January 29, 2010

On the innate femininity of male to female crossdreamers ("autogynephiliacs")

Is the the femininity of male to female crossdreamers ("autogynephiliacs") genetic or is it just an erotic target location error?


Image: Tanyarat Jirapatpakon, a kathoey or Thai transsexual woman.


One good online friend asked me the other day why I was so critical towards Ray Blanchard. It was a good question. After all, I have bought his idea of there being a distinct group of heterosexual men fantasizing of becoming women (as opposed to classic transsexuals). Some of them crossdress, and minority of them even end up transitioning, getting hormone treatments and sex reassignment surgery.

Since I am an crossdreamer (AKA "autogynephiliac") myself, I know that we exist. 

On terminology 

Note of 2013: Since this blog post was written I have stopped using the word "autogynephiliac" to refer to people who get turned on by picturing themselves as the other sex. 

The word entails an explanation for the condition that is not only wrong, but also highly stigmatizing. I am now using the word crossdreamer, which has no such connotations.
Erotic target location error

I guess my main problem is with his explanation for this condition. He argues that the reason "autogynephiliacs" get turned on by imagining themselves as women, is because they have internalized their natural object of attraction, i.e. women, into themselves. This is an "erotic target location error".

Basically, he argues, the "autogynephiliacs" are heterosexual men, but somehow, something has gone wrong. Instead of focusing their desire on real women out there, they are attracted to the idea of they themselves being women. It is a kind of self-obsessed narcissism (although he doesn't use those words).

His follower Anne Lawrence has gone as far as suggesting that this can be some kind of alternative sexuality: homosexuality is same sex attraction, heterosexuality is between-sex attraction and autogynephilia is a kind of inside-yourself-sex attraction.

Evolution

I can see why Blanchard has come to this conclusion. It is partly because of his ideology. He is grounded in traditional evolutionary biology, where the basic pattern of sexuality is oriented towards procreation. In evolutionary terms only heterosexual sex makes sense, as only that can lead to the transmission of genes. (For an alternative view, see my posts on Joan Roughgarden).

Blanchard and his supporter Bailey have spent a lot of time trying to make sense of homosexuality in evolutionary terms. That is hard enough. The autogynephiliacs make it all even more complicated, and by clearly defining them as "normal", although perverted, heterosexuals they avoid further complication.

His explanation is supported by the fact that many "autogynephiliacs" display a kind of narcissistic behavior. Some of them get so obsessed with their secret fantasies and practices, that it gets hard for them to develop normal love relationships with another person. The idea of them being in love with themselves therefore seems to make sense.

In denial?

You could argue that the reason I am reluctant to accept this, is that the thought of being labelled a fetishist or paraphiliac (in essence a dysfunctional pervert) does not appeal to me. And that could be true. I may be living in denial. I have done so before.

Still, I have a deep gut feeling telling me that this explanation is too simplistic. Blanchard may be onto something, but this hypothesis does not ring true. There is much more to this phenomenon than this. The fact is, for instance, that many male to female crossdreamers do manage to establish good and loving relationships with women.

Moreover, his isn't really an explanation. He or his supporters have not really told us how or why this internalization takes place.

Crossexualism leads to autogynephilia

To help myself think more clearly about this, I have started to distinguish between crossdreaming as a condition and a hypothetical cause for crossdreaming. I have called the hypothetical complex that underpins crossdreaming "crossexualism". I am using the cross-prefix as it is already used for crossdressing, and in my own term "crossdreaming".

Crossexualism is the cause, autogynephilia is the effect.

Depending on the individual's biological/personal/cultural or social basis, the crossexual can develop different symptoms. Some end up crossdressing. Others start exploring transgender erotica about men being changed into women (crossdreaming). Some seek pleasure in behaving like women (crossenacting).

It could also be that crossexuals may develop other conditions, like gynemimetophilia (transsensuals, men who are attracted to pre-op transsexuals). Maybe some crossexuals become transgenderists, i.e MTF transsexuals who keep their original genitalia. But this is pure speculation on my part.

AGPs are unfeminine

Blanchard and Bailey deny that "autogynephiliacs" have an innate femininity. They believe that classic transsexual women (who they call homosexual transsexual men) are effeminate, but the "autogynephiliacs" are not. They and several other researchers base this understanding on observations.

Let's for a moment forget about the methodological problems related to defining who look and behave femininely and who don't. Let us forget about the fact that male to female crossdreamers in general transition later in life than classic transsexuals, and that this may influence the observer's ability to distinguish between the feminine and the unfeminine (older women may look less feminine than younger ones). Let us also disregard the fact that even natural born genuine girls may look less feminine than many transsexuals.

Let us for the sake of argument accept that "autogynephile" men in general look more masculine than effeminate homosexual men, and that "autogynephile" transsexuals on average are more manly than classic transsexuals. The male to female crossdreamers -- on average -- find it harder to pass as a woman than the classic transsexuals.

Do AGPs have an inner woman?

If this is the case, does this prove that the male to female crossdreamers have no innate femininity? Or to put it in other terms: Does this prove that the "inner woman" of the crossdreamer is something that has been introduced into his/her psyche from the outside, while the "inner woman" of a classical transsexual is inborn?

(Just to make sure: Blanchard does not believe that androphilic, man-loving, transsexuals are women, but he does believe that they are more feminine that other biological born men, so I guess you could say he does accept some kind if innate femininity. To me they are women.)

The reason Blanchard & Co couple the looks of these people with their potential femininity, is most likely because he believes that the femininity of homosexuals and androphilic transsexuals is hormonal. A demasculinisation of a man may bring about both feminine looks and feminine manners. The looks, manners and psychological femininity are interconnected.

A different approach from Thailand

This brings me over to an interesting discussion taking place on this blog. There are now more than 80 comments on my Beyond the perversion post, encompassing a large number of useful exchanges. One of these discussions was initiated by a sexologist working in Thailand.

Natalie points to an article on the femininity of homosexuals and argues that the genetic condition that causes the femininity of gay men is the same as causes the femininity of autogynephiliacs.

She argues that the main difference between gay men and autogynephiliacs is their sexual orientation, not that the femininity of the homosexuals is essentially different from the one of the AGPs.

Gay gene vs. camp gene

She simplifies this by talking about two genes: "the gay gene" and "the camp gene". The feminine gay man has both, the autogynephiliac has only the latter.

I don't believe that one gene can cause homosexuality or a complex phenomenon as autogynephilia, but let's say that there are specific complexes of genetic and hormonal factors that cause both of these phenomena. If this is the case, would Natalie's line of argument make any sense?

If it did, you would have an alternative explanation for autogynephilia that fits the obervations made by researchers like Blanchard and Lawrence, but that do not reduce autogynephiliacs to fetishists or paraphiliacs.

Jack in Will and Grace

I voiced my scepticism in this way:

"I am no expert on gay men, both I know a few. Few of them are very effeminate (you know, like Jack in Will & Grace), but some are. Still their femininity is not like anything an XX woman would display, especially not if you move into the realm of flamboyant exhibitionism (like the one of drag queens). Truth to be told, I do not know how to understand this type of homosexuality. I like them, but I do not 'get' them!

That makes it hard for me to decide whether the cause of effeminate display among homosexual men is the same as the one for AGP [autogynephilia].

