September 17, 2011

Julia Serano on the concept of autogynephilia

The International Journal of Transgenderism has a paper by Julia M. Serano on autogynephilia in its latest issue. It was published late last year, and I tweeted the news, but I haven't had time finish the post until now.

Julia Serano  is a biologist and a trans-activist, and one of the few that has dared to look into the role of crossdreaming in transsexualism in a constructive manner.

Serano follows up on the critique of the autogynephilia concept made by Moser, and I guess this is another intervention in the battle of the American DSM-5 (The American Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), .

In other words: Are men who fantasize about having the body of the opposite sex paraphiliacs (perverts), as the autogynephilia theory claims,  or are they just another variation of this wonderful thing called life?

For a popular summary of the autogynephilia theory, see my article: Autogynephilia on a Napkin.

The Case Against Autogynephilia

In the paper "The Case Against Autogynephilia" Serano (who is herself a transsexual woman) notes that Ray Blanchard, the father of autogynephilia,  and his followers have used the term  to dscribe to significantly different phenomena:

"First, it is used descriptively to denote a type of erotic fantasy common to many (but not all) MtF [male to female] spectrum individuals in which they become aroused at the idea of becoming women."

This Serano calls cross-gender arousal, which is -- I believe -- more and less the same as I call crossdreaming.

Like me Serano readily accepts that such fantasies exist.

She continues:


"Second, the term [autogynephilia] has been used to theoretically describe a paraphilic model in which the aforementioned fantasies arise as a result of a misdirected heterosexual sex drive (i.e instead of or in addition to being attracted to women, the individual becomes attracted to the idea of becoming a woman) and once established, such fantasies become the primary cause of any gender dysphoria and desire to physically transition to female that the individual might experience."



In other words: the male to female crossdresser, crossdreamer and/or transsexual has the hots for the idea of himself as a woman and it is this desire that causes the gender dysphoria.

Serano uses the word "autogynephilia" for this theoretical explanation of cross-gender arousal, as opposed to such arousal as a phenomenon in and for itself.

I think this is a very sensible way of using the terms, and plan to use the distinction myself in the future. So  I will call the very act of having arousing feminization fantasies among the male to female population crossdreaming, while Blanchard's explanation for this act will be called "the autogynephilia theory".

Like me, Serano avoids the bewildering a misleading use of terminology found among Blanchard and his supporters. Blanchards "homosexual transsexuals" are called "androphilic transwomen" (man-loving women), while the "heterosexual transsexuals" become "gynephilic transsexuals" (woman-loving transwomen).

The autogynephilia theory

Serano points out that the autogynephilia theory grew out of observation made by many therapists: There were transwomen that did not fit the traditional transsexual archetype of the feminine, non-fetishistic or asexual ideal of womanhood promoted by many sexologists and psychologists. Instead they found men seeking sex reassignment surgery that

"...were not especially feminine as children or adults, and/or tended to seek out sex reassignment much later in life after having lived for many years as heterosexual men. There were also indications that many in this latter group had previously identified as crossdressers and/or had a history of cross-gender arousal."

Based on a data from a questionnaire given to patients at the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry in Canada Blanchard subdivided MtF transsexuals by sexual orientation into four groups: androphilic, gynephilic, bisexual and asexual.

Non-homosexuals

He found that a majority of the gynephilic, asexual, and bisexual groups reported having experienced cross-gender arousal (crossdreaming) in response to wearing women's clothing on at least one occasion in their lives. (Yepp, only once is enough to become labelled as an autogynephiliac in the world of Blanchard!) As for the androphilic transwomen, only 15 percent reported such arousal.

He called the gynephilic, asexual and bisexual transwomen autogynephiliacs, while the androphilic (man-loving) transwomen were called homosexual transsexuals (HSTS).

By continuing to use the term "homosexual transsexual" Blanchard strengthened the idea of these women being extremely effeminate gay men -- not real women.

Gay men are not paraphiliacs

Given that homosexuality no longer could be called a perversion, the androphilic transwomen were not given the stigmatizing label of "paraphilia" in Blanchard's work. The autogynephiliacs, however, were considered perverted men.

Serano says:
"The fact that paraphilias are presumed to be male-specific...seems consistent with the fact that, according to the medical literature of the time, there appeared to be no FtM (female to male) equivalent to nonandrophilic [i.e. autogynephilic] transsexualism."

Those who have followed this blog know that this is not true. The female to male crossdreamer definitely exist. "Autogynephilia/autoandrophilia can therefore not be an expression of a typical male sexuality, as Blanchard believes.

Target location error

Serano continues:

"Blanchard hypothesized that autogynephilia arose from a 'misdirected type of heterosexual impulse, which arises in association with normal heterosexuality but also competes with it...' He proposed that gynephilic MtF transexuals experience both autogynephilia and 'normal' attraction to women', whereas, asexual MtF transsexuals 'represents those cases in which the autogynephilic disorder nullifies or overshadows any erotic attraction to women'.

"He also argues that bisexuality in MtF transsexuals is better described as 'pseudobisexuality': 'The effective erotic stimulus in these interactions...is not the male physique of the partner, as it is in true homosexual attraction, but rather the thought of being female, which is symbolized by the fantasy of being penetrated by a man. For these persons, the male sexual partner serves the same function as women's apparel or makeup, namely, to aid and intensify the fantasy of being a woman.'"

