August 26, 2010

On autogynephilia and the role of shemale fantasies part 1

Are men that feel attraction to transwomen and crossdressers really crossdreamers (autogynephiliacs)? If so: Can this fascination give us insight into their transgender nature?

This is a blog that boldly goes where even the boldest of angels fear to tread, simply because I believe knowledge can set us free. You have to face your dragons and trolls if you are to reach the next level. This is also why I believe we have to go into the fantasy life of crossdreamers to find understand what makes us feel the way we do.

Several of you have asked me in comments and emails to look into the topic of "transfans"or "transsensuals", i.e. men who are attracted to M2F transsexuals, crossdressers or "shemales". In this post I am going to see if that phenomenon can help us get a better understanding of crossdreamers in general.

Fantasy shemales are not real

Now, let me make one thing perfectly clear: I do not believe that shemales exist in the real world! I am willing to discuss the possibility, but when I write about them it is as fantasy objects of desire.

In this way they are similar to the nymphomaniac blonde and buxom bimbo of some male fantasies, or the handsome knight in shining armor you find in some female fantasies. Even though some may choose to play the role of the Blonde Bimbo or Prince Charming, that does not make them real. Behind the cliché hides a complex human being.

The people playing the roles of shemales

"Shemale" i a derogatory term used by the porn industry to describe persons with a female appearance but with male genitals.

The models playing the roles of shemales are pre-op transwomen or transgenderists in real life. In other words: In real life they are not "shemales", but complete human beings like you and me.

A pre-op transwoman is a biological male who has a female gender identity and who longs to become a woman also in body. In order to play the role of a shemale, this person will normally have had to undergo some hormone treatment, electrolysis and surgery, but for some reason she has not changed her male genitalia. If she is playing the role of a shemale, in porn or as a call girl, this is probably because she has decided to keep it for business purposes. She may be saving money for the final operation, though.

A M2F (male to female) transgenderist (a term not to be confused with the word "transgender") is a person who lives as a member of the opposite sex either fulltime or part time. She may have had hormone treatments or surgery, but she deliberately decides to keep her original genitalia. The transgenderist does not feel that it is the genitalia that define her as a woman. There is a medical term for this which I do not like much: gynemimetics. I believe they are real women, not copy cats, and should be respected as such.

I am also open for the idea that there might exist feminine gay men who transition for practical purposes, without feeling alienated from their male bodies. This is why they decide to keep their penis. They change their bodies to attract straight men.

I know some people find the idea of a feminine gay man transitioning extremely provocative. I do not. Life is short and we all have to make the best out of what we got. In his fascinating novel Bangkok 8, John Burdett tells the tale of a feminine gay man who is turned into a woman by her admirer. Burdett leaves no doubt about the fact that this he has indeed become a real woman. I guess some of these gay male transitioners label themselves trangenderists.

Some transwomen who are acting out the role of shemales avoid the use of hormones. Instead they use every other means available to feminize their bodies. The reason for this is that female hormones will weaken their ability to take the male role during intercourse. This does not necessarily mean that they all are feminine gay men. It could simply be a practical business decision, or you keep it for love. If you are a poor feminine transgirl from Bangkok or Rio, you take care of your assets. This can be a cold and cruel world, indeed.

The fact that there may exist feminine gay men who transition, should not be taken to mean that there are no androphilic transwomen who experience real gender dysphoria. Blanchard and Bailey group them all -- feminine gay men and transwomen - into one category, indicating that they are all but gay men. They call them all "homosexual transsexuals", thus blurring this distinction. I think the distinction is important.

These two groups may have several variables in common as regards the cause for their femininity, but a typical transwoman will have been struggling with her gender dysphoria for most -- if not all -- of her life. She has been a woman the whole time. The gay man transitioning for pragmatic reasons may become a woman, but since she has not identified as such before, her life history will be very different. To ignore this is to show disrespect to the transwomen who have had no real choice when it comes to choosing their gender identity. It is inborn with her.

Fairy tale figures

Let me get back on track: When I use the word "shemale" it is to depict a fantasy figure. Even though trolls and fairies do not exist in the physical world, they do exist in the realm of myths, dreams and fantasies. They have a psychological reality that needs to be understood -- a reality that tells us something about who we are -- and so do the fantasy shemales.

