November 26, 2009

Anonymous 18 and autogynephilia



Questions from a young cross-dreamer.

I got the following email the other day:

"Hey, my name is [Anonymous 18]. Im an 18 year old kid and my whole life I have used the fetish that you talk about in your blog as a sexually arousing fantasy.

I am a regular guy (in my mind) and heterosexual but my whole life I couldnt shake the feeling that these sex dreams that I have are unhealthy.

Until recentlly I started doing research on the internet and was even convinced for a little while that I was a transgendered man and then I went a few weeks thinking that I would rather kill myself than have a sex reassignment surgery.

As soon as I found your site and other sites defining autogynephillia I was so releaved and surprised, however, that this term isn't spoken about amongst others who have it.

As a beginner in the A-G community I just want to know in your words how you feel about this term. What's your gender, age, lifestyle? Do you crossdress in public (which I think is weird)?Just to hear from someone else who has this and how they deal with it would be a relief for me. Thanks!"

I asked Anonymous 18 for permission to republish this email on the blog, for truth to be told, I do not feel qualified to be the only one giving him advice on such a tough topic. Those of you that have followed this blog, know that it is definitely more of an explorative nature than evangelical.

Love life of an autogynephiliac

Anyway, this is what I wrote back:

"It is great hearing from you! One of the reasons I started this blog was the fact that I found so little written by 'autogynephiliacs' out there, which made this so much harder to bear. The problem now is that the more I write and think about this the less I trust all the words we take for granted, words like fetish, unhealthy, perversions, unnatural etc. etc.

I believe that I have come to the conclusion that the basis for what we feel is quite natural. We are part of what Joan Roughgarden call 'Evolution's Rainbow' (good book by the way!). However, since most people do not know about the condition, nor how to understand it, we end up hiding us from the rest of the world, full of shame.

I believe that 'autogynephilia' is a useful term, even if I do not buy the explanations given by the people who coined it.

There seems to be two main types of 'autogynephiliacs': cross-dressers and what I call cross-dreamers (men who dream about having a woman's body). Many are both. I am a cross-dreamer. I tried cross-dressing. It didn't work for me, I am sorry to say (!), because cross-dressing is something open-minded women actually can understand and live with.

That is the good news for you at 18: There are many cross-dressers out there that live happily married lives with women they love. There are many women who are willing to live with a cross-dresser. And most of these cross-dressers live this way without going through a sex change. It seems to me that they often do not have to transition, as they get to know and accept their feminine side through cross-dressing.

For others, however, the urge to transition becomes so strong that they do it, maybe because they are classic transsexuals, "women trapped in men's bodies", or maybe for other reasons. I guess you yourself will have to find out what your needs are. It seems to me that you have already concluded that you feel no need to transition in real life, only in your fantasy life, which is fine with me!

I am in my early forties, living in Scandinavia. From the outside there is nothing to tell people that I feel what I feel, nor have I shared this with many of my friends. I suspect that I might have chosen differently if I lived in California, for instance. See Alice Dreger's book Alice in Genderland for an example of an autogynephiliac who has chosen another path (you can read the first chapters online for free) . Alice decided to search out the club scene in California and not only cross-dress in public, but to live a double life as a part-time woman dating men!

I guess my point is that even if this is a tough burden to bear, you have a lot of opportunities. You can turn this into something really good!"

Recommendations from a psychiatrist

Anonymous 18 has one great advantage compared to many of us "elders": He has grown up with the Internet and the possibility of discussing this strange phenomenon with others online. When I was at his age, I hadn't gotten my first computer yet, and the only thing I knew about transgender issues was the few articles I had read in the newspapers. They said, of course, nothing about autogynephilia.

Anonymous 18 has also taken the step of consulting a psychiatrist, which I think can be a sensible thing to do.

I know that many transgendered report about very bad experiences when it comes to psychotherapy. The reason for this is that there are as many bigoted and prejudiced people in that crowd as in any other. Still, if you find an open minded one, he or she may be of great help. The point is not to cure the autogynephilia, but to help the autogynephiliac come to terms with what this condition is.

The psychiatrist of Anonymous 18 is clearly one searching for an answer, as he or she recommended that A18 should ask people like us for advice!

The sex life of autogynephiliacs

Anonymous 18 asks:

"What's the sex life of an autogynephilliac like? I have never spoken to any and my psychiatrist recommended me to reach out to a few. This way I can clean myself of my insecurities. Are you heterosexual, homosexual? I have always felt attracted to women and have yet to have sex but I am beginning to think that these feelings may interfere in some way with my future sexual relationships.

The thing about sex that is real scary for me is that I am attracted to women's bodies but I can't 'get over the hill' unless the fantasy of myself becoming one is fantasies. So even in sex with a woman I would have to fantasies which would probably interfere with the sex."

This is where I need your help.

I think A18 and others like him would find it really helpful to get examples on how to live with this condition. When I read comments made on this blog and in other online fora, I know that opinions are divided on this issue.

Some argue that autogynephiliacs are too self-absorbed to make long term relationships work. Others report that they have managed to integrate this into their marriages. The other day I got a thank you mail from an autogynephiliac who told me had been reading from this blog to his wife. They are still together.

Here is my response:

"Yes, this is the case with autogynephiliacs. We are attracted to women (being heterosexual/gynephiliac), and can enjoy sex with women very much. However, the real turn on for an autogynephiliac -- even when being with a woman -- is the fantasy of being a woman yourself.

So the question is whether it is possible to integrate this fantasy life into a real sexual relationship with a woman.

Many autogynephiliacs report that they manage to do that, and there are as many explanations for this as there are happily married or partnered autogynephiliacs:

1. Some enjoy the role of the man as much as of the woman. They act out the role of the man with the woman and the role of the woman in privacy. The main problem here is that the cross-dressing or cross-dreaming may become dominant.