Serano here refers to what I have called the man as a dildo theory. From what I hear in crossdreamer life stories, some crossdreamers do indeed treat their male lovers as props. They are at least not initially attracted to them in the same way as they are to men.

The problem with this line of argument is that even if some of the bisexual or androphilic crossdreaming transwomen may be of this sort, there is no proof that all of them are. In other words: there may be "true" bisexuals in the various samples used in this kind of research, and I doubt very much that there are no "true androphilic transwomen" among the crossdreamers.

Blanchard also sticks to a strict dichotomy between heterosexual and homosexual that is not supported in other types of research.

The gender variance model

The supporters of Blanchard pit the autogynephilia theory up against the so-called "feminine essence theory" (the women trapped in men's bodies theory). Serano says that this

 "...ignores a more nuanced view that I will refer to here as the gender variance model, which holds that gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, and physical sex are largely separatable traits that may tend to correlate in the general population but do not necessarily align in the same direction within any given individual."

This gender variance model is very similar to the mixing slider model Natalie and I have presented at this blog.

I have argued that much of the so-called "narcisssism" found in MtF crosdreamers is caused by sexual frustration which again is caused by the fact that the gynephilic crossdreamers find it hard to identify potential female partners that can let them play the role of "the bottom".

People expect their sexual orientation towards women to be followed by a wish to be "the top" and the penetrator. Instead they long to take the stereotypical female position when having sex. So not only is gender identity and sexual orientation two independent variables; sexual orientation and the typical proactive/reactive sexual preference are also independent.

Serano explains:

"According to this model, transsexuals share the experience of discordance between their gender identity and physical sex (which leads to gender dysphoria and a desire to physically transition) but are expected to differ with respect to their gender expression and sexual orientation (just as nontranssexuals vary in these aspects).


"This variation in gender expression and sexual orientation may lead individuals to follow different transgender trajectories and develop different sexual histories."

"If autogynephilia is to be taken seriously as a theory, it should explain the observed differences as well as (if not better than) the gender variance model," Serano argues. It does not.

The two-subtype model

Is autogynephilia's two-subtype model valid?

One huge problem with arguing against Blanchard is that most of the research done in this field is done by researchers that live and breathe within the same tradition as him. Many of the follow-up studies adopt Blanchard's typology and then set out to prove or disprove his assumptions.

The problem is that if you have already accepted the premise that there are two types of transwomen, and that these two are defined by sexual orientation, it becomes close to impossible for you to develop an alternative explanation, i.e. one based on another typology.

I, for one, think the division between androphilic and non-androphilic transwomen can make sense in some areas, as long as you keep in mind that you are talking about a categorization based on observations, and not on the mapping of the cause of these categories.

In other words: the division between androphilic and non-androphilic transwomen reflects sets we define to describe what we are seeing. The categories are not necessarily attributes that define the persons as having substantially different natures. Nor do they lay out the cause for these differences.

I often use the use of the word "immigrant" as an example. To divide the population into "immigrants" and "non-immigrants" may make sense if you are developing a policy to integrate refugees and foreign job-seekers into the native poulation of the country, but this does not mean that Somalian immigrants are less human than the native population, or that Somalians are the same as Tamils or Kurds.

Indeed, in the case of androphilic vs. non-androphilic transwomen. I think the differences observed can easily be explained by the radical different lesbian and straight transwomen face when growing up in a male body.

Methodological weaknesses

Serano finds other great methodological weaknesses in Blanchard's research. These include:
  • that the subtypes were not empirically derived but rather stemmed from his initial grouping of the individuals based on their sexual orientation
  • he did not include nontranssexual female control groups
  • he relied on clinical samples that may not accurately reflect the greater nonclinical transgender population (there were, for instance, no non-transsexual crossdreamers on board)
  • his results have not been replicated
Serano points to a lot of researchers who dismiss the argument that only nonandrophilic transwomen experience cross-gender arousal. Even Blanchard's own research shows that androphilic transwomen can "crossdream".

Serano writes:
"One of the most troubling aspects regarding autogynephilia is that the proponents of the theory have consistently tried to dismiss the aforementioned exceptions as being the result of misreporting on the part of research subjects. 

"Notably, it is always those transsexuals who are constructed as 'autogynephiles' that are accused of either lying about their sexual orientation, or of supposedly denying their experiences with cross-gender arousal; in contrast, the reports of those who neatly fit the 'androphile' archetype are never questioned ... 
"This double standard is not only illogical (as someone who wished to appear like the 'classic' transsexual would likely deny both attraction to women and cross-gender arousal), but it is tantamount to hand-picking which evidence counts and which does not based upon how well it conforms to the model."


I would add that Blanchard's model would never have been conceived hadn't it been for the fact that the crossdreamers approaching his clinic were so open about their cross-gender fantasies. It seems that they were be unable to hold back any of their secret fantasies, and by God have they been punished for it!   This does not in any way point to the conclusion that crossdreamers are secretive liers.

Serano again:

"If proponents of autogynephilia insits that every exception to the model is due to misreporting, the autogynephilia theory must be rejected on the grounds that it is unfalsifiable and therefore unscientific. If, on the other hand, we accept that these exceptions are legitimate, then it is clear that autogynephilia theory's two-subtype taxonomy does not hold true."