My first reaction is no, because very few AGPs displays the same mannerisms as Jack in Will & Grace. Quite the opposite, actually, we often seem very masculine, both in the way we look and the way we move.

I have clear feminine traits, but they are found in my personality and in my interests, not in any form of 'campness'. I am as far away from camp as it is possible to imagine. Really :-)

But that does not exclude the possibility that there is a factor X that causes both effeminate behavior among gay men and the dream of becoming a woman among AGPs."

My point was that there ought to be a connection between the outward expression of femininity and the inner femininity.

Natalie did not agree.

Gender identity is different from gender expression

Here is her response:

"I wouldn't say 'camp' is a form of behavior which is unwomanly. It is just that women normally don't intend to display it as it has no purpose whatsoever in their ordinary lives. However quite a lot women do engage in that, especially, when it comes to earning fame through glamour and beauty in fashion, film and music industry.

And the very same goes for drag queens. Most drag queens perform it as a form of art, to impersonate females or create an effect parallel to the glam females and hence get a lot of spotlight, attention and wider fame on stage. For them, finding sexual partners or having stable family isn't as essential as their need for media spotlight. Same goes for many XX women from the fashion industry too who are rejecting all traditional female roles for fashion.


But does that rule out they are women and feminine?

Camp is just an outward display or affectation but the genetic makeup which causes it has to be nothing but XX feminine.

Gay males, on the other hand, don't appear femme in the first place but still most are, or at least have been, at a certain stage of life. Fashion may be an area of interest to them or not, but, to form stable relationships and to become potentially attractive clients in the homosexual market, they masculinize themselves and try to avoid every shred of that feminity their problems started with.

But I do suspect that had they not found [in] their early childhood [that] unmanly behaviors were inviting censure from Western society, they would have become more feminine or camp as well. I say this as in my country, just 42% of the kathoey [Thai transsexuals] report they have the mind of a true girl though all of them report feeling different from manly men and also feel they are quite feminine.

Which leads me to conclude that many of these are just feminine gay men who have been put into kathoey category by the Thai society just because they are feminine. Yet they happily grow up as girls.

So, I would say, femininity is present and is the same for all of them- gay and bigender males, drag queens all the way to homosexual transsexuals. The degree of femininity displayed depends on which part of feminity they like most and which serves their purpose of survival provided they are not forced to repress it. But their basic genetic makeup or combinations of genes have same underlying base of femininity.

And so, finally, if autogynephiles are also feminine in some way, they must be having the same combination of genes which make them unmanly. They aren't camp just because they aren't drawn to it and they don't need it as any accessory tool."

Survival strategies

My interpretation of what Natalie says is that homosexual men have two choices:

(1) To suppress their feminine side in order to attract gay men (which is more common in Europe and Northern America), or

(2) to accentuate their feminine side to attract heterosexual men (which is more common in Thailand). These gay men teach themselves feminine mannerisms. According to Natalie the mannerisms are not inborn.

Male to female crossdreamers may be equally feminine at heart, but they do not display their feminine side outwards, as they are not rewarded for it. They are attracted to women, and women like masculine men. Or, at least, the autogynephiliacs believe that women are attracted to stereotypically masculine men only. Because of this they never learn feminine mannerisms.

Note that Natalie used the term "homosexual transsexual". I don't use this term myself because it may lead you to believe that the classical transsexual women are in fact gay men. They are not, as I see it. But you could, even if you follow Natalie's line of argument, say that the "classic transsexuals" are complete women as this femininity is inborn. It is not a result of a free choice or cultural conditioning. The kathoeys that report they have "the minds of a true girls" are classical transsexuals, because they do have the minds of true girls.

According to Natalie, there is another group of kathoeys that are not classic transsexuals, but feminine gay men. Even if male Thais take part in a kind of macho culture, the Thais are fairly tolerant towards the kathoeys. The feminine homosexual male may therefore adapt the role of kathoey with success.

The same may apply to some Latin and Middle Eastern countries, where a man is not considered homosexual if he takes the active part in the sexual act. Feminine gay men may therefore find active heterosexual male partners. Acting feminine pays off.

Identity and mannerisms

I remained skeptical. I argued that this requires that there is no biological causality between genetically based femininity and mannerisms. I.e.: their femininity is biological, but their "campness" is an act.

Some report that many (but not all) autogynephiliacs s find it especially hard to pass after transition, simply because they do not appear feminine or behave in a feminine manner. Natalie's point, though, is that there is a difference between gender identity and gender expression (cp. Betty's comment).

Gender identity is your fundamental and personal experience of being a man or a woman. Gender expression is how you present this identity to the world. There are natural born women who identify as women, but who nevertheless do not appear very feminine in public. In the same way a feminine man can appear masculine in public.

Looking at girls


"I guess there is a certain difference in how homosexuals and heterosexuals look at girls. Homosexual men, more specifically, in most places outside Europe or North America, look at females just like ordinary girls do and try to imitate them as far as possible for presenting their beauty, as their primary purpose is to appear pretty.

They have not much difficulty in imbibing the campness and feminine behavior with just a bit of practice on a highly subconscious level.

However, heterosexuals usually look at women sexually. And so do the autogynephiles although they themselves have a feminine component inside.

So, while these homosexuals would go on making their inner feminine persona presentable and so would concentrate on their outward mannerisms, autogynephiles go on to eroticize this inner woman due to their sexuality. And because they don't see women that way, they fail to behave feminine too.

But that does not mean they are not feminine. I have heard many AGPs have felt different from other boys in childhood and also have had a strong femininity. It's that they haven't noticed their femininity like other girls and homosexuals or Classic transsexuals, because they simply did not need to pay attention to it and also worse, they were obviously made to believe they are boys.
In a way, they were more blind to their female component until their sexuality in puberty showed them...."

Repressed femininity

What Natalie does here is to turn the traditional story upside down: Male to female crossdreamers have, for some reason or the other, repressed their inner femininity. Following your basic dynamic psychology this would mean that this suppressed part of their personality needs to find another outlet, and in the case of autogynephiliacs this is through sexual fantasies.

If I understand Natalie correctly, there is another reason for this as well: Gay men imitate women because they share the same objective: to attract men. Auotgynephiliacs cannot do that, because their objective is to attract women. In our culture a man who behave like a woman is automatically labelled as effeminate and gay, and the autogynephiliacs need to avoid that label if they are to succeed as woman-loving males.

This does not have to be a conscious choice. Early attempts at feminine behavior would have been punished - if not by parents, so by play mates.

So: according to Natalie the autogynephilic eroticism is the effect, and not the cause as it is with Blanchard, Bailey and Lawrence.

Childhood femininity

In order to prove this, you would have to prove that male to female crossdreamers have this feminine component from childhood on. The research does not indicate this. In fact, on an aggregate level the pattern is that classical transsexual M2F women identify as girls at a very early age (younger than five years old), while the autogynephiliacs do not become aware of their condition until puberty.

I suspect that MTF crossdreamers do become aware of their condition long before puberty. In my case I had childhood fantasies of becoming a girl as early as the age of 10 or 11, while puberty started at around 15 (I was damned late!). My dreams of becoming Supergirl was not explicitly sexual in nature.

(Lawrence actually agrees that autogynephilia may appear before puberty, but she argues that it is sexual in nature, all the same).