2. They integrate the role-playing into their sex life with their partner. I have heard of pairs where the man dreams of being the woman, and the woman of being the man! The woman takes the active role, and may even use a strap-on dildo on the man. Now, there may not be many 'androphiliac' women out there (we don't know), but there are many who wouldn't mind playing along -- at least from time to time.

3. They keep their autogynephilia secret, but fantasize about being the woman while being with their partner. This may be very frustrating in the long run.

4. It has to be said that a lot of relationships break up because of autogynephilia. Some therefore end up living alone. They cross-dress and cross-dream and leave it at that.

5. Some decide to go the whole way and undergo surgery. Many of them go on to live good lives together with a woman or a another transgendered. There is also a significant proportion that changes their sexual orientation throughout the hormone therapy/surgery and end up living with a man.

As for whether an autogynephiliac is truly heterosexual or homosexual, I have a feeling reality is more complicated than that. It seems most cross-dressers and cross-dreamers are heterosexual as men. Like you, they are attracted to women. In their fantasy-life however, when dreaming about being a woman, they may imagine themselves being with a man. I would say that they are heterosexual as women as well. However, the researchers that coined the term autogynephilia deny this."

To transition or not to transition

Anonymous 18 is worried that he would end up having a sex change. There are quite a few autogynephiliacs who would say that would be a good thing. A18 does not:

"The scariest thing about being autogynaphiliac and being aware of it at such a young age is that it seems like most 'happy ending stories' involve other autogynephilliac men who eventually have sex changes. And I have no desire to transition at all, however, it seems to be a 1 way road. I'm crossed between my real life where I am happy living my life as a guy and my odd sexual desire to be a woman. In the end it's like living two very different lives and it's just difficult to ensure that I am going to win the battle.

What is your sexual orientation as an autoginaphiliac?"
My response:

My sexual orientation is gynephilic male. In real life I am attracted to women and women only. And yes, I have been with the same woman for more than 10 years!

She doesn't know everything about my autogynephilia and since I am not a cross-dresser it isn't all that visible. But she knows that I am somewhat different than other men and doesn't seem to mind.

I believe my feminine side was what she found attractive in the first place.

It isn't easy to be an autogynephiliac, but don't let anyone tell you that you cannot have a fruitful love life! It is possible, if you find the right woman. Needless to say, you may be in for quite a few disappointments before you find her -- but then again, that is true for all men, not only autogynephiliacs."

Do you have any advice for A18?



UPDATE ON TERMINOLOGY

Since this blog post was written I have stopped using the terms "autogynephilia" and "autoandrophilia" to describe people. The reason for this is that the terms implicitly communicates an explanation for why some people get aroused by imagining themselves as the opposite sex . This explanation, that this is some kind of autoerotic paraphilia,  is both wrong and stigmatizing. Instead I use the neutral term "crossdreamers".

Click here for a discussion of the dark side of the autogynephilia theory.

November 7, 2009

I Wish I Was a Girl

The Internet is a very interesting place, indeed. When searching for material to use in this blog, I came across a relevant question over at Is it Normal.

(Is it Normal? is a site where you can find out if other people think about your thoughts and your practices.)

The question goes like this:

"When I'm alone, I sometimes wish I was a girl. I'd want to do it just for the experience and answer the unknow questions about them. Then turn back, write a book, get rich."

To be honest, I think this person is looking for more than a new source of income. However, it is the answers that fascinates me. Yes, there are a few sane responses, but the hatred found among some of the others is disturbing:

One has a very practical approach. You can fix this:

"If you think you are a girl then you have a social problem or a psychological one like personality disorder. I suggest you seek professional help. It's amazing how fast they cure people. All you have to do is communicate your problem to them."

I have so far heard of no one who has been cured of such fantasies.

"Raptor Jesus" gets right to the point:

"I'll rape you either way"

That's interesting, as it means that this TG-hater subconsiously would consider having sex with a transwoman!

"Vagina King" is also pretty clear:

"Your a f**king crazy ass. Sounds like the only way you'll ever be happy is if you kill yourself."

Fortunately, the question also brought up some positive responses:

"I want to be a girl too! It would be easier to spend all my time around girls, I could do sleepovers and stuff, just imagine, sleeping at a hot girls house with like 10 other girls around all in pink pajamas and stuff, that would be awesome."

"Smothie6":

"My point is, its ok to live the other gender, this is 2009! Thats why people do these kind o things...there is nothing wrong with it...just have fun, enjoy who you are or wish to be on any given day and be safe. "

Fortunately, there were also some girls telling their stories:

"sh*t you made me feel like being a girl sucks :( but I think I would make a bad guy... I'd get boners in horrible places like funerals."

"Neuroticism" seems a little bit confused to me. I am not sure whether she is condemning or supporting:

"I would love to be a guy for a month, because I have penis envy. I want to know how they think, why they think so differently from us, why they think their role in life is worse than ours because they're forced to play the society's 'you're not a man if you...'

(Some men think that, not all).

It's just a perverse morbid curiousity that'll never be fulfilled. I'd have fantasties on it, my friend, but unless you want to, don't cross-dress. However, I take pride in men who cross dress because being a girl and wearing all that sh*t is just a hassel, it's not functional or practical (for me). Nothing wrong with it."

There is a similar question over at Yahoo! Answers, with much more constructive responses. It could be that Yahoo! is able to sort out the crackpots in a better way.

So what can we learn from this?

1. Cross-gender fantasies are highly controversial and may bring out hatred and disgust in some people.

2. Quite a few forum participants are open to the idea, and questions like these also lure transgendered people out in the open.

3. A lot of people are veeeery confused. To be expected, I suppose!

Join the Crossdream Life Forum!