Love of oneself as a woman

Next Serano attacks Blanchard's use of his "erotic location error theory" to prove the causality between crossdreaming and gender dysphoria.

As I have argued repeatedly, Blanchard has never provided any kind of proof for the idea that crossdreaming is caused by a kind of alternative sexuality, where the "autogynephiliac" is in love with the idea of himself as a woman. In other words: It is more likely that the crossdreaming is the result of gender dysphoria, instead of the gender dysphoria being the result of cross-gender arousal.

Serano also adds another possible explanation: That both traits may simply correlate in non-androphilic male to female individuals for some other reason.

Serano points out that if we are to believe the androphilic transwomen who do report crossdreaming, cross-gender arousal must be considered the cause of transsexualism also in this group. If it does not cause transsexualism in these individuals, "this would suggest that cross-gender arousal might not cause transsexualism in the nonandrophilic group either."

She adds that the causal relationship forwarded by Blanchard is also brought into question by the fact that many nonandrophilic MtF transsexuals never experience cross-gender arousal.

Blanchard's supporters normally solve this dilemma by arguing that the androphilic transsexuals that do report crossdreaming are self-deceiving androphiliacs, while the autogynephilacs that do not report crossdreaming are lying or sublimating their crossdreaming into some kind of romantic relationship to their inner woman. Which brings us back to the impossibility of falsifying their theory.

Non-erotic crossdressing

Seranon adds:

"While early explorations of feminine clothing and thoughts of female embodiment may be highly arousing (perhaps related to the sexual symbolism associated with femaleness and femininity on our culture), this sexual charge wanes for many MtF cross-dressers and pretransition transsexuals as they begin to interact socially in the feminine role, to develop a conscious female identity, and/or to view their transgender inclinations as authentic and nothing to be ashamed of."

This points to crossdreaming being the effect of an underlying transgender condition, rather than the cause of that condition.

Blanchard tries to solve this challenge to his theory by arguing that "autogynephiles" who come to identify as female has developed a pair-bond with their female selves. He is comparing the relationship between the autgynephiliac and his female self as an old couple who has stopped having sex! (Yeah, seriously!)

For me this is the ultimate proof of how far Blanchard's theory is removed from reality. First of all this argument proves that even Blanchard sees the weakness of his own argument. Secondly, his attempt at saving it is beyond belief.

Serano puts it this way:

"This explanation is quite a stretch, as there is no biological evidence to suggest that humans or other animals are capable of pair-bonding with themselves and/or their own physically sexed bodies... The fact that many MtF cross-dressers and nonandrophilic transsexual continue to engage in relationships with other people after experiencing this sharp decrease in cross-gender arousal strongly suggest that they are not pair-bonded with their female selves. "

But there is more to it than this. Both Blanchard and Bailey belong to a tradition that tries to explain sexuality in evolutionary terms. They have both done a lot of work on homosexual men, trying to explain why such a trait is inherited, in spite of the fact that it should be detrimental to generating offspring. Here, on the other hand, Blanchard is proposing the existence of a third kind of sexuality, where the man is having sex with himself, without even trying to explain how this kind of trait can be propagated throughout generations.

Pre-puberty crossdressing

Finally, Serano points to the fact that many nonandrophilic MtF individuals report that they experienced an awareness of wanting to be female long before they ever experienced cross-gender arousal.

Serano also delivers a devastating attack at Anne Lawrence's attempts at explaining away this weakness in the autogynephilia theory. Lawrence has suggested that nonandrophilic MtF transsexuals who have not experienced cross-gender arousal, or who have experienced such arousal only after becoming aware of their desire to be female, may nevertheless be motivated by a romantic-love version of autogynephilia.

"By the same reasoning," Serano says, "men who love their children, but who are not sexually aroused by them, could nevertheless be said to experience pedophilia."

Summing up

Serano concludes her paper in this way:

"In summary, as a theory of transsexual etiology and taxonomy, autogynephilia seems to have little merit. For this reason, and because its terminology is especially maligning to MtF spectrum people, it is recommended that autogynephilia theory (and the language associated with it) should be avoided in favor of more accurate (and less stigmatizing) terminology. Like all human beings, MtF spectrum people have rich and diverse fantasy lives. Future studies that seek to understand the phenomena of cross-gender arousal, or female/feminine embodiment fantasies, should be conducted in a manner that is respectful of this diversity, deferential to what MtF spectrum individuals say about their own experiences, and careful not to needlessly exacerbate the nonconsensual sexualization that this population already faces in society."

Note that Serano also discusses cross-gender arousal or crossdreaming in her book, the Whipping Girl:

 Reference: Serano, Julia M.(2010) 'The Case Against Autogynephilia', International Journal of Transgenderism, 12: 3, 176 — 187

See also: On Moser's critique of Blanchard's autogynephilia theory
The Massey University study of transgender people (with data that debunks Blanchard)

Update 2015: Since this blog post was written Julia has written several articles on autogynephilia.

I you want access to this and other articles on crossdreaming,"autogynephilia/autoandrophilia" and other transgender conditions, you can  become a member of the XDSC/Crossdreamer Science Circle.  We have copies in our virtual library available for study and research purposes.