I cannot remember having dreams about being a girl at the age of five. Natalie may still be right, though. This innate femininity may express itself in many ways in childhood, and not necessarily as a dream of being a girl at that stage.

The outsiders

Natalie argues that many "autogynephiliacs" report that they felt different from other boys in childhood. I get the exact same reports: Even if they do not express feminine behavior, they do display what I -- for lack of a better word -- would call non-masculine behavior.

I hated rough and tumble play, I hated sports, I was the quiet one, and throughout life I has kept this "feminine" approach to life: being the integrator and the peace maker, rather than the aggressor.

Like classic transsexuals, male to female crossdreamers report of school days where they were being bullied and persecuted for being different. Like classic transsexuals many of them were called sissies and faggots, in spite of their budding love for girls.

Parental conditioning

It could also be that MTF crossdreamers do want to be girls at an early age, but that they have been forced to suppress this longing because of parental conditioning. If that is the case, we will have to explain why this kind of repression is less likely to occur amongst classic transsexuals.

One possible answer could be that there is both a gradual and a dynamic dimension to the innate femininity of all these various types of biological men.

By gradual I mean that some men are more feminine than others. As I have noted before, I feel like I have a mix of typical masculine and feminine traits. I have a strong inner woman, but I do not think that I am a woman trapped in a man's body. I also have a strong inner man. That makes me different from a classic transsexual woman.

That would mean that what I have called crossexualism above (the unknown cause of autogynephilia) could be a subcategory under the broader inner femininity concept of Natalie.

By dynamic I mean that the femininity of men can unfold throughout time, as may other psychological traits. For some reason androphilic feminine biological men become aware of their femininity at an earlier age than the gynephilic ones. This could be an effect of their sexual orientation. They are programmed by nature to attract men and that force is so strong that it defeats the many suppression attempts made by family and friends.

(And yes, in case you wondered: Children are sexual beings. They are training for adulthood, and start flirting before they can walk.)

I am not going to conclude on this in this post. This is a work in progress. But I must say I find this discussion very interesting, and I will definitely explore Natalie's ideas in more detail.

I would like to thank Natalie and the rest of you for all these fruitful interventions. Keep'em coming!

[Update for new readers February 2014: I no longer use the words "autogynephiliac" or "autogynephile" to describe transgender persons, as the words themselves refers to the stigmatizing erotic target location theory of Dr. Ray Blanchard (meaning love of oneself as a woman). There is absolutely no evidence to support this theory, and it is predominately used to invalidate the identity of trans people. I have coined the neutral term crossdreamer to describe both female bodied and male bodied people who get aroused from the idea of being their target sex. I have made a few edits in this post to reflect this change.]

45 comments:

Robs said...

That is quite an enlightening article about the latent innate femininity of autogynephiles.I have also always believed that AGP people do have some powerful feminine force inside them.
But, does presence of innate femininity prove that the person is a real woman? All categories of gender variant people right from feminine androgynous males,drag queens to metrosexuals have been known to be in touch with their feminine sides, but are still not called "women". Infact gender-bending has become a norm in many men's bedrooms secretly. So, the ultimate question that remains lurking is how much woman the AGP is.

Natalie said...

Robs,
I don't think the autogynephilia debate is about proving they are women. It is rather an attempt to dismiss the argument by experts like Blanchard and Bailey, that they are heterosexual men with perverted "fetishes".
My innate femininity theory validates this point that it is not a fetish, rather an outcome of something internal.
And yes, I believe all the gender variant people you mention about who secretly do gender bending in bedrooms are having same type of innate femininity, leading towards their androgyny. However,the degrees vary depending on how powerful it is. Why should AGP be the exception?

Joru said...

Jack,
Great work by both you and Natalie. However,I am waiting for the day when society would consider as just another type of human being rather than perverts. Do you think such a day will come soon?

Jack Molay said...

To Rob,

Are autogynephiliacs "real women"?

I think classic transsexuals definitely are real women. They identify as women at a very early age. As kids they think of themselves a women before they have come to the point were they have to problematize everything, and there is no way this is caused by parenting or the influence of play mates.

Whether Natalie is right in saying that the (possible) femininity of classic transsexuals, feminine gay men and autogynephiliacs have the same biological cause, I do not know.

But even if that is the case, there will still be huge differences between classic transsexuals and autogynephiliacs. Sexual orientation is just one of them.

So, are autogynephiliacs real women?

I think I am not. I am as much a man as I am a woman. But I am in many ways alienated from my own body, and I do feel a deep longing for another life.

There are autogynephiliacs that are even less of a woman than I am. They are men in all respects except for having some unharmful erotic fantasies about taking the female role. They are not alienated from their male bodies, and enjoy taking the active role when having sex.

But there are also autogynephiliacs who's feminine side is so strong that they feel a deep and crippling longing to become women full time.

Some of them hate their male genitalia, and some of them end up transitioning. Are they "real women"? Or for that matter: Are the feminine gay men who become kathoeys "real women"?

If you believe in the total dichotomy of a binary system, they are not. If that's what you believe, you could maybe call them transgendred or a "third sex" in order to be kind.

I get a lot of reports about autogynephiliac transsexuals that seem pretty helpless when it comes to talking the way women do when they go to the restaurant's restroom, and whose dress sense is somewhat lacking. But then again I know genuine girls who are equally awkward about this, and I read about autogynephiliacs who gradually teach themselves the tacit knowledge of women.

I believe in change and wo/man's ability to evolve emotionally and intellectually. Some things are hardwired, like sexual orientation. Some things are not, like mannerisms, if you believe Natalie.

This leads me to believe that many autogynephiliac transsexuals can grow into the role of "real women", even if they will always take their inner man with them. But seriously, many women also have a strong inner man. That does not make them less of a woman!

If someone has such a deep longing to become a woman that they go through the hell of transitioning, she is a woman to me.

sillyolme said...

Jack,

Kudos!!! This is exactly the kind of dialog that is needed to get to the bottom of what's going on. No denial, either way.

My childhood friend, MJ, showed no "feminine" behavior... at least not of the "womanly" kind, not like me... yet, she was horribly bullied, beaten, harrassed, and even sexually assaulted, as a kid and a teen. But interestingly, though we were in the same crowd, our tormentors were mutually exclusive... I a was bullied and harrassed, but by a different set of boys!

My obvious femininity was recognized by the homophobic bullies as being like a girl. In fact, one night, I was attacted by two boys who yelled homophobic comments as they beat and kicked me, and tellingly sneered, "You think you're a girl? You make me sick."

But MJ, who transitioned at age 40, with the emotional support of her wife (high school sweetheart), was not percieved as being like a "girl"... but as not measuring up to being "a man". It was like she had an otherwise invisible sign on her back that said, "kick me", that her tormentors responded towards. Something about her bothered a great deal of the kids at school, both boys and girls. She had only four friends. I was one of them. The other three were girls. Not one masculine boy could stand to be around her... yet, for all of my obvious femininity, I was *very* popular, at least from Jr. High onwards, with both boys and girls, save for the outright homophobes.

(Interestingly, the boy who was my worse nemesis is now a very friendly corespondent through the internet... as he has come to grips with his own homphobia / transphobia.)