Do crossdreamers dream of shemales?

Many -- if not most -- crossdreamers say that they do not dream about shemales. The reason I can say this with some certainty is that I have access to a rich database of crossdreamer fantasies. These fantasies are published on transgender erotica sites like Fictionmania.tv (as short stories), or as so called TG captions in forums and on blogs. TG captions are ultra short stories accompanying a photo or an image. Many of these "caps" are erotic fantasies. (For references, see TFCC).

If you read these stories (and yes, I have read a few), several patterns emerge, and I plan to explore them in some detail in later posts. As regards the topic of transsensualism I can say that although there are quite a few "shemale" fantasies out there, most of the stories found depict transformation into normal women.

In fact, a large number of crossdreamers posting on forums like Rachel's Haven explicitly say that they do not like stories with shemales. This is mostly because they do not picture themselves becoming shemales; they dream about becoming full fledged women. But it is also because they feel no desire to interact with them.

However, some do admit to the fascination, and this is in itself interesting. There are feminization fantasies where the crossdreamer submits to a dominant shemale. This shemale will feminize him by forcing him to act or dress as a woman, or he may be changed into a woman by surgical or magical means. These fantasies are very similar to the sissy and the dominatrix fantasies I have discussed before, the main difference being that the dominatrix in those fantasies is a natural born woman. In both cases, however, the crossdreamer submits sexually to the dominant woman.

What could make a crossdreamer dream about shemales? Is there anything in the life situation of a crossdreamer that would make this happen? Is there any mythological or psychological reasons for this admittedly strange phenomena?

I think there are, and I think that these explanations can throw some light upon the crossdreamer condition in general.

Alice and her admirers

Alice in Genderland is the only crossdresser autobiography I know of that doesn't hesitate to discuss the sexual motives of a crossdreamer. This alone makes it very valuable in a world where transgender fantasies are considered taboo among cisgendered and transgendered people alike.

Alice, AKA psychiatrist Richard J. Novic, has decided to live out her dream of being a woman, including dating and bedding men. She combines this outgoing life with living with a very tolerant wife. (See Alice in Genderland, A Crossdresser Comes of Age, NY 2009, and my interview with her). Note that Alice is not a transsexual. She also presents as a man.

Alice finds these men in clubs frequented by transgendered. The men approaching her are labelled as "admirers" by her. I guess the derogatory term is "tranny chasers". In the book she reports that she has asked them what makes them interested in a girl like her. Most of them end up with phrases like: "I'm turned on by women who've just got that little something extra." That is not much of an explanation, really.

One night she met "Darius", who confessed that although he was not a crossdresser, he did try it out at home once. "I was one big fat mama," he said. Alice soon found out that several of her admirers had tried crossdressing:

"With my illusions shattered, I now saw little difference between my all-man admirers and the ones at the bar dying to try on my stockings, give oral sex, and get fucked -- like I was when I met Prima back in Chicago [when Alice experienced being the bottom]. It all began to make sense. Deep inside every chaser beats the heart of a tranny."

The controversial use of terminology aside, what Alice says here is simply that most transfans are themselves somewhat transgendered.

Shemale prostitution

There is a group of pre-op transwomen and M2F transgenderists that work as call-girls. They often advertise their services as "shemales", "transsexuals" or "lady boys".

I have gotten several emails from crossdreamers who have approached such call girls. I have gotten permission to refer to one of them. Let us call him "GB". He is in his fifties and lives in London, UK.

GB tells med that at any given time there are more than 100 escorts of this kind in the Greater London Metropolitan Area. More than half of them are foreigners, often high class escorts that travel from country to country. According to him, many of them come from South-East Asia (especially from Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore) and from Latin-America (mainly from Brazil).

I have been unable to confirm these numbers. A cursory Google search confirms that there are quite a few of them advertising online, so he is probably not far off the mark.

The attraction

GB tells me that it was a deep and desperate emotional need that led him to approaching some of these call girls. And yes, that need was partly the desire to be the receiving part when having sexual intercourse, to allow himself to be the receiver instead of the manly male. He tells me that he feels no sexual attraction to the male body, although he wish he had, as being gay would have made his life so much easier. He loves women, though, and has even been married two times, but he find traditional love making unsatisfying. He tells me he feels forced to take an active role that is not his by nature.