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Serano here refers to what I have called the man as a dildo theory. From what I hear in crossdreamer life stories, some crossdreamers do indeed treat their male lovers as props. They are at least not initially attracted to them in the same way as they are to men."

-men
+women

Janantaram said...

A small correction:
"Serano here refers to what I have called the man as a dildo theory. From what I hear in crossdreamer life stories, some crossdreamers do indeed treat their male lovers as props. They are at least not initially attracted to them in the same way as they are to men."

....as they are to WOMEN

Namrata said...

Jack,
One very important thing. While you do consider the idea that many of the social stereotypes of totally wrong, and agree with Julia Serano's disapproval of BBL theories,you need to explain your feelings yourself to the world.
I am a CT and never in my life have I experienced what is called as 'autogynephilia'.
I have simply been feminine, and attracted to men all time. There was one girl I had a crush on last year and we have dated since then but I know I am not into women most of the time.
Now if you do feel you are transgendered, you need to analyze your feelings and if you are really honest about yourself I think you can really explain it. You dont really need to give so many references and all. Just explain your fantasies and your motivations behind these fantasies.
For instance, what really arouses you when you have sexual fantasies involving men? Why do you like the submissive role? Is it because you have an intense urge to be desirable or sexy? Or is it due to the feeling of being innately female and wanting to fit into some gender role of a female simply because your inner mind says it is something you need to do as you are a girl and not a boy?
Similarly, why do you desire to dress in women's clothes? Is your femininity flowing out of the beauty and elegance of those dresses (like, say, making you feel very glamorous) or is it that you want them simply so that the world sees you as female?
Try to ask yourself these questions and see what the answers really are.Only then, would you know what is your motivation behind these feminization fantasies. Is it something driven by an urge to be powerful and omnipotent or attractive to men (in which case you will be narcissistic or gay or both), or is it simply due to some inner subconscious sex of female?
afterall, if you have an inner subconscious sex of female, you would know that, isn't it?
Tell us here what your motivations are. Otherwise, we will never understand your motives and will keep thinking that you are driven by some urge to be megalomaniac or something.

Linsie said...

Namrata,

Just a clarification: if you are a pre-op CT, and if you fantasize of having sex with a man, and you're turned on by it, couldn't you be classified with autogynephilia? Or are you saying that as long as you're TS and you've always been feminine that you avoid that label?

As a stealth mode TS who's always believed myself to be a woman it's bugged me that I could be diagnosed with AG. It just seems natural to me that my sexual fantasies be that way. Or am I AG until I transition and get SRS?

Namrata said...

I am not saying that fantasizing about men while not actually being androphilic is unnatural. But the motivations are entirely different. That is the reason I ask Jack what motivates him or gets him aroused when he has those kinds of kinky fantasies of men (or women), where he is submissive to them.
Is he doing so out of a need to be desirable or a romantic narcissist? Or is it due to some desire to portray the self as female? Or a combination of the two?

Namrata said...

Julia Serano ha clearly mentioned that her cross-gender explorations were not out of an interest of femininity as much as about being female from inside. However, most crossdressers are not that way. They, like many narcissistic gay and bisexual and metrosexual men, dress very gaudily and just like to get fucked and desirable.
That is just a different motivation and I am sure that we CTs have never been this way.
So, if people like Jack who want to be females, are driven by such narcissistic urges, they stand to certainly malign our basic premise of transsexualism, as we are already a highly repressed group in society. This is certainly not acceptable.
I guess whatever comes is natural and so, entirely normal. If being narcissistic comes to you, and you like to be desirable, do so by being a man. There is no reason why a man has to take the inferior role in society making the female a queen in every way. You can adorn yourself, be a narcissist and dresser as much as you can and still be a man.If that is so cool to you, so be it. No problems. The problem is when one narcissistic group comes up and equates their condition with plain jeans clad transwomen, who just need to live their life as a plain jane female because that is what they feel from inside due to a female subconscious sex.
I guess what makes me afraid is that after the gaudy crossdressers come up to identify as transsexual, gradually even the lesser feminine males and metrosexuals will also start joining the ranks to become queens. And then, we transwomen will all be called as proud queens rather than as genuine women.
This is why I request Jack to reveal his true intentions and urges that make him crossdream.
Just because someone crossdreams does not make him female. It may as well be just a queeny attitude and I don't condemn it at all.

Linsie said...

Namrata,

I'm not sure why you're bringing crossdressers into the discussion. It sounds like you're making crossdreamers guilty be association? Please clarify. Are you trying to imply that crossdreamers are narcissistic? It's a huge stretch to make the claim that narcissism is a requirement.

I don't want to put words in Jack's mouth, but I think the point is that at least some crossdreaming is a manifestation of transsexualism. It could be the female subconscious sex, that has been repressed through an individuals environment, upbringing, peer pressure, etc... finally emerging.

I've felt female my whole life but it could be that some people don't make the connection in childhood, only later after a search on why their thoughts are the way they are.

One of Julia Serano's point is that transsexuals, transgenders and crossdressers are all discriminated against the same way. It makes sense that we stand together as an umbrella group even though our final aims are different. We need to end this form of discrimination. I am not embarrassed to stand with my fellow transgendered brethren to defeat it.

Jack Molay said...

@Namrata

"Tell us here what your motivations are. Otherwise, we will never understand your motives and will keep thinking that you are driven by some urge to be megalomaniac or something."