I have my own theory about what makes the AGP person different. I don't think it is "femininity" per se... but an overly powerful mirror neuron system... leading to simultaneouly being aware of an attraction to femininity in others, and of "walking a mile in her shoes", though the same neural circuits that allow us to feel other people's emotional states, to experience empathy. This then would not be a paraphilia, but an extension of a healthy ability to project ourselves into other's heads. But I don't know how to test this hypothesis.

This is why, though I think the underlying "rules" are correct, calling this phenomena an "error" is inaccurate... instead it is a "mapping" operation. Think of it as a form or sexual synesthesia.

BTW, re: childhood awareness and even expression of autogynephilia. Several researchers looking into femininity in boys have stumbled across boys who could only be described as exhibiting sexual arousal to cross-dressing as early as age three. Green had one in his feminine boy study. If you read carefully, you notice that his cross-dressing is the only reason his parents took him to the clinic where Green saw him. The boy described wearing girls clothes as fun... and that it always resulted in penile erection! This boy grew up to be a heterosexual crossdresser. Zucker found a boy, three years old, who got penile erections to wearing his mother's high heeled shoes and other garments. So... this pattern of arousal is found *very* early. We often forget that though their libido is not very high, children are indeed sexual creatures.

--Cloudy

tg_captioner said...

perhaps one day there will be no clean line for gender, it will be a gradient wash. We as human beings are who we are. We know what we like, and we pursue those things. supressing feelings only works for so long, something inside of us drives us, whether it be crossdressing, crossdreaming, or liking opposite gender activities (sewing, fashion, etc).

I remember in high school I loved drawing on the back of my jean jacket. Granted it was video game stuff, and I got teased for it (though not sure because I was drawing on my coat or if it was because it was video games, which was considered a little geeky back then). All I know is that I can remember hating boy clothes, and loved what women got to wear (sparkly, lacey, colorful, all shapes and sizes), and the average boy got to wear tshirts, jeans, and sneakers.

We shouldn't be judged on what we wear, or the activities we like to do, but unfortunately we are, and that's what causes us to conform. To avoid those confrontations.

Robyn P said...

Jack,

These discussions and comments are fascinating! There are so many different, interesting points that everyone is bringing up. One thing that Natalie said seems very important to AGP. "In a way, they were more blind to their female component until their sexuality in puberty showed them...."

If this could be researched in depth, this might show a strong link to a chemical (i.e. testosterone) "trigger" at puberty and AGP.

There are some important questions here. First, there is the implication that the feminine component exists before puberty. Where did it come from?

Second, how was it hidden? There seems to be two fairly distinct groups: one group started at a very early age their cross-gender activity while for others it did not start until puberty.

Finally, how come the testosterone flooding the body and the brain at puberty not only unleashes the masculinity but also "unhides" this female component?

I recall growing up that even though I knew there were two sexes, I did not know what sexual identity really was... and I really didn't care... I recall being teased constantly at school by my peers who teased me and laughed at my lack of knowledge of all things sexual... I definitely wasn't a typical "rough and tumble" boy growing up but I definitely was not effeminate either. I was just... nothing... That all changed for me when puberty came because that is when both my crossdressing and my infatuation for girls started.

Robyn P.

Anonymous said...

Nowadays, another popular subcategory of gender-variant men are coming into picture who term themselves "metrosexuals". By definition,he is said to be a category of heterosexual man strongly concerned with his appearance and fashion. Here is a typical one:
http://www.mynippon.com/MYNIPPON0707/story129.htm

I came upon this label a long time back but did not understand why there was really a need for a special label for this. Afterall, all men in urban classes these days are and have to be concerned with their appearance....everyone, male or female, is narcissistic to some degree, why did these men claim to be anyway different?
It is when I came upon Mark Simpson's definition that I got some hint.
He highlights how advertising agencies have captured a few prominent "metrosexual" men like David Beckham into the spotlight to lure even other ordinary masculine straight men into fashion. However,to achieve their marketing aims, they gave an incomplete definition of this term.
He says-"....The metro man might be officially gay, straight or bisexual, but this is utterly immaterial because he has clearly taken himself as his own love object and pleasure as his sexual preference. And he is a man with a good touch with his feminine side".
And then this article!!
http://www.marksimpson.com/pages/journalism/metrodaddyspeaks.html

Two questions arise in my mind after reading this article. Firstly, why would a man trying to appear more goog-looking should suddenly find crossdressing so arousing? David Beckham wears knickers and sarongs and nobody accuses him of being a transvestite!! Dominic Monaghan says he loves wearing nail-polish and skirts which make him feel so comfortable with himself.
Secondly,what does "in touch with feminine side" really mean in this context? Doesn't this denote that the narcissist is strongly attracted to the female fashion and the female world and hence the "narcissistic" image he has in mind happens to be a feminine object?
Most probably,this type of person loves feminizing himself in fantasy but that reminds me of autogynephilia!
Yet, a difference is possibly there.Unlike the extreme autogynephile who develops GID, he is easily able to compensate by making his body look extra feminine and through some crossdressing or mild fashion stuff.
GenderQuestioning,themselves metrosexuals do that but surely there are evidently many, including the most prominent ones in media today.
So, isn't this type of man also a bit towards androgyny?

Natalie said...

Robyn P,
The three questions you have raised are quite interesting. But I think I have partially explained all of them.

1)Where did the femininity come from? As I said,this femininity is nothing different than that which other types of transgenders or gender variant men have.
Reason could be a hormonal one or a combination of genes and genetic codings which produce the effect. And I would say that nobody is born 100% male or 100%female. But when the degree of maleness reduces to lower than say,70%, gender problems begin and that too across a spectrum-from the feminine male all the way to transsexualism (including autogynephilia).

2)How was it hidden?
I said that some boys get trapped into the notion they are just like other boys and they don't imitate girls. If they remain in company of boys, despite being unmanly, they will try to be like them rather than observe the female.
For some however, who aren't too busy in the indoor war video games or outdoor activities of boys, do end up finding crossdressing interesting because that is what they end up seeing as an alternative.
Hence,the early exposure may be environmental.

3)How come the testosterone flooding the body and the brain at puberty not only unleashes the masculinity but also "unhides" this female component?
During puberty, the mind gets under a continuous agitation and many types of fantasies and feelings of humans start developing during this time.It is the time when people actually get to know their minds more because of the kick of hormones. Before puberty, response to an exciting stimuli like some sexual stuff or even fashion aesthetics is mild as hormones aren't active yet. It may be there for some, but not to the extent necessary to create autogynephilia.

Natalie said...

Anonymous,
I wouldn't say metroseuxals are having mild autogynephilia or something. Many of these men are influenced by female fashion and draw a parallel in male fashion through attractive bodies, hair style, creams,ointments etc. Yes, they may like women aesthetically hence initially they are drawn to female fashion which indicates they do have a strong feminine side, so,you could say they are like camp feminine males who are also narcissts .
But, since they are "narcissists",their situation isn't similar to autogynephilia which is more about getting sexually aroused by female inside. And I don't think getting sexually aroused would imply narcissism because it has simply got nothing to do with other people or mapping.
The metro man could just be one who wishes to equalize his status with women in the world, and with his camp gene activated, finds fashion aesthetics enjoyable. Yet he has no desire to transform into real woman. He just creates a parallel male fashion into his being for enhancing his own image.

James said...

