now.

Others argued that it had to do with bad upbringing, blaming -- for instance -- strong mothers and weak fathers. Feminists, homosexuals and "primitive", non-white, people could also be blamed for spreading these "diseases".

Then, as now, the main fear was of the feminization of boys. Society needed strong, masculine, rational boys to fight wars, colonize the world and govern society, and because of this the emotional, feminine sissies -- gay or trans -- were a threat to the system.

(Tomboys and FTM transgender were also a problem, but did not constitute the same threat to the social order. After all, the fact that women wanted to be men made sense; the MTFs, on the other hand, had to be mad to desire the life of a woman.)

This binary tradition can be traced from Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing and his book Psychopathia Sexualis in 1886. via the Freudian psychoanalysts and John Money of the 20th century, up to the current autogynephilia theory of Ray Blanchard.

What unifies this tradition is not the explanation for what causes gender dysphoria or gender identity conflicts. The researchers will blame it on inherited degeneracy, hormones or feminist mothers, all depending on the researcher's natural inclinations and cultural context. What unites them is the need to present gender variation as something unnatural and unacceptable.

September 6, 2015

Felix Conrad Talks about Transgender Research, Crossdreaming and Beach Clubbing

Felix Conrad recently set up a new site called The Transcend Movement, focusing on crossdreaming and transgender issues.  We have talked to him about how to cope as transgender, his new ebook, his devastating dismissal of the autogynephilia theory and Brazilian supermodels.

On the beach
Trans philosopher Felix Conrad brings crossdreaming
to the beaches of the Mediterranean
(Photo: Design Pics/Tomas del Amo)

Felix, you have taken an unusual approach to crossdreamer blogging. Your site is not so much a blog, but more of a beach lounge or club for all things crossdreaming. What made you chose this form of communication?

My philosophy of design is quite simple... I look at what everyone else is doing, and then kick it in the nuts. Within reason.

We - and especially you - are in the business of online community building, so I decided to play with the idea of giving that community an imagined space... a beach club located within an ideal, coastal transgender community.

In this case I think my imagination got the better of me...but this is about cross'dreaming' after all.

I have also noted that you do not shy away from communicating crossdreamer dreams and desires in an 'in your face' kind of way. There are Brazilian super models, and more Brazilian super models, which fit well with the beach club theme, I guess, but which some might find sexist. Is this your way of opening up a discussion?

Sorry, Jack... no such lofty intentions. I have a long running obsession with Alesandra Ambrosio which both I - and my children - find completely ridiculous. So, when I claim my book will 'guaranteed turn you into a Brazilian supermodel' I'm laughing at myself.

I sometimes think there is a remarkable lack of humour in the transgender community. Being able to take yourself and life seriously, but realize that, in another sense you/it are absurd, is an immense liberation.

Femephilia and autogynephilia

In your book on crossdreaming you use the term femephilia to refer to sexual arousal at the idea of being a woman. What is the difference between this term and the term crossdreaming, as you see it?

Femephilia is a sexological term - like homosexual. It's cold. Crossdreamer is a term of popular culture - like 'gay.' It's huggable.

August 24, 2015

Finding Yourself Through the Crossdreamer Community

Last year I contributed a chapter on the crossdreamer community to a book on trans people and the internet. The book project was ultimately cancelled, so I have decided to publish the paper here instead.
Crossdreamer liberation is about self-acceptance
Illustration: Molay/andresrimaging/Risto Viitanen

Gender variance is breaking cultural and social taboos. This is the major reason being trans and gender variant can be so difficult. By breaking taboos, you risk losing your friends, your family, and the respect of your community.  

There is another group of taboos that are just as strong, the ones associated with sexuality. Communities world wide police desire, forcing people into very narrow boxes of normalcy. 

Crossdreamers exist where the violations of the norms of gender and sexuality intersect. Crossdreamers are men and women who not only dream about being a sex different from the one assigned to them at birth, but who have erotic fantasies about this.

This is the story about how crossdreamers started organizing online communities to explore their identities and sexualities. This is not going to be an “objective” and “disinterested” article. I have played an active part in building this community. Nor do I claim to represent all crossdreamers.  

Note that I use the term transgender as a broad umbrella term for all gender variance. According to this definition all crossdreamers are transgender, even if they are not all suffering from gender dysphoria, and even if only a minority of them are transsexual.