I have actually been quite open about my own dreams and longings at this blog, although I see that there is much to read here, and new readers may have missed it.

My motive for starting this blog was understanding. I found myself facing a condition for which I had no words, no narrative, no context. By presenting life stories of crossdreamers as well as research and theories by various scholars, I am trying to find that missing language.

I present Serano's critique of Blanchard because what she writes rings true to me. That does not mean that we have proof for crossdreaming being the result of a subconscious female self, but it certainly makes much more sense than the idea of this being the result of some male narcissism.

You are trying to put up a wall between narcissistic crossdressers and true transwomen, and from what I see that is too simple.

I do not consider at male to female crossdressers who live and present as a man as a transwoman, but I see that at least many of them experience a similar kind of gender dysphoria. Indeed, quite a few of them find that they are women and do transition.

I am not a crossdresser. I am not able to express my inner woman through dressing up like a woman. But I know that I belong to the same "family" as crossdressers.

Many crossdressers are crossdreamers like me. There is a strong erotic component to at least some of our fantasies. We dream about having sex as a woman.

This is often used to "prove" that we are completely different from transwomen, as pre-op transwomen apparantly do not get aroused by the idea of having sex as a woman. I find this more than strange, as the model ultimately requires women to be asexual, which they clearly are not. Nor are you, as far as I understand. You dreamed about having sex as a woman even before transitioning. That does not make you an "autogynephiliac".

I see that you try to put up the narcissistic need to be desireable as a crossdreamer trait, while women do not have this trait.

But if I were a woman, I would probably enjoy dressing up on occations. I would probably enjoy the positive attention of both men and women. I would take pleasure in girl friends telling me I looked good, and men signalling that they found me attractive.

This is the kind of positive affirmation most healthy people seek, including women. There is a reason women all over the world spend so much time and money on clothes, make-up and jewellery. They celebrate beauty, and there is nothing wrong or unhealthy about that....

Jack Molay said...

Continued...

The reason crossdressers may come out as "gaudy" is most likely because they are cursed with a male body (it is hard to look feminine if you have the body of a trucker). They have also missed the training that takes place among girls.

A narcissist is a person who is unable to empathize with others and love them. Most crossdreamers and crossdressers I know have that ability. Many of them are married and have kids they love very much. They are not narcissists. But they are often in great pain, and crossdressing is their way of getting in touch with their innerself. Why should that make them narcissists?

As for submission fantasies being a proof of being a narcissist: According to the research I have read, 50 percent of women have had erotic fantasies of being raped. That does not make them perverts.

Such fantasies are just ways of making forbidden dreams permissible. "I was forced, so I cannot be blamed." If these women (and crossdreamers) were allowed to express their sexuality in a natural way, these kinds of fantasies would probably disappear.

I am starting to believe that the strong CT urge to keep a distance from the crossdressers is embarassment. You need to construct your narratives in order to avoid being associated with "weirdos". To me that reflects a serious lack of empathy and compassion. That's sad.

Namrata said...

"This is the kind of positive affirmation most healthy people seek, including women. There is a reason women all over the world spend so much time and money on clothes, make-up and jewellery. They celebrate beauty, and there is nothing wrong or unhealthy about that.... "
Yes, when did I say that this need for positive affirmation is bad? What I simply said is that if this is your deep need, then, you can do it as a man too. You don't need to be a female to do that, as our fucked up culture shows. Many men can be highly gaudy. Why are you not satisfied being simply a gay man and being 'desirable'? Why be a female?


"I see that you try to put up the narcissistic need to be desireable as a crossdreamer trait, while women do not have this trait. "

No, what I am saying is that you can be a man and also have this trait. But probably,in a culture that associates flaboyance with femininity and gorgeous females, your motivation to seek attention forces you to have those feminine fantasies?

Namrata said...

It is not that I am trying to say narcissism is a crossdreamer trait. it seems to be rather you who insists that one needs to be a female by necessity to satisfy his need for approval and sexiness.

Linsie said...

"Namrata said...

It is not that I am trying to say narcissism is a crossdreamer trait. it seems to be rather you who insists that one needs to be a female by necessity to satisfy his need for approval and sexiness."

Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. I respect yours and I think this debate is great. I'm just a little troubled by some of your statements. I also want to make sure you understand my thinking.

It sounds like you're trying to say that all crossdressers are narcissistic and then you make the extension that all crossdreamers are narcissistic. Is that true? If so, I don't know if I can agree to either of those thoughts.

Narcissism exists among all types of people. Just because some crossdressers are, doesn't mean they all are. Some just feel more comfortable dressed that way and try to fit in, and some are quite successful at it. The flamboyant (and potentially narcissistic) ones are the ones people notice. Granted some crossdressers are narcissistic, but then again so are some people from any group.

A lot, maybe most, crossdreamers are not crossdressers. You can't tell them from any other male. They aren't trying to stand out, if anything they're trying not to. How can you say they are narcissistic?

Narcissism may be one cause of crossdreaming but it probably isn't the only cause. I think it's just as likely that the persons subconscious sex is misaligned with their physical sex. They just failed to make the connection during childhood like some other transsexuals.

Namrata said...