Wow,I have never seen such a freat discussion!! Here is yet another article I found on gender-varainace of men and corresponding metrosexuality or campness.http://www
ls.html

James said...

http://www.narth.com/docs/metrosexuals.html

Jack Molay said...

I have added the metrosexual term to the glossary and the article to the resource section. Very interesting, indeed!

Robs said...

I never knew that some of the most attractive males in this world could also be so androgynous. Really interesting thread Jack Molay. With your discussion on autogynephilia, some other important concepts are also coming into light.Keep it up!!

Anonymous said...

I really like the term crosssexualism . Thanks.
-Colin

Anonymous said...

That really explains the whole truth of autogynphilia-innate femininity concept!! Thank you Jack...

Monty said...

"The same may apply to some Latin and Middle Eastern countries, where a man is not considered homosexual if he takes the active part in the sexual act. Feminine gay men may therefore find active heterosexual male partners. Acting feminine pays off."

This is exactly where I am!!
It's so much true Jack. In my country(India), I have never been bullied openly for being feminine. Infact, boys have just been way too kind to me, sometimes into fondling and caressing too, even more than the girls. Some boys just even flirted with me as if I were a gorgeous girl to them. They praised my eyes, my natural beauty, did not have the slightest shame of being called gay in doing that.
It is the girls who have been having a problem in my not being manly. They will want the man with body hair, rough skin...I dont know why but girls here haven't much changed their mindset and dislike metro feminine guys like me.
Unluckily though, I am myself not homosexual.
But if I were not a straight guy but was an effeminate gay boy, I am sure, some straight guy would have been in bed with me by now. Straight boys here really dont mind whats in your pants, I guess. I have seen quite a lot of TGs born as males being instantly hit on by straight boys once they come out in the open and adopt female mannerisms. They don't consider them homosexual as they still are taking the man role.
I am quite surprised at the level of mistreatment being meted out to feminine boys in US, esp in schools, where they are harassed and beaten. I suspect it could be because these bully guys are attracted to these feminine boys but because of being afraid of the label "gay", they end up feeling angry with them.
Here,it's totally different. A feminine boy might be ridiculed for being a fag but he would be still caressed by boys and not beaten. Its simply because, the one who takes the manly role here is not considered gay in true sense.

Monty said...

And another thing which Natalie said rings true in India as well. Most gay men I have met so far have been somewhere or the other feminine, as much as I am.
In the US,on the contrary, many will claim effeminate gay men are a minority, and that most feminine males are heterosexual pervert fetishists and crossressers.
I read a ranting in a US gay forum where a gay guy was saying things like-> "I am a man, happy to be man, will remain a man and die in my coffin as a man, I never never have any desire to imitate a woman lik pervert transsexuals and trannies. We are homosexual and love masculinity, not girls and their neurotic vulgar mannerisms".

His whole argument was so funny considering that 90% of gay men portrayed in media happen to be feminine.
His very tone seemed to be ironical, as if he was abusing transgenders to show how masculine he was despite being gay.
In my country, I am yet to meet a gay man who has been so masculine as this gay guy claimed.

The truth most likely is that Natalie is quite correct about innate femininity. Whether straight or gay, feminine men mark the beginning of the whole TG spectrum. I am straight, but I feel as womanly as the gay guys I have met. Only that I want to be caressed by a woman and not man. Which in fact, makes my life more difficult here, as getting a straight boy is easier than getting a girl who loves feminine males here.

Jack Molay said...

@ Monty

Thank you for a very interesting and insightful comment. I wonder how this cultural difference affects us as crossdreamers or feminine gneyphilic (woman-loving) men.

If you are not violently harassed in school, but even found desirable, how does that affect your self esteem, fantasies or propensity to cross dress? It should make it less traumatizing.

But you also point to the shadow side of such a tolerance. If I understand you correctly, Indian women share the idea that a man is manly as long as he is the assertive pitcher and not the submissive catcher. So you find it hard to find a woman to love.

Following this line of argument, it should be the opposite in the West. Women should be more tolerant of feminine men. The data is inconclusive, but there is some research that point in that direction (http://bit.ly/fJ8rB , but please do not take that post too seriously. There are huuuuge holes in the logic underpinning that research.).

Monty said...

That is not exact the point about Indian women Jack.
I think Indian women have a slightly different view.
There are Indian women who are sexually attracted to feminine men of course. But I think they have this concept that feminine men are weaker and might be unable to protect them and be that real man to them. It is more because unlike women in west, Indian women are not too independent yet. There is still job discrimination against women and they are not treated as equal class citizens here yet. They need someone as a caretaker (unless they are from a very high class). So, they always look for the long-term man who would be their protector, and the manly man is just the only one there....
That is probably the reason why they dislike feminine men often.
But,if you give them a fashion magazine, their lust would surely go for the feminine guys.
Its more like, they are less bothered about what they want in bed than what they want for family security.

Monty said...

As for whether being less harassed in school enhances my self-esteem, I would say that depends on what really someone wants.
It might be quite enjoyable for a person (TG) looking for a male partner, but for me as a heterosexual feminine man, it does not solve my problem. Firstly, because I am not interested in how much men desire me.
Secondly, the thing is that just because I am feminine, some consider me to be "weaker" somehow. The old perceptions regarding superiority of masculinity still looms at large. They might not call me a pervert fetishist but surely I am considered weaker and more emotional somehow, a thing which is derogatory and negative in itself.
Though, I personally don't think being feminine makes me weak in anyway. Its just a different way of enjoying pleasures.

Jack Molay said...

@ Monty

Thank you for that clarification. It makes sense to me. So, in an affluent India there would be more room for you, which i exactly what these researchers say.

I had an interesting experience down in the Indian/Pakistani part of town some months ago. (There are many Pakistanis, Indians and Tamils in Scandinavia).

I went into a store to buy some Bollywood movies. The two men behind the counter were more than willing to help and I ended up with five movies on the counter. All of them had Shah Rukh Khan as the main actor.

Then my gaydar started blinking. It was clear that the two store managers both found this actor absolutely irresistible, and that he was the main criteria for what was considered a good movie.

Now, he is actually quite feminine in appearance as are many of the male Bollywood stars. And the women loves him as well. Which proves your point, I guess.

Monty said...

Jack,
Yes, I agree with you on this.

I got a very interesting article which mostly supports the innate femininity theory (or innate masculinity theory for women).

http://ts-si.org/files/MDiamondClinImpOrgActHormones.pdf

Dr. Diamond clearly mentions here that we never choose our ways. We grow up observing several things. We pick up those for ourselves which define us and tend to reject those which don't.
So, even the metro guy or male lesbian who is rejecting many masculine roles isn't doing it to just protest against traditional macho roles and project someone being a liberal modernist,considering that many men don't at all feel like being that desperate at all!
There is something innate in our genes which makes it happen much similar to why a boy suddenly starts liking to wear more of female clothes at age 3 or a girl wishes to play with trucks and climb trees or be the house daddy.
Please do read it, it is quite insightful.

Jack Molay said...

Thank you! This is a very useful summary of relevant research. I have put it up in the resource section.

Ken said...