He says that a majority of the "shemale" call girls in London actively advertise that they can take the passive as well as the active role. This clearly proves that they consider "submissive" men to be a market.

GB tells me that he learned a lot from meeting these girls, as many of them were outgoing, independent, talkative and with strong personalities. Many of them are also stunningly beautiful. I quote: "There is no way you can guess that these are not natural girls just by looking at them!"

In spite of this he stopped seeing them. This was partly a result of guilt:

"These women are in no way the drug addicted prostitutes you read about in the papers," he writes. "They are strong and independent business women. But they are prostitutes and I am not comfortable with supporting that kind of activity."

From what he tells me, however, there is another reason for him stopping seeing them as well, and that is that these women are not really into crossdreamers. They are attracted to active manly men, and only accommodate "bottoms" because of the money.

One of them told him that she loved straight men, and not gay men who wanted to take the passive role. She clearly mistook him for the active type. It is interesting to note that this transwoman classified crossdreamers as gay, in spite of the fact that they go to her -- a woman. This again confirms how language shapes the way we see the world.

The reason GB did not meet any gynephilic escorts of this kind, is probably not a coincidence. It could simply be that woman-loving (gynephilic) transgendered women, pre-op or post-op, transsexual or transgenderist, find the idea of having sex with men unattractive.

But even if Mr. GB had found one, this would not be a match made in heaven. Gynephilic transwomen love women, not men. Moreover, they prefer to be the catcher, not the pitcher. If we are to believe Alice Novic GB is himself -- at least partly -- a gynephilic transwoman.

A better match for GB would be a female to male androphilic dominant transsexual or a F2M crossdreamer (the complexity of all this makes my head hurt!). They do exist but are relatively hard to track down. Besides, they want to look and act as men, and that is not necessarily what GB is looking for.

Crossdreamer vs. crossdreamer

GB said that the reason he went to shemale call-girls was to resolve the horrible dilemma of being attracted to girls, but at the same time longing to take the girl's role during intercourse. The shemale is a woman, but she has also the equipment needed to fulfill his desire for being the catcher.

Cloudy, herself an androphilic transwoman, made the following comment to my post Beyond the perversion:

"You [i.e. Jack] posed this question:

'Other autogynephilias "solve" this problem by imagining themselves penetrated by a woman with a strap-on or by a "shemale". There are a lot of "shemale" (pre-op transwomen) prostitutes out there that advertise the fact that they are "active". Maybe their customers are autogynephiliacs?'

I can tell you from personal experience that yes, their customers are nearly all AGP [autogynephiliacs]. I've had friends who were 'working girls'... and I should point out, that in their personal love lives, they were not "active", but bottoms. But gynandromorphophilic [transfans] men will pay more than straight men, because of the relative rareness of an HSTS [man-loving transwoman] who will be "active". (I sure as heckfire wouldn't!)

(...) On the other hand, AGPs are so commonly into 'she-males', that two reasonable passing AGPs meet, they often become lovers, both pre- and post-... BTW... many of these relationships get counted by the researcers as evidence of being attracted to men ! Note, that such is not the same as being attracted to non-AGP, straight, masculine men. Rather, it is the ability to map the process of AGP mediated desire for feminization of themselves onto their partner, to essentially map the internal AGP to the external AGP !!! To outsiders, this may sound strange, but it is actually quite common in the AGP trans-community."

I don't buy Cloudy's explanation for why some crossdreamers end up in relationships with other crossdreamers. But it certainly makes sense for them to do so. Not only do they get a soul mate who understands what they have been through and accepts their desires. They also get a female partner who is willing to play the active part when needed. If they are both post-op I guess they can make use of one of the many sex toys available.

In this sense they would not be too different from a gay or lesbian couple where both are bottoms. With love and understanding they should be able to develop a sex life where they take turns playing the active and the passive role.

In part 2 I will look at the growing shemale porn industry. The amount of such material may indicate that the number of transgender people has been seriously underestimated!

Discuss crossdreamer and transgender issues!