Ok. If that is the case that indeed the psychological sex is misaligned, then crossdreamers should explicitly state that. But they never state that.
They always state the fantasies-for instance how they enjoy being desirable, cuckolding et-tal.
This is also the reason why I asked that here- what is the exact motivation. While you Linsie, tend to answer it clearly for your case, Jack averts it tactfully.

Jack Molay said...

@Namrata

You write: "Why are you not satisfied being simply a gay man and being 'desirable'? Why be a female? "

Most of the M2F crossdreamers and crossdressers I have been in touch with are not gay (androphilic). They are attracted to women, and are not turned on by the male physique.

Many of them do in spite of this find the fantasy of being taken by a man alluring. I suspect there are two reasons for this.

(1) They have a "feminine" sex instinct. They want to be the "bottom" instead of the top, and like many lesbian women they may be fascinated by the idea of the penis. The strap-on is often used by the lesbian butch on the lesbian femme, and many M2F crossdreamers want to be the lesbian femme.

(2) In our sexist culture "submission" is considered the ultimate feminine expression, and some crossdreamers are definitely influenced by this, as are many women.

You write: "Ok. If that is the case that indeed the psychological sex is misaligned, then crossdreamers should explicitly state that."

There is much disagreement in crossdresser and crossdreamer cicles as regards the cause of our condition.

Some actually believe Blanchard is right (target location error), some believe it is a fetish, and some believe it is, like Virginia Prince, an expression of a feminine gender instead of a female sex.

I know that Blanchard is wrong. I feel less and less sympathy for Prince, who I think was partly responsible for the current TG/TS conflict.

As for the fetish theory, I can see that the way the crossdreamer condition is expressed is very much prsychological -- i.e. shaped by personal experience. After all, some of us are fascinated by women's clothing, while others -- like me -- are not.

But i still believe that the core of all of this is biological.

Jack Molay said...

@Namrate

I am definitely not trying to avoid your question.

This blog is full of posts where I try to answer it.

But I am not so certain as you apparently are, and when you use terms like " the psychological sex is misaligned" I need to make sure we understand that concept in a similar way.

So here we go:

At the moment I believe that crossdreamers, in varying degree, experience a misalignment between their brain sex and their body sex.

I believe that I am, in one sense, "wired as a woman". This definitely applies to the sexual instincts (as described above).

However, being a "bottom" does not explain the urge to be a woman.

I could, as you correctly point out, live as a feminine gay man. Heck, you can be a feminine gynephilic man, and still identify as a man, as some crossdressers and crossdreamers say they do.

So, in addition to the sexual instinct there is also some kind of inner body image that crashes completely with my physical self.

I avoid mirrors, as my mind tells me that what I see in that mirror is not me.

The pain many crossdreamers feel because of this is excruciating, and their longing for a genuine life is heart breaking.

(But please not that not all crossdreamers feel like this. This is not an either/or proposition. For some fantasizing about being a woman is not so big a deal. It is more like a secret thrill in otherwise unremarkable male lives. Crossdreaming can vary in intensity.)

Then add a sexual orientation towards women. That orientation effectively stops me from using the role of the "gay effeminate man" as a transition point towards a life as a woman.

Since I am gynephilic, I have always done my best to attract women, and most of them love "manly" men. Years and years of conditioning and desperate attempts to make women happy, means that i have developed a male persona.

As you can see, this is a story that is not that different from the one told by "classic transsexuals", and it is definitely very far from the one told by crossdresser guru Virginia Prince.

Does this make me a transwoman? As I said, many crossdreamers are. But in my case I must admit I have no answer.

I live as a man, and will do so for the rest of my life. Because of this I might as well call myself a man. But it feels all wrong.

Namrata said...

"Heck, you can be a feminine gynephilic man, and still identify as a man, as some crossdressers and crossdreamers say they do.

So, in addition to the sexual instinct there is also some kind of inner body image that crashes completely with my physical self.

I avoid mirrors, as my mind tells me that what I see in that mirror is not me. "

Thanks Jack. This is what I wanted to hear.
Now I get the idea that many of the crossdressers/dreamers also have a condition of transexualism
The problem is that you did not explicitly mention this before. You solely focussed on the sexual fantasies as like many other flamobyant crossdressers often do.

wxhluyp said...

Namrata, I would also like to make my voice heard. I am a "straight male" crossdreamer who adheres to the totally fetishistic model, whereby something like crossdressing is just one of many feminine actions in the "real world" which may sometimes aid a fantasy. I think that all psychological identity is cultural, and those that disagree fail to recognise the radically differential makeup of phenomenology. Also I reject the notion of being attracted to myself as the female sex, and do not wish to feel desirable. It is rather that I am simply aroused by the subjection of my self-image to potentially anything social-masochistically feminine (I explicitly emphasize that a physical female body is just one mode of feminine subjection, and is an error to think otherwise).

Namrata said...