I can say that in many respects, Bailey was right about this "innate femininity mixed with some masculinity" concept when he discussed about gay men in his "The Man Who would be Queen" book. Much of the concept of crosssexualism can be got through his book.
As a feminine bisexual man, I can say, he described a person of exactly my type.As the typical feminine bisexual man, I was able to identify with most of the traits Bailey described. However, the problem is that, he took cases of people like me too far to make me equal to a transsexual.
He firstly confused the feminine gay men with heterosexual transsexual women (I dont call them homosexual transsexuals as he mentions), and secondly, he thought that AGPs are similar to macho men who have got an error in target location.
His biggest mistake was that he got his target groups wrong and all mixed up just because of one variant attribute,ie.,sexual orientation. He mixed up one group with the other taking the issue of gender and sexuality as a black-and-white thing(either a straight masculine man=a pitcher/desirer of submissive women or a feminime gay man=homosexual transsexual woman).
But what I have learnt from various articles of modern LGBT science is that human mental gender identity covers a wide spectrum and it is definitely not prudent to fit someone into a "box". Some may well fit into a box because their traits resemble the stereotype of male or female easily. Which is what happens with the classic transsexuals with high GID symptoms from early childhood.
But who said that they are the only ones on this planet to feel different from other members of their sex? There are more people in fact who have an awkward mix of traits.
My example->there are times when I have felt as feminine as a transsexual woman, but, definitely, not with respect to female anatomy or physical gender. My brain is comfortable with a male anatomy but my brain prefers a full feminine gender expression in other respects. Which by Bailey's observations,makes me equal to a transsexual woman, but by more recent transgender concepts makes me a feminine man.
And the same might be with the AGP man too. There are AGPs who feel totally female, while some are mixed up like me. Some are straight, some are bi, some are sexually fluid.
If researchers like Bailey appreciated this issue of gender-spectrum without applying stereotype binary definitions of what constitutes male and female, there could have been less confusions in this field and perhaps more appreciation of gender-variance in society.

Dutch said...

Having stumbled onto your blog this rainy Sunday (when I'm supposed to be doing Calculus homework) I will probably comment on a couple of posts but this is the first one that aggressively called for my 2-cents.

I identify as an "autogynephiliac," or "autogynephile" as it were. For me, the gender issue has reared itself about once every year or so since I can recall - I have my fantasies, but I go about my daily life content enough to be a man. Then something will trigger an intensification that peaks as a few weeks of actual dysphoria. Each episode results in major introspection and research. And then, it simply fades back to business as usual.

About two years ago I had major breakthroughs in my understanding of all of this, largely due to: A) discovering the concept of "autogynephilia," B) admitting to myself that transitioning/SRS was to some event, very appealing to me. I even made a preliminary decision to begin the process... And then that's when a new sort of dysphoria began to develop. The dysphoria of "being out of my depths," of committing too much of myself, prospectively all of myself, to a female identification. It just wasn't all of me, or even most (or at least not enough, I guess). Before I knew it, the crisis had faded, and I was back to my status quo - but a little wiser this time. A lot wiser actually. Coming face to face with the option of "transition" was very frightening but absolutely essential for gaining real self-knowledge about how I feel (in all those endless, complicated ways that we "feel" about these things.)

For me it was puberty when it came out. I remember wistful day-dreaming before that, but nothing consistent, and nothing coherent. If I felt that way, then I didn't "know" that I felt that way. And I liked the mellow version of being a boy that I'd staked my claim on. When I played Star Wars with friends, I wanted to be Luke. I eagerly collected GIJoes and HotWheels. I was encouraged to be nerdy, to read books, to have female friends if I wanted them. I was geeky, but I wasn't feminine. (There's a subtle distinction.)

Yet, as a person and as an adult I have all those qualities you've alluded to in certain posts here - a conspicuous TOTAL lack of interest in professional sports (in fact I can't even comprehend being into them), I'm emotionally sensitive in general and to others feelings/perspectives in particular, and I'm usually more comfortable hanging out with groups of women than men. Women pick up on this - there's that intuitive rapport, and countless remarks have been made in all female settings about me "not counting" as a man, or being "practically a girl" (whenever the conversation strays into topics wherein someone feels the need to remind everyone that a man is still present). And I'm really good at picking out colors and clothes!, even though I've done next to zero crossdressing. Old girlfriends have often consulted ME on questions of fashion, which is just funny, because it's not an official preoccupation of mine, I just have good taste (and admittedly love a nice garment/outfit as a thing of beauty in and of itself).

Sometimes this all seems like clues to a true hidden womanhood!, and sometimes it seems like the worst kind of red-herring, (or the best kind, depending on the answer I'm looking for at the moment). Because I'm lying to myself if I try to deny that I'm male in so many ways. To objectively read myself as a "woman" requires the most polarized of lenses. Point is? These matters are, as you say, not only a continuum phenomenon, but many continuum phenomena layered one on top of the other. Confusing!, but hopefully, in some ways rewarding. (continued next comment...)

Dutch said...

...(continued from previous comment)

I have to say all this talk of "gay" and "camp" genes is pseudoscience. But it's valuable to speculate on. Her argument seems to devote a whole lot of power to sexual orientation at a very early age, as per the social learning/adoption of outward femininity. I just don't see a justification for that.

One last thought I wanted to share - I've always felt like my sexuality is bifurcated. There are more traditional heterosexual fantasies from a male perspective, and then there are the autogynophilic ones. Over the years there's been an ebb and flow, although I'll confess the latter have grown to more or less dominate my fantasy life. Still though, I can enjoy "normal" fantasies - but what's odd to me, is they simply feel "separate," and my attempts to find an amalgam always fail. I mention this in part because the definition of autogynophilia refers to it as arising beside, or as a corollary to, traditional heterosexual-male fantasies. Yet wouldn't that confess a chink in the object location error theory? If I'm able to have "normal" fantasies, how could the simultaneously arising (but distinct) AGP ones represent a fundamental "mistake." For me I REMEMBER the first time I indulged in a full tilt AGP fantasy. It was about two months after I discovered tossing off, and it actually OCCURED to me, "hey, I could envision myself as the girl..." I did so, and it was wonderful. It was like this crazy luxury that I'd stumbled onto. Hence began the ebb and flow, brought about by genuine tides in motivation, along with a healthy dose of shame. (Or, maybe I should say "unhealthy"...)

Sorry for such a long comment! Thanks so much for addressing these issues head-on in a public forum.

(I'll take my answer off the air.)

Jack Molay said...

@Dutch

You say that your sexuality is "bifurcated". That's a good term, I think, and it shows that this is not necessarily about being bisexual, but something else.

Your story about getting very close to transitioning and then backing off, is somewhat similar to my own. Admittedly I have never seriously considered transitioning, but there was a point where I was so overwhelmed by these feelings that I felt I had come to a point of no return.

That made me start this blog and the journey towards a better understanding of myself and others like us.

This is why I think we have to be open about this. We need to make our decisions based on true insight into what makes us tick, and denying or suppressing sexual feelings and dreams of womanhood does not engender such insight.

wxhluyp said...

I'm an autogynephiliac and I remember at least 2 dreams from no later than 8-9 years of age and they were always accompanied by the "fuzzy feeling". I wouldn't like to place too much emphasis on on either nature/nurture as its impossible for me to trace whether my emasculation trauma resulted from an innate femininity or more abstractly.

Anonymous said...