Psychological repression

Some transgender people become what I have called “splitters”, people who manage to divide their psyche in two, leaving one part for the inner sex and one for the outer. I have been aware of my female side since I was nine years old, but I managed to keep this side of me separate from my conscious gender identity as I grew up. I thought of myself as male, even if I considered myself a “failed” one.

August 16, 2015

Resources for Partners of Transgender People

When I found out my husband is a woman inside, I started googling. I wanted to find information for people who have a transgender spouse, forums with support for partners of transgender people and stories of couples that had found a way to make it work. Here is what I have found.
When the one you love is trans. Image by Kannaa.

By Sally Molay


August 9, 2015

Fixing up The Crossdreamer Portal

I have spent some time cleaning up The Crossdreamer Portal, our guide to sites and forums of interest to crossdreamers and crossdressers in particular and other trans and queer people in general.

Here's what has been done:

  • Implemented new visual profile, with a design more similar to (Text on white background is generally easier to read.)
  • Moved blog extracts over to the right hand column for easier access and less clutter.
  • Reduced the number of direct feeds from crossdreamer blogs. Blogs who have not been updated since 2013 have been moved into a "other" list at the bottom of the left column.
  • Reduced the number of links from the crossdreamer forums (Crossdream Life and the crossdreaming reddit). The previous list was a bit too overwhelming.
If there are sites you think are missing and should be included, please let me know. Add a comment to this blog post.

August 8, 2015

Must Read Transgender and Crossdreamer Reflections by Felix Conrad

If you have not done so already, you should go over at the Transcend Movement site and read some of the transgender and queer philosophy of Felix Conrad.
The Transcend Movement has a beach club feel to it.
This will all be explained later on.
(Illustration by alexaldo)

During the last couple of months Felix has written several very interesting blog posts on crossdreaming, crossdressing, trans and queer over at his Transcend Movement site.

We are on the same page, Felix and I, but he has his own, unique take on crossdreaming, and there are definitely places where we look at things  differently. This is exactly as it should be.

I should add that Felix has his own way of presenting his arguments -- provocative, with lots of irony, and a refreshing disrespect for political correctness. Don't let that stop you! There is gold here!

Here are some of the blog posts you may want to take a look at:

"Why Caitlyn Jenner is a bad role model for (some) crossdreamers"
Felix argues that whatever a rich American celebrity does transgender wise is of little relevance to most MTF crossdreamers.

"The cause of autogynephilia: erotic target location errors"
Felix is kinder to Ray Blanchard than I am, but read this intelligent critique of the "erotic target location error" part of the autogynephilia theory.  (And if none of these words and names mean anything to you, read the blogpost anyway! He is revealing the logical errors of traditionalist science here.)

July 31, 2015

13 Books on Crossdressing, Crossdreaming and Gender Variance

For many the struggle with sex, sexuality and gender identity leads to reading -- a lot of reading. In this three part series I will present books that have helped me in my understanding of myself, crossdreaming, gender dysphoria and transgender issues.
Illustration by Olyzel

Please add a comment if there are other books you have found helpful and interesting. I will add them to the permanent list of trans-relevant books.

She is not the man I married. My life with a  transgender husband, by Helen Boyd
  • Boyd treats crossdressers and crossdreamers with respect and empathy, but without hiding the difficulties that follows from gender variance of this kind.
Gender Madness in American Psychiatry: Essays From the Struggle for Dignityby Kelley Winters.
  • Brilliant debunking of the autogynephilia theory and a good discussion on how psychiatry has contributed to the persecution of transgender people.
Nevada, novel by Imogen Binnie
  • This novel is hard to describe: Honest, funny, tragic, radical... Anyway, the book contains some of the best descriptions of crossdreamers I have ever seen in fiction, whether they are closeted or transsexual. (And then there is that wonderful description of autogynephilia-supporter J. Michael Bailey....)
Girlfag: A Life Told in Sex and Musicals, by Janet Hardy
  • Girlfags are not necessarily female to male crossdreamers, but some of them are. Hardy's book is part autobiography, part essay on women who identify with gay men.
Grrl Alex, a Personal Journey to a Transgender Identity, by Alex Drummond.
  • A fascinating book by male a to female transgender person who tries to find a place between crossdressing and transitioning. Part 2 of the book gives a good review of research on crossdressing, crossdreaming and transsexuality.

Forum for crossdreamers, crossdressers and transgender people

Link to the Crossdream Life site for crossdreamers, crossdresser and transgender people