@wxhluyp:
"Also I reject the notion of being attracted to myself as the female sex, and do not wish to feel desirable. It is rather that I am simply aroused by the subjection of my self-image to potentially anything social-masochistically feminine "

Yes, the feeling of being aroused by the self-image as female indicates potential transgendrism. You get aroused by something that is an innate nature of you. For example, you may get charged up when you imagine yourself as a scientist if you love the scientific world.
But all crossdressers are not like you. Look at Virginia Prince or Anne Lawrence who considered their feminine selves as 'narcissistic' images they evolved due to wanting to avoid masculine world. Now that is something metrosexual men do and in my opinion, metrosexuals are still men and not transgendered.
But their official statements were such that they implied narcissism.They never once dealt with the concept of self-image or subconscious sex. Neither were many crossdressers eager to really express their motivations in terms of anything other than sex.
Julia Serano was one of the first transwomen who hinted that many of the crossdressers may also be having a female subconscious sex. I read that and after that got a little more curious to know more about them. But before that, I had always thought crossdreamers are simply men driven out of an intense need of narcissism that their outward macho identities perhaps denied them in society.

Linsie said...

wxhluyp,

It's hard to argue with your point of view (especially since I only understand about 10% of what you just said ;-) ). Reading between the lines and a little research on Wikipedia leads me to think that maybe you mean "anything goes". Do you mind explaining some of your concepts? Like "all psychological identity is cultural", phenomenology and "the subjection of my self-image to potentially anything social-masochistically feminine". When it comes to psychology I'm not comfortable with the words "all" and "error" :-).

Sultana said...

I don't really think that heterosexual t-girls are all that different from the not heterosexual ones. Considering that there is roughly an even distribution (30%-straight,30%-lesbian,30%-bisexual,10%-asexual) of transgirls, there is no reason to believe that these t-girls are all different. It may just be that there is a similar kind of sexual orientation division among the general population as wellbut since trans people have to by force come out due to gender issues (while the cis-gendered people tend to hide their sexual inclinations),only the sexuality of transgenders gets reported.
I have no reason to believe that straight t-girls are all that different from the others. They are subjected to similar dysphorias and having self-image as female. One major difference is just that straight t-girls are more flamboyant, but this one may simply be cultural as straight t-girls want to attract men, which leads to heightening or exaggerating their femininity.Just like among females, heterosexual females tend to be more flamboyant than femme dyke lesbians and bisexual women. However,that does not mean these females are different.The few differences are all cultural and depend on whom they want to attract and sleep with.

wxhluyp said...

Namrata, I think you have misunderstood me. The instance of arousal doesn't indicate anything but itself, especially it doesn't denote transgenderism. As with all phenomenology(or the subconscious), there is nothing innate about its form, its form is cultural. Like the cuckold fetishist, there is nothing innate about the inadequacy he subjects his self-image for arousal. It is difficult to genuinely direct a charge of an intentional narcissism at both the cuckold and the crossdreamer, as both instances of arousal depend on an social-masochistic subjection to self-image. Ones fetish(es) is pot-luck. For me, crossdreaming is intrinsically sexual motivated, even when feminine connotations are thought to be non-sexual. Although I think for some, that crossdreaming can influence a degree of internalization of the masochistic femininity which was originally purely sexual.

wxhluyp said...

Linsie,

I think its safe to say that "anything goes". There is nothing innate about the form of ones experience(culture), this goes especially for the notions we use to individualize ourself... like gender and orientation etc.

"the subjection of my self-image to potentially anything social-masochistically feminine"

-The crossdreamer is aroused by a self-conscious image of oneself becoming feminized

Monty said...

"So, in addition to the sexual instinct there is also some kind of inner body image that crashes completely with my physical self.

I avoid mirrors, as my mind tells me that what I see in that mirror is not me."

Do you mean to say that you have a female sub-conscious sex somewhere deep inside dear Jack?
Do you have feminine gait and expression of speech or are you very manly in those arenas of life?
A typical transgender male would be naturally very effeminate in several aspects of conduct in addition to also having an inner self image that corresponds more to the opposite sex.

Jack Molay said...

@Monty

"A typical transgender male would be naturally very effeminate in several aspects of conduct in addition to also having an inner self image that corresponds more to the opposite sex."

Effeminate? Sorry, this is a myth I do not believe in. I know a large number of XX women who are far from effeminate. In fact, many of them break all the rules of stereotypic femininity, being aggressive, analytic, extrovert, strong, assertive and with body languages that would make truck drivers proud. They are still women, beautiful women, sexy women, and experience themselves as such.

Which means that requiring a male bodied person that has been raised as a man, and conditioned into male mannerisms and male expressions to be effeminate in order to be accepted as a transwoman is nonsense.

Keep in mind that most gynephilic M2F crossdreamers also have done their best to present as masculine men in order to attract women. A gentle and caring soul may be accepted. Effeminate mannerisms not so much.

My inner self image does definitely correspond to the opposite sex, though. That is the problem.

Monty said...

"Which means that requiring a male bodied person that has been raised as a man, and conditioned into male mannerisms and male expressions to be effeminate in order to be accepted as a transwoman is nonsense."

But I agree with this completely. However, you need to exactly then explain what is it that makes you feel trassexual. If a man can be sensitive and still be a man, and a woman can be highly dominant and still be a woman, there must definitely be something else that makes you feel naturally effeminate, to make you feel you are wired as a woman. Notice, I use the term "naturally effeminate" which is not the same as having traits such as wearing lipstick or being demure or passive/nurturing.
One can be very effeminate but also very ugly or aggressive.

Monty said...

I am simply interested in what is meant by natural womanly and natural manly.
A man, regardless of how much socially unmanly he is, will still keep feeling naturally manly enough so as not to want a sex change.
A transwoman despite being not all that stereotypically feminine at all, will be naturally effeminate enough to feel as if she is wired like a woman. And that is the ultimate truth you need to explore!