Just bookmarked your page. Its nice to see there are others out there that understand that just because you don't fall into the classic definition of a transsexual,doesn't mean that your a man in a dress. I will definitely contribute more here when I get a chance.

Amy

Tom said...

I am quite happy that you have written this type of an article.
It has for the first time brought to a clear perspective what I really want and what my true identity is.
For years I felt I was strongly a feminine bisexual male but I could not really figure out what was wrong with me. I seem to have two types of sexualities inside me- the gay one with men and a lesbian one with women.
I get very emotional with women, I like to show affection and love ONLY to women. Even straight men are more affectionate to other men than I could ever. I don't seem to like men at all, but I have a lot of both kinky and emotional fetishes with respect to men doing it to me. I like a man to be the dominant partner and treat me like a desirable feminine person with full passion though I myself don't get active desire towards him.
I just like to lie there and get all the action done to me.
I also have never liked to date women, ever, because I feel I would be seen as a man, which I don't like. But the moment I imagine myself as just another girl with a girl, I get highly kinky and enjoy being one of the females.

wxhluyp said...

I think autogynephilia is a result of trauma, where the sense of emasculation is not necessarily dependant on a pre-existing engrained femininity

Jack Molay said...

@ wxhluyp

Could you elaborate on that. Have you experienced such a trauma?

Jack

Rob said...

@Jack Molay:
Are you sure you have no attraction to men at all?
You must be lying if you say you have never once had sexual fantasy of a man.

Jack Molay said...

Rob said...

"Are you sure you have no attraction to men at all? You must be lying if you say you have never once had sexual fantasy of a man."

Good question!

Among gynephilic male to female crossdreamers the fantasy of being taken by a man is common.

(The opposite seems to be less common among androphilic female to male crossdreamers, but they may also dream of taking a "faceless" woman.)

This also applies to me.

Ray Blanchard is wrong about a lot of thing, but in this he is right: For most male to female crossdreamers any male sex fantasy partner will also be "faceless". They are not concrete men, friends of movie start, they are rather abstract men -- props in the fantasy.

Blanchard takes this as a proof of perversion. For me it is more like a sensible solution to a very complicated dilemma: To be affirmed as a woman in our cultural context it to be desired by a man. Furthermore: If I am right about many -- if not most -- M2F crossdreamers having a receptive sexual instinct (a desire to be the bottom), there is the need for penetration. That is not a role that is normally assigned to a woman partner in our culture, although in real life it may happen (cf my post about the Kama Sutra)..

So yes, M2F crossdreamers may dream of having sex with a man. Their sexual attraction may still be oriented towards women exclusively.

But does that mean that sexual attraction towards men and women is mutually exclusive? That there are no bisexuals?

There are certainly a lot of bisexual men and women. I do not count myself among them, as my fascination is for women, but I am not going to claim that any attraction to men is absolutely impossible.

The reason I am saying this is because I have experienced the power of repression and conditioning. Males are forbidden as love objects, so I -- like most gynephilic men -- suppress any fascination I might have for a man.

Although most men for me are unattractive, I can see that some are not. But that does not in general terms make me bisexual.

Rob said...

I asked this question since you like most men sound highly homophobic. In some other post,you mentioned that men are unattractive as men are ugly, hairy etc.
But, then what you say applies to some men, not all.
Many men can be as high gloss and fashionable as women, some even more so.
If you find yourself admiring women only because they are highly fashionable and self-maintenance type, you need to do a rethink. Women are culturally conditioned to be high-maintenance. Many men are naturally high maintenance.

Jack Molay said...

@Rob

"I asked this question since you like most men sound highly homophobic. In some other post,you mentioned that men are unattractive as men are ugly, hairy etc."

I have to be more careful about how I phrase things.

There is a difference between men being unattractive objectively speaking and me finding them unattractive in a sexual sense.

I actually have a lot of gay male friends, and two of my closest friends are homosexual.

My experience, however, is that I am wired for attraction to the female physical traits, not only for the femininity itself, but for the shape of the female body.

When I am with my gay male friends, I can watch the difference in real time.

Their eyes are drawn to the beautiful and attractive men in the room. I am mesmerized by the curves of the women.

When I go down a street I notice the women, and hardly ever remember the men.

Again: This may be a result of cultural conditioning, but it feels like something more.

Rob said...

@Jack,
"My experience, however, is that I am wired for attraction to the female physical traits, not only for the femininity itself, but for the shape of the female body."

This is interesting to me as a polyamorous but asexual biromantic individual!
I am ASEXUAL in the sense of having no attraction to people in physical sense. I cannot make out who is more attractive based on their physical attributes.
I don't look at naked men or women. Neither turns me on.
However, I look for qualities based on which I judge attractiveness of an individual. I admire people of both sexes based on their minds and inner qualities and have had fantasies of being in emotional relations with them. I desire sex through emotions and romance so I was confused.
Perhaps there are also many heterosexuals who are biromantic and homosexuals who are heteroromantic, making things very confusing in the field of sexual and affectional orientations.

Usha said...

@Jack,
Why is it that in our culture, manly real men are expected at all to have "budding love" for girls?
Isn't the knight falling in love with the damsel in distress a social myth created by fables and fantasy fictions, rather than any kind of reality?
As per my experience,it seems the more manly a man is, the more likely he is to just be using women for simply sexual reasons.

Jack Molay said...

@Usha,

"Why is it that in our culture, manly real men are expected at all to have "budding love" for girls?
Isn't the knight falling in love with the damsel in distress a social myth created by fables and fantasy fictions, rather than any kind of reality?"

Men has always loved women, as lovers and as friends. I believe I have ample proof of this, in writings from antiquity and other cultures. Men fall in love and men feel attachment to their spouses and their families.

Whether "more masculine" men are more likely to use women for pleasure, I do not know. If you define being manly in such a way, it becomes a tautology.

As for truly romantic love, I believe you are right. The kind of infatuation you read about in romance novels, and where the man worships the woman as something divine, well, that was apparently invented in the 12th century in Europe.

It seems to me that the troubadours of Provence transferred the mystical image of the souls yearning for God onto the relationship between man and woman. At that point in time Woman with capital W became a symbol for spiritual salvation for many men, and the union between man and woman was understood as some kind of spiritual fulfillment.

Usha said...

@Jack,
Okay if men have always loved women as lovers and as friends, how can you explain why our society is misogynistic at the same time?
I believe that is a contradiction I am dealing with right now.

Jack Molay said...

@Usha

Allow me some speculation here:

My basic premise is this: We all want to be loved and seen for whom we are. Kids automatically look for affirmation from their parents and playmates.

Still, human beings, including kids, can be very violent, and when it comes to physical violence men have the upper hand.

Some societies therefore develop a cultural division of labor between the sexes where men fight and women nurture. Best case scenario: Men are encouraged to serve and protect. Worst case scenario: Men are allowed to rape and pillage.

There will always be men who act in the way you describe. They thrive in war and they thrive in societies that suppress women. The rest of the menfolk will have to cope with these men. They therefore adopt the stereotyped behavior as their own. On the inside, though, they may long for something else.

I had a friend once who trawled the club and the discos every weekend, chatting up girls. To others he might have looked like the stereotypical man looking for sex only. I knew him well. What he really was looking for was a wife. He wanted kids and a family. Indeed, when he did find the love of his life, he settled down.