Notice that I also said that a naturally effeminate iundividual (male or female)can be very ugly as well. I know Hijras in my country India who commit notorious felonies and rob innocent men after luring them for sexual activities. The man plays the socially 'feminine' role yet the Hijra is the one wired like a woman so that she has to dress up all like a female.

Jack Molay said...

@Monty

"However, you need to exactly then explain what is it that makes you feel trassexual. "

Yes, that is the very core of the puzzle, isn't it? There is something that makes a male bodied person feel like a woman and a female bodied person feel like a man, in spite of all the social conditioning.

Several well known cases, like John Money's John/joan case, seems to indicate that the sex identity of a person is not the sum total of her or his social and cultural conditioning.

This is where I part with some of my fellow crossdreamers and crossdressers. I believe this sex (as opposed to gender) identity has some kind of biological, inborn, core. At a minimum it would be some kind of basic sense of self or an internal body image.

There have been some studies of this kind of internal body image, and I hope that I get the time to write about them, but the fact is that science know far to little about how this works to provide any real help.

Some of the studies I have read regarding brain regions are interesting, but it is hard to determine wich of the differences between the sexes are inborn and which are caused by upbringing, as the plasticity of the brain means that training and cultural conditioning may change it.

Besides, all the studies I have read are based on averages. There are too many non-trans XX women with "male" brains for these brain regions to be the definitive basis for sex identities.

I suspect that it may be caused by a combination of factors, which makes it all hard to pinpoint.

All of this makes me conclude that we have to approach this from another direction: from the real life experiences of both crossdressers,crossdreamers and transsexuals.

By the way, the violence of the Hijras is interesting, as some may interpret it to mean that their criminal side is a sign of them being male at heart. This is exactly the kind of interpretations I find in the discussions of transgender conditions. The crossdreamers must be men, because only men are this sexually obsessed. In the real world, of course, women may be both violent and strongly sexually charged.

Given the social stigma attached to being Hijra in India or Kathoey in Thailand is so severe, that there has to be a very strong motivation for choosing that life, one that go far beyond the desire for sex only.

wxhluyp said...

"There is something that makes a male bodied person feel like a woman and a female bodied person feel like a man, in spite of all the social conditioning."

-There is NOTHING innate or natural about the form of ones experience. The maleness/masculinity or femaleness/femininity is nothing but pure connotation, culture.

Mr Molay, your scientific research is great, but your missing key phenomenological theory. Previously you reduced sociological theory to a misrepresentation of structuralism. It is in the area that you will understand exactly why there cannot be innate meaning.

Jack Molay said...

@wxhluyp

"There is NOTHING innate or natural about the form of ones experience. The maleness/masculinity or femaleness/femininity is nothing but pure connotation, culture."

This is where we disagree.

As you probably have seen I am very much aware of the power of socialization and cultural conditioning.

The problem for me is that given all this discipline and power, there should be no crossdreamers or transsexuals. Our desires should have been beaten out of us. The price we pay is to high, given the existing alternative of succumbing to normalcy.

Still, here we are.

"Previously you reduced sociological theory to a misrepresentation of structuralism."

When did I do that?

"It is in the area that you will understand exactly why there cannot be innate meaning."

This is not about establishing some kind of innate meaning, but an inborn condition that causes a man or a woman to develop this conflicting sense of self, i.e. meaning.

As I have said before: hunger in itself is an instinct that cannot be seen as it is in itself (Das Ding an Sich), but we are definitely able to conceptualize its effects on us.

Hunger is a biological drive found in all animals, and it would be strange to think that we -- as the only animal -- would not be influenced by this biological basis.

The problem with post-structuralism is that the philosophy from the outset has made it impossible to say something sensible about the biological basis of the minds of men and women.

That is: By reducing everything to language, the conclusion will have to be that there is nothing natural about our experiences.

To me this is as reductionistic as saying that all we do is the effect of genes and hormones.

The body is there. My feelings cannot be reduced to words, but are embodied in my muscles, my breath, my blood and my tears. Body and mind is one, and by ignoring the body we ignore much of what makes us what we are.

It is certainly true that my interpretation of the body is based on the belief systems of the day. I will never be able to observe this "factor XX" as it is in itself, but that does not stop the body from being there.

Monty said...

So that means you are referring to something called as "sex-identity" rather than simply gender-expressions that determine a sense of gender belonging.
I mean, the feminine man feels like belonging to the world of women, yet, somewhere he has a male sex identity. Similarly a XX non-trans female will have female sex identity yet behave like a man.
That is not the case of many crossdreamers and transsexuals however.
I think that is where the puzzle lies for sure. Sex identity determines it all, rather than social gender roles and expressions.

wxhluyp said...

I disagree with the proposed parallel between hunger and biological gender. With "hunger" there an active force to influence correlations with. With biological gender there is no internal force which attracts differentiation, only the external bodily cultural generalization of "two types". What people identify with is at most connotative abstractions traced back to these "two types". This experienced gender is an enactment totally separate from our chromosomal sex, which is learned, practised and through this gives it the appearance of being natural.

Anonymous said...

is this blog still active?

Jack Molay said...

Absolutely. Stay tuned for more informative and provocative blog posts!

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