I believe many men are run by fear of humiliation. This is why so many male to female crossdreamers end up in the military. Questioning their malehood, they overcompensate, going to the other extreme. It is a true tragedy.

Anonymous said...

My comment is lengthy, so I have to split it into two parts for the blog to accept it. I hope you find it worth reading.

Part 1

I think Natalie's use of the word "camp" to refer to feminine traits and behavior in males is creating confusion in this discussion, especially when "camp" is compared to the femininity expressed by women: they are not at all the same. "Camp," as a concept developed by and steeped in gay culture, is not helpful in a discussion about whether transgendered males have a feminine side that is closer to being fully developed than that of the average guy.

The book, Mother Camp: Female Impersonators in America, is a study camp as a primary underpinning of drag queen culture in particular, and gay culture in general. As an example of camp, this passage from the book has stayed with me for years:

In a small homosexual bar in Chicago, I saw a young white homosexual do a burlesque imitation with no props at all. He was wearing light eye-makeup, slacks, and a red and black ski sweater. He was sitting on a bar stool at the end of the bar when the band began to play a burlesque type song. He pulled his legs up onto the stool, so that his feet were resting on the seat and his knees were pulled up to his chest underneath the sweater and slightly apart. This created a strong suggestion of two large and pendulous breasts. By moving these "breasts" in time to the burlesque music, he imitated the unmistakeable movements of a stripper. Those sitting around the bar laughed and clapped, encouraging the young man to greater efforts. The female impersonator sitting next to me said, "Watch what that queen [the young man] does. That is fine camp."

In her preface, Esther Newton, the author of Mother Camp, describes "camp" as the sort of self-deprecating counterculture survival humor that people under fire develop to cope with life in a hostile environment. But clearly from this example, it is more than that: it is deliberate satirical caricature, aimed squarely at women.

In gay culture, there are different sorts, or "grades" of camp. Perhaps the finest example of "high camp" to be found in the West is the ballet troupe, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. Their biting satire targets the entire "haute" culture surrounding ballet, but especially focuses with laser-like intensity on the "prima donna" ballerina as the very worst manifestation of female narcissism. True to genuine gay camp, they also include a measure of self-deprecating humor, such as in their signature performance of Swan Lake, where Odette's performer responds to Siegfried's proclamations of love by taking a peek under his tutu to make sure of his anatomy.

End part 1

Anonymous said...

Part 2

Many women recognize the ridicule inherent in camp on at least an intuitive level, and often become at least irritated at it, if not outright resentful. I have also come to understand that the same women see many crossdressers as caricatures, and again express anger and resentment as a result of feeling trivialized or ridiculed.

Like many of us, I went through what I like to call a "party dress" phase (for some of us, it is not just a phase), reminiscent of those lace, tull, and crinoline confections adored by little girls (or at least by their mothers). Women do not seem to understand that we never had the young girl experience (we didn't get to sleepover parties either, and maybe got banished from the house when our sisters hosted them), so we are making up for lost time. Instead, women see us as creating a fantasy world that has everything to do with the outward appearance of being female, and little to do with the reality. Their scorn is palpable.

I have used Halloween as an opportunity to wear my gaudy (adult) party dresses to the psychotherapeutic day programs I used to attend, occasionally met with the hostility of women who felt me to be a caricature (and wanted to point out that being female is by no means a bowl of cherries), and later heard myself referred to as "That transvestite!" (But one or two of the male staff laughed their faces off, remarking on what they thought was well-placed comedy.) When I invited two female friends from one program to my apartment for dinner, I made the mistake of wearing a somewhat trashy mini-dress (low-cut bodice of stretch PVC, skirt of cheap imitation satin and tulle), and of showing them a video of Les Ballets. One of my friends expressed her irritation by pointing out that it is not easy to be a woman, which I eventually came to understand as an expression of feeling trivialized.

I did not understand what these women had been trying to tell me immediately, it took a long time and lots of thought before I finally got it. But get it I did, and kept it in mind as I prepared for my last Halloween at a day program. I found myself dressed similarly to the female staff, who discussed my outfit as women will, and approved it as tastefully expressive of the holiday mood and definitely not over the top. I was generally welcomed and accepted by the women, and rattled a few of the guys down to their eye teeth, because they recognized an authentic expression of feminine energy, which is not supposed to emanate from a guy. For a brief time I was welcomed into the Sisterhood, which I have to tell you was the highest most almighty high.

I hope this last experience helps to underscore the difference between an authentic expression of femininity, and "camp," which is a satiric caricature of femininity. Though not intentionally campy, my earlier Halloween costumes (and dinner dress) were too over-the-top to be taken seriously, so they were seen as a bit of fun by some people, naive and ridiculous fantasy by others, and caricature by still others. On my last trip out, the fact that I was well within the bounds of what women would do in the circumstances was evidenced by how well I fit in with the women who were doing it. The people in that program had heard me talk about my gender issues for months; on seeing me and feeling my energy that day, they could not mistake my seriousness, and their response to me was profoundly different from those of my previous experiences.

Thanks for listening.

Anonymous said...

On April 20, 2010 at 1:58 AM, Monty wrote:

Secondly, the thing is that just because I am feminine, some consider me to be "weaker" somehow. The old perceptions regarding superiority of masculinity still looms at large. They might not call me a pervert fetishist but surely I am considered weaker and more emotional somehow, a thing which is derogatory and negative in itself.

I would recommend to you The Female of the Species by Rudyard Kipling, to be read each evening, followed by meditation and a good night's sleep, for a week. Modern feminists dismiss it because they don't want anyone to recognize the wisdom it contains. Its truth, however, is borne out constantly by everyday events, and more so in the past 100 years than ever before.

Many a foolish man has come to grief by underestimating the strength and power of women. The old perceptions come from the fact that men (on average) have superior upper-body strength, and by equating the receptivity of female sexuality (and sometimes temperament) with passivity. Smart women, however, have their own ways of fighting--ways that play to their strengths, and that tend to neutralize the physical strength of men. TG fiction is full of insight on it:

"Look, Leslie, you yourself pointed out a woman's weakness. You need to turn that weakness into your advantage. You are still holding to the male philosophy of combat."

"Combat is combat! You fight, the better opponent wins," Leslie replied.

"The male fights primarily by intimidation--he postures and exaggerates his imposing size. He displays his weapons, such as his guns and his knifes. His philosophy and attitude is to drive or frighten away potential opponents. Only the occasional fool or the strong 'warrior type' who thinks that he may be able to overpower his adversary would dare attack in the first place. To a male, fighting is a mixture of 'repelling force' and aggression.

"A woman, on the other hand, attempts to draw her opponents inward, rather than frighten them away. Her sexual attraction and appearance of vulnerability both work together to that effect. Both aspects should be emphasized. No intimidating or provocative weapons, such as the knife, should be visible. You draw in an opponent and present no threat. He then has no reason to feel a need to defend himself. By the time you slip the shiv under his ribcage and skewer his heart, it is too late for him to react. Much stronger opponents can be easily vanquished that way."


As a small male (5' 4") of somewhat gentle temperament, I have had to adopt some of the tactics that women use to turn conflict in their favor. I have used them to stymie men more than twice my size, and women who could have had me arrested or thrown out if I had resorted to men's tactics. I can say from experience there is tremendous power in the feminine for those who know how to